The humble brag of the vanitas

I’ve fallen down a rabbit hole. The rabbit hole of Vanitas. It all started with a beautiful documentary about still lifes in history by BBC called “Apples, Pears and Paint: How to Make a Still Life Painting”. Did you know that the very first still life painting known in European history was the “Basket of fruit” by Caravaggio made 1599? I did not! This painting by Caravaggio is stunning when you look into the details. At first glance it looks like a simple painting of a basket of fruits but its absolutely full of symbolism. The maggot holes in the apple, the spots of fungus, the dying leaves,…

Portrayal of opulence and death

But this documentary gave me an renewed obsession of the art form called vanitas. I already love vanitas of the 1500 and 1600s – the contrast between absolute riches and the reminder of death is thrilling. Christian art already had a morbid tradition of portraying death and decay during middle ages as seen in the Ars moriendi, the Danse Macabre, and the Memento mori becoming especially popular during the 15th century. The vanitas continued this gruesome tradition in its own way. The very word “vanitas ” comes from Latin meaning emptiness, futility, or worthlessness, a central warning in the traditional Christian that earthly goods worthless and transient.

Vanitas is a sub genre of the still life and became insanely popular in northern Europe during the 17th century, especially in Netherlands. During the Dutch Golden Age (1575-1675) Netherlands became extremely rich with a growing powerful middle class demanding a very new form of art for their homes. Being a protestant part of Europe, the vanitas became a way of the new middle class to indulge in over the top still life paintings, but adding the medieval reminder of a fleetness of opulence and the vanity of living. This is why many vanitas include for example skulls or instruments, symbolizing that death is around the corner always:

Common vanitas symbols include skulls, which are a reminder of the certainty of death; rotten fruit (decay); bubbles (the brevity of life and suddenness of death); smoke, watches, and hourglasses (the brevity of life); and musical instruments (brevity and the ephemeral nature of life). Fruit, flowers and butterflies can be interpreted in the same way, and a peeled lemon was, like life, attractive to look at but bitter to taste. (Wikipedia)

Touching the trinkets of history

In my rabbit hole I found so many vanitas I absolutely loved, and most of them are from the 17th century. (I probably need to extend this blog to also include the 17th century haha!). Personally I can’t get enough of them, how life like and detailed they are. Looking at them feels like peeking into treasure chests of the 17th century, and it is such a joy to look at all of the exquisite details. It feels like I could reach out and touch the gems, pearls, old books and juicy fruits of the past. I hope you like them as much as I do:

I want to end this entry with a absolutely beautiful vanitas that might surprise you! It is actually a photograph by the modern Australian artist and photographer Kevin Best. I find it being a photo absolutely thrilling, and such an homage to the entire history of the vanitas! Please watch more of his work at his homepage Kevin Best Still Life.

Suggested further reading

Early Netherlandish Painting
Vanitas: Dutch master paintings explained
Edward Collier (1642-1708)
Pieter Claesz (1597-1660)
Hendrick Andriessen (1607-1655)
Adriaen van Utrecht (1599 – 1652)
Carstian Luyckx (1623-1675)
Jan Lievens (1607-1674)
David Bailly (1584-1657)
Juan Sanchez Cotan (1560-1627)
Phillippe de Champaigne (1602-1674)
Kevin Best Still Life

The magician of paint & early modern landscapes

To my delight I’ve found a new favourite painter during the early 16th century. Ive always loved late 15th and early 16th century landscape paintings with the intense colors, vast open sceneries combining detailed nature and lyrical fantasy. And the painter Joachim Patinir seem to be the boss of these techniques.

Patinir was born 1480 and came originally from Dinant or Bouvignes in Belgium. He became registered as a member of Antwerp’s painters’ Guild of Saint Luke in 1515, where he spent the rest of his life.

Patinir had some famous artist friends during the time:  one of his best friends was Quentin Metsys (probably most famous for the painting “The Ugly Duchess” from 1513) with whom he often collaborated, and also the mega celebrity painter during the time Albrecht Dürer. In 1521, Dürer attended Patinirs second wedding and even painted his portrait (i havent been able to find this portrait unfortunately. Dürer called Patinir “der gute Landschaftsmaler” (“the good painter of landscapes”)

Patinir died in Antwerp in 1524, and Quentin Metsys became the guardian of his children.

Take a moment to enjoy Patinirs beautiful colorful works:


“The Baptism of Christ” (1510-20)


“Landscape with Saint Jerome” (1516-1517)


“St Jerome in the Desert” (1515-1520)


“Rest during the flght to Egypt” (early 16th century)

Patinir-Crossing_the_River_Styx-1520 and 1524

“Crossing the River Styx” (1520-1524)

Joachim_Patinir_Landscape with the Destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah-1520

“Landscape with the Destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah” (1520)


“Landscape with Saint Christopher” (1522)


“Landscape with the Flight into Egypt” (1516-1517)


“The Penitence of Saint Jerome” (1512-1515)

Saint Guinefort – the miraculous doggo saint!

