Days of Yore — Boxes relating to Medieval and Renaissance Years.
The periods of time that history refers to as Medieval times, the early Renaissance and the late Renaissance took place in Western Europe, all of this dating from the 11th century to the 16th century. They were extraordinary in that they gave rise to art as we know it today, the printing press which opened reading and education and individual study and knowledge to the world as never before. It was during these periods that Dante wrote, da Vinci and Michaelangelo painted and sculpted, Americus Vespucci explored, the Medici’s ruled and with their enormous wealth as patrons of the arts they enabled artists and writers to attain levels never before reached. Italy produced dozens of painters many of whose names you would recognize if I cataloged them here. It was a period of time when knights went from being professional soldiers, protectors of the fiefdom of the Lord to whom they were in service, to become more romantic figures who were knighted because they had done something that warranted recognition and the title of Sir went along with that. Sir Launcelot and Sir Galahad are names you will all remember from childhood tales. Sir Galahad became part of our language, i.e. “He’s a regular Sir Galahad” meaning that he was very protective of the ladies and courteous and mannered to the extreme. It was a period of the greatest growth in intellectual pursuits that the world had then seen and today we are all the beneficiaries of those exceptional years. The boxes in this segment relate to those years.
A. The Knight on His Steed Box. A rearing horse with a knight in full armor on his back. The horse is “dressed” with the colors of the lord for whom the knight rides and the knight is carrying lance and shield ready for battle. Notice that he has a red cockade atop his helmet. The clasp is an extremely intricate heraldic shield. Retail: About $235.00. Our price: $212.90.
Note: The “dressing” the horse is wearing was mainly for protective purposes. How better to unseat a rider than to injure his horse. In battle the horse was as much at risk as the knight.
B. The Medieval Castle Box. Castles were used as both residences and fortifications in medieval times. Generally they housed the King or the Lord of the area in which they were constructed. Because they were also built as forts, most often they were built on hills so they were able to survey the land around them, as well they had encircling walls with land between the walls and the castle, baileys, to permit defense of the outer wall first. Often they had moats, deep ditches around the entire perimeter of the castle, which were filled with water and could only be crossed by a bridge which was raised and lowered from within the castle. The box is an example of an early castle called a "motte and bailey" castle because it was both placed on a mound and had a bailey. During this period castles were not nearly as elaborate as they later became. Inside the box a detail of the countryside. The clasp, a crown. Our price: $199.90.
C. The Tinker's Wagon Box. In the early days of medicine, prior to and during the Renaissance, before medicine was recognized as a science, it was practiced, in England and elsewhere, by wandering tinkers who lived in wagons such as the one pictured, generally traveling in twos, and the tinkers did everything from small repairs on every manner of object to human surgery as it was then, as well as entertaining the customers with music, dancing, juggling acts and other small feats. They set broken limbs, they ministered to the sick, they prescribed herbal remedies. They were the forerunners of today's surgeons. As a matter of fact, it is because of them that surgeons in England are titled Mister today rather than doctor. They were, in a sense, like gypsies. They lived a wanderer's life going from town to town each year and the people came from around those towns for whatever medical help they required. There were no doctors then. There were no medical schools then, with the exception of one in Persia. This is an excellent reproduction of the wagons used by these travelers complete with curtained window, roof patches and wheels that turn. The tinker sits playing his instrument as he journeys through the countryside. Inside, dimensional and removable, a tambourine which was passed around the audience that gathered at each stop and in which was placed a shilling or two by those who had been helped by the tinker. The clasp is a horseshoe. The tinker sits on the front step of the wagon while his horse carries him on his journey. Retail: About $215.00. Our price: $193.90.
D. The English Village Box. If you have been to England and visited some of the older towns and villages such as Stratford or Stoke-on-Poges you might well have seen houses standing one against the other, of different heights and widths but all attached sharing a thick common wall and offering protection and lesser construction costs for each. In Jane Austen’s novel, Pride and Prejudice, the town near which the Bennett's lived had houses much like these. They were commonplace in England during the 16th and 17th centuries and onwards from there. The box is triple hinged and the houses open outward to reveal a common area with a water trough in the center of it providing water for all. Inside, painted, a huge double trunked tree and the clasp, the head of a knight in armor. Retail: About $329.00. Our price: $296.90.
E. The Mont-St-Michel Box. Just off the coast of France between Normandy and Brittany lies the island of Mont-Tomb. Not a name you would know but if I mentioned that Mont St. Michel occupies this island then, if you have traveled in France, you would surely have heard of it if not visited it. It is known as one of the most enchanting sights in France. This tiny island, actually a mountain top rising from the sea, is shrouded in filmy mists much of the time, and when the mists clear one can see that it is crowned by a jewel of a monastery. The monastery was begun in the early 10th century and by the 12th century it had metamorphosed from a simple oratory to an incredibly beautiful Benedictine monastery. During the Medieval years and through the Renaissance years it was a center of learning and around it’s base grew a small town that housed those whom it served and who served it. Le Grand Rue is the avenue of access. It starts at the base of the mountain and goes up to the Abbey gates. If you have seen the Bayeux Tapestry then you know that Mont St. Michel is the monastery that is depicted in it. Inside a dimensional sailboat on choppy seas. The clasp is a sailing vessel as well. Retail: About $235.00. Our price: $212.90.
F. The Friar Tuck Box. Doubtless you recall the stories of Robin Hood and His Band of Merry Men. Included in the band was one Friar Tuck. I mention this because, if like me, you wondered what a friar was -- here is the explanation. A friar was a religious non activist you might say. He lived in a monastery and spent his life praying and doing penance. (Friar Tuck was actually an exception to that. He spent his life with Robin and the Hoods robbing the rich and giving to the poor.) Living within a monastery their lives are secluded and monastic to the extreme. Our Friar is a fairly jolly looking chap which is why I think he is more the Friar Tuck type. He is rotund and appears to enjoy the sacramental wines evidenced by his rosy nose and certainly seems to enjoy hearty repasts. Having said all of this -- he is wearing monks sandals and a monks robe tied with a heavy rope, his robe is hooded and he wears one of those tiny caps that members of religious orders often wear. Notice his fat little toes peeping out from under his robe. Inside, a dimensional and removable Bible and the clasp is unimportant to the box. Our price: $219.90.
G. The Nun Box. Not dressed in what we recognize as Nun’s clothing today but nevertheless, a Nun. Remember, we are dealing here with a long ago period of time when Nun’s were part of a community living monastic existence's that might or might not be religious orders. St. Vincent de Paul’s Sisters of Charity, begun in that long ago time, was always about charity and caring for the poor rather than about religion per se. In any case, this is a French Nun and she is dressed as such. Her garment is simple with no embellishment of any kind and her head covering is simple to the extreme. Taking a moment of rest she is lying beside a stream, her water bowl, and behind her, her pitcher, both waiting to be filled using the ladle just in front of her. This box, by the way, is one of a group of boxes done by Chamart many years ago when they reproduced an entire collection of snuff boxes from the late 18th and the early 19th centuries. Our price: $224.90.
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