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Re: [MedievalSawdust] Re: Tools

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  • James Winkler
    Colin raises some really good points here. Years ago when I lived in Virginia I had the opportunity to photograph (in detail) an old table that was once a
    Message 1 of 86 , Feb 2, 2006
      Colin raises some really good points here. 
      Years ago when I lived in Virginia I had the opportunity to photograph (in detail) an old table that was once a presidential cabinet table (don't remember which Pres...)...  and, as Colin pointed out, while the exterior looked great (considering the level of preservation or lack thereof it had enjoyed)... the interior joinery was, as memory serves "good enough" (excellent by definition of choice of join and strength of join... but not 'pretty and finished') ... and the internal woods not up to the level of exterior 'presentation package'...  ;-[)
      So I guess the question is (trying to look at the elephant and not just the individual parts)...  What conclusions, if any, can we draw from looking at the anthropology of furniture and its makers?   Is 'fine' work reserved only for those from whom we wish to curry favor (kings, priests, gods, professors...) and all else varying degrees of 'commercial grade'...  or is 'fine' work an outgrowth of artistic self expression?  Both???  Is 'high-end' a statement of self expression on the part of the artist that is more a statement of defiance than anything else?
      Does the problem lie within our own definition of what constitutes 'high-end' or does it lie with our own cultural filters, prejudices and bias?  I've always been struck by the Chinese work...  incredible artistry and skill... but they were also capable of doing 'good enough' work.  But, perhaps, the issue is not one 'quality' but rather one of trying to understand why the guy who made something made it the way they did.  Understanding the social and economic pressures the artisan's culture... the relative value set they employed and what constituted "time and place appropriate" for them... 
      Its kind of like a thing I found a while back where the joiners were suing the carpenters for 'infringing on the mysteries of their art'...  the judge (who must have been a relative of Solomon), in an attempt to eliminate future conflict decided that joiners were not to use nails or other fastening hardware and carpenters were not to use glue.  So...  which trade made the finer joint?  ;-[)
      As Colin said... "Different values"... 
    • JBRMM266@aol.com
      Some years ago, I visited the Virginia Museum in Richmond with the lady who is now my wife. In the Mediaeval section there were several religious statues,
      Message 86 of 86 , Feb 16, 2007
        Some years ago, I visited the Virginia Museum in Richmond with the lady who is now my wife. In the Mediaeval section there were several religious statues, including one of St. Denis with his head tucked underneath his arm (cue music about Anne Boleyn's ghost).
        When my lady friend asked why he was so depicted, I explained that martyrs were often depicted in ways that identified how they were martyred . . . at that time I hadn't heard the legend about him picking his head up and carrying it back to the church.
        A docent heard me and asked if I knew why another statue (I forget who it depicted) had these little glass or crystal panels in the chest. The identifying sign clearly described it as a reliquary statue, and I explained how the statue had at least originally contained some part of the saint's skeleton, probably a rib or two, considering where the panels were.  She appreciated the explanation, and it left me wondering how much more about the works in that section she didn't know.
        When we visited the Treasure Houses of Britain exhibit at the National Gallery of Art, there were no docents anywhere in the Mediaeval/Renaissance area.  I spent a lot of time explaining the armour, and both of us spent even more time explaining that the children in the family portraits were not all girls despite wearing dresses (boys not yet breeched) or that that was not a noble but a royal family (Henry VIII and all his children, who were never all together in one room like that), and so forth.
        But the armor and the paintings were right out there, and one could easily have touched them. My wife almost fainted a couple of times when I pointed out a detail in a painting, my finger about an inch away from the surface. "Don't touch it, don't touch it!"  Well, I wasn't going to, but there were no barriers to it.

        -----Original Message-----
        From: tstar2000@...
        To: medievalsawdust@yahoogroups.com
        Sent: Thu, 15 Feb 2007 5:15 PM
        Subject: RE: [MedievalSawdust] Tools

        I will have to agree with you, Will. The museums I have visited in the US have the attitude that you shouldn't touch or photograph anything. This was a real shock to me when my wife and I managed a trip to London a few years ago. Unless it was cordoned off or behind glass, the British museum didn't seem to care if you were to actually touch such sculptures as the Discus Thrower or some of the carved lids on various Medieval tombs. This became especially apparent when the Egyptian exhibit came to Oklahoma city form the British Museum. The very same sculptures that I was permitted to touch in London were so off limits in my home town that I was given a hard time for leaning in too close. Also, the curators here on the States don't seem to know much, or they just won't sacrifice the time to talk with a mere amateur historian. Both at the British Museum and the Tower of London I was able to engage into in depth conversations with the experts, even to the point of being introduced to the curator of the Crown Jewels at the Tower. Most enjoyable and informative - and in London they were QUITE familiar with the SCA, showing enthusiasm for someone who obviously had a genuine interest. ; )
        In Magical Service,

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