The medieval cult of saints is a very colorful and intricate religious weave of stories and people. But did you know that during the 13th century a massive cult in France arose – around a dog! His name was Guinefort, Saint Guinefort even. This is his story:

dog saint

During the 13th century there was a handsome hound named Guinefort, living outside Lyon with a knight and his wife. One day the knight and wife left Guinefort at home babysitting their baby sleeping in a crib. But WOE, a big snake makes it into the house and attacks the crib! Valiant Guinefort quickly turns the crib over, protecting the baby and after a bloody fight kills the sneaky snake. A very good boy indeed!

Bloody turn of events

But when the parents come home to find the baby crying on the floor and their doggo all bloody they think Guinefort attacked their new born child, and the knight immediately kills our hero with a sword. But they soon realize their grave mistake when they find the dead snake  next to the crib… The knight and his wife decides to bury their courageous canine and make him a little shrine. And soon pilgrimages start and a Saint Guinefort cult was born, the pooch patron saint for infants!

Catholic discontent for pooch praise

But obviously the boring catholic church didn’t like this at all and the very evil inquisitor Stephen of Bourbon deemed the Guinefort cult satanic, destroyed the shrine and spread the rumour that all babies that had been taken to the shrine to be blessed was actually sacrificed to the devil.

But we all know better don’t we… all hail our galant Guinefort, the brave french pooch!

(And yes, i know this story isn’t a 16th century one, but I just couldn’t stop myself from telling this magnificent story about a truly miraculous mutt!)

Red – the color of the devil, the pope, the commoner or perhaps Martin Luther?

Satirical diptych 1520-1530

Satirical diptych, anonymous, 1520-1530.

Color is always an intriguing subject when it comes to historical clothing and social history. We tend to believe that our modern perception of color have stayed unchanged through history but we clearly can find that it  is not so.

Colors seem to get more complicated the deeper you dig into it historically. The symbolism of a color tend to change due to who wears it, what is fashionable and how expensive colors are to produce at the time. I have already sneak peaked at the color blue in the proverb entry “Wrapped in a blue cloak“, where I also end up discussing the color of red slightly.

Red is a very interesting subject when it comes to color. As a modern viewer we are costumed to associating red with lust, eroticism, women and also prostitution (red districts). We also might think about the devil, about love, about anger and Christmas.

Historically the color of red have had many different meanings making it a complicated, and versatile, color. In fact so much so, that I’ve decided to look into the color red. The color red connected to the devil, the holy, the commoner and the Reformation:

The devil in red

We tend to associate red with the devil, in modern times – the devil is almost always depicted in red or in red clothes. Red is one of the few colors mentioned fairly often in the bible, which might be an answer to that. I’ll quote two well known ones, the first one about the “Whore of Babylon” and the second one about sin:

And he carried me away in the Spirit into a wilderness; and I saw a woman sitting on a scarlet beast, full of blasphemous names, having seven heads and ten horns.

And the woman was dressed in purple and scarlet, and adorned with gold and precious stones and pearls. She held in her hand a golden cup full of abominations and the impurities of her sexual immorality. On her forehead a mysterious name was written: Babylon the Great, the mother of prostitutes and of the abominations of the earth. (Revelation 17:3)

“Come now, and let us reason together,” Says the LORD, “Though your sins are as scarlet, They will be as white as snow; Though they are red like crimson, They will be like wool.” (Isaiah 1:18)

But what does this mean? Does the bible tell us that the color of red is devilish in itself? Or is it possibly used by the devil because the scarlet red was associated with riches and power to people at the time? During biblical times the scarlet red was a very expensive and difficult color to achieve, and only worn by the fortunate. Did the Whore of Babylon “dress in purple and scarlet” to glam the people meeting her, manifesting power and hierarchy with it?

"Whore of Babylon", illustration from Martin Luther's 1534. Workshop of Lucas Cranach.

“Whore of Babylon”, illustration from Martin Luther’s translation of the New Testament, 1534. Workshop of Lucas Cranach.

Also the color red is almost impossible to wash out once dyed (especially scarlet). Can this be a reason why it was used in the bible to symbolize the concept of sin – that even red can be turned back to white if you put your faith in Christ.

The holy ones in red

Pope Sixtus, pope during 1521-1590. Unknown artist

Pope Sixtus, pope during 1521-1590. Unknown artist

Scarlet has symbolized wealth and power, both politically and religiously, since even before ancient Bible times. This color, second only to purple, was a status symbol in the mighty Roman Empire and officers in Rome’s army wore cloaks dyed in it as well as high-ranking non-military people. The production of the dyeing of scarlet was a very expensive and painstaking procedure and could only be afforded by the very wealthy at the time.

Since the late 13th century Roman Cardinals, who are high-level religious leaders in the Catholic Church, use scarlet for their ecclesiastical clothing. The pope is even today dressed in red – especially his cap Camauro and in the papal red shoes.

Jesus Christ in art during the late medieval and early modern period is frequently portrayed in a robe in red. This plays rather unwell with the notion that red is always a devilish color. In this context in fact, red symbolizes the divine. The color blue is during history often connected the Virgin Mary – we often find her depicted in a blue robe, symbolizing piety, faith and chastity. But in fact the color blue in sakral contexts is a color that represents the secular earth, while red represents the divine. This is why we see Jesus often in a red robe (he is divinity) and sometimes cloaked in blue (secular earthly world). Virgin Mary on the opposite is often dressed in blue (she a earthly woman) but can be seen robed in red (divinity).

"Last Judgment" by Stefan Lochner, c. 1435.

“Last Judgement” by Stefan Lochner, c. 1435.

"Resurrection" by Dirk Bouts, 1455

“Resurrection” by Dirk Bouts, 1455

"Christ Appering to His Mother", by Follower of Rogier van der Weyden, c. 1475

“Christ Appearing to His Mother”, by Follower of Rogier van der Weyden, c. 1475

God, the Virgin Mary and St. John the Baptist. Ghent Altarpiece by Hubert and Jan van Eyck, 1432

“God, the Virgin Mary and St. John the Baptist.” Ghent Altarpiece by Hubert and Jan van Eyck, 1432

The commoner in red

I often come upon the claim that red was a color only for the rich and privileged during the late medieval and renaissance period. But yet we find it to be a very popular and common color among the every day man, especially during the 16th century. How is that possible?

The claim that red was only used by the rich is simply not completely true. Achieving different shades of red in textiles during the medieval period started to become common and fairly easy. It all depended on which kind of of red you wanted. The extremely expensive and exclusive version of red was Scarlet (made from extremely high amount of shells). But during the middle ages we get the the less rich red in the Madder dye:

By the 13th century, madder was being cultivated on a fairly large scale in Europe […] In the middle ages, Charlemagne encouraged madder cultivation. It grew well in the sandy soils of the Netherlands and became an important part of the local economy. (Source).

The madder reds became very common in Europe and a highly popular color during the renaissance, being a way for commoners to imitate the more expensive reds of the higher classes.

"The wedding dance", Pieter Bruegel the elder, 1566.

“The wedding dance”, Pieter Bruegel the elder, 1566.

Different kinds of reds was defined through what people called it. For example, there is about 20 different names for shades of red that were used in early modern Britain. A lot of the names are quite… fleshy. (The dates are for when they were first known or when they were notably fashionable):

  • Bristol Red – 1500-1580; 1550-80: (a “pleasant” red)
  • Scarlet – 1522 (bright red)
  • Redds – 1522
  • Crimson – 1522 (red)
  • Murrey – 1522 (mulberry colour) 1550-80 (purplish red)
  • Carnation – 1547-53; 1550-80: (resembling the colour Raw Flesh)
  • Incarnate – 1547-53; 1550-80 (raw flesh red)
  • Horseflesh – 1559 (possibly a very dark flesh red, like raw horsemeat)
  • Blod – 1547-53 (blood red)
  • Sangyn – 1550-80 (sanguine; blood red)
  • Ox-Blood – 1550-80
  • Ruby – 1554
  • Gingerline – 1595 (reddish violet)
  • Lustie-Gallant – 1550-80: (light red)
  • Strammel – 1575 (red)
  • Amaranth – 1550-80 (a reddish purple)
  • Pink – 1522
  • Maide’s Blush – 1590 (rose color)
  • Ham-Color – 1550-80 (possibly the light red of ham)
  • Soppes-in-Wine — 1559 (it used to be normal to put soppes, pieces of toast or stale bread, in wine, so since all wines are reds, this is probably a lightened shade of wine). (Source)

What we today might simply call “a red”, had historically many different names and therefor also possibly many different meanings simply due to who wore it and how.

Martin Luther in red

What actually inspired me to write this entire entry on the color red, was reading that Martin Luther, infamous for wearing black, personally wore a lot of red (97, Rublack). This made me rethink the symbolism of color and how red must have meant truly different things, depending on who wore it. Rublack concludes that “Luthers choice of scarlet clothing also reflects the increasing sartorial distinction that scholars had begun to raise their status”. (98, Rublack).

And when I started looking for Luther in red, I ended up it finding sneaky red garments in quite a lot of depictions of him that I had not thought about earlier:

Double Portrait of Martin Luther and Philip MelanchthonDouble Portrait of Martin Luther and Philip MelanchthonDouble Portrait of Martin Luther and Philip Melanchthon

Double Portrait of Martin Luther and Philip Melanchthon (1543)

Martin Luther in the bible of Hans Plock.

Martin Luther in the bible of Hans Plock.

Collage of reformators, 1540., from the bible of Hans Plock

Collage of reformators, 1540., from the bible of Hans Plock

Magdeburg commemoration of Martinus Lutherus (1546)

Magdeburg commemoration woodcut of Martinus Lutherus (1546)

It seems Luther really did feel fly in red.

I am honestly not sure if this entry made me any wiser when it comes to this alluring color, dear readers. Maybe we can come to the conclusion that the color red have and always will fascinate, be fashionable and attractive in our eyes despite the symbolism behind it or who wears it. And that the color of red historically did not come in just one shade, but in plenty.


→ “Dressing Up – Cultural Identity in Renaissance Europe”, by Ulinka Rublack.
→ Fabric colors in English renaissance
The bible.

Suggested further reading, for the curious:

→ Secret history of red
→ Historical overview of dyes, dying and fabric colors in the renaissance

Angel of death – the stylish executioner

When we mention the medieval executioner most of us probably imagen a half naked man, hooded in a black cloak over his face and casually leaning against an enormous axe. This image is however a modern conception of the hangman of the past.


The medieval executioner was indeed fully dressed, and never hooded. He wasn’t even all dressed in black – on the contrary we see him quite colorful in many depictions. But people did fear and shun the hangman intensely. He was often a ruthless criminal who chose the role as executioner instead of the death penalty, offered to him by the state. He was also often somehow marked with cut off ears, or burn scars on the side of the face.

The fact that the modern perception of the executioner highly differ from the historical one, made me curious. Who was the early modern hangman, and more importantly – what did he look like?

The diary of an executioner

In 16th century Hof in Germany lived a man called Frantz Schmidt. More formally known as “Meister Franz”, he might be the only 16th century executioner writing a diary during his 45 year long career of killing, punishing and handling criminals in the name of the state.

Schmidt was one of the executioners that inherited the title from his father, unlike earlier practice where the role as executioner was offered to criminals as an alternative to death penalty. Schmidt seems to have been a well mannered executioner, sought after and definitely not unlucky in love nor career:

“he married chief executioner’s daughter Maria, and eventually became chief executioner after his father-in-law. He fathered seven children, and his salary, on par with the city’s wealthiest jurists, allowed him to have a spacious residence in Nürnberg. After his retirement in 1617, he began a new, lucrative career as medical consultant.” (source)

In Schmidts diary he detailed all the punishments that he performed. He had a fruitful career where he performed according to his diary 361 executions, many finger-choppings aswell as ear-clippings:

During his entire career he flogged at least 367 offenders, usually before effecting the court’s order for their banishment from the city; many more were whipped by his assistant. He branded a large N for Nuremberg on the cheeks of four pimps and conmen, clipped the ears off four “thief-whores”, snipped off the end of one blasphemer’s tongue, and chopped off the fingers of nine prostitutes, procuresses, false gamblers, poachers and perjurers. (Source)

Despite his chopping, clipping and executing he seem to have been a fairly respected man. Even so that he could retire from his profession as hangman and instead end his life as a (surprisingly enough) healer, claiming to have treated more than 15,000 patients at the end of his life.

We have a few depictions of Frantz, and as far as we can see he was a fairly well dressed chap, and it seems his gear matched his salary:

The executioner Franz Schmidt executing Hans Fröschel on May 18, 1591.

Franz Schmidt executing Hans Fröschel on May 18, 1591.

A painting from the Nuremberg State Archive of Frantz Schmidt executing Anna Peihelsteinin for 'harlotry and lewdness'

Frantz Schmidt executing Anna Peihelsteinin for ‘harlotry and lewdness’, 1584.

Depiction attributed to Franz Schmidt, end of 16th century.

Depiction attributed to Franz Schmidt, end of 16th century.


Depiction of Schmidt executing the parricide Franz Seuboldt who killed his own father by ambush while dad was setting bird traps, 1589.

The coin and dress of the hangman

The executioner was by no means a wealthy profession but he couldn’t be called poor either. He had a steady income, certain executions gave extra cash and travels, accommodation and meals during work was paid for. A diligent and ambitious hangman could amass a good coin during his career.

Another less known perk of the job was garments:

“A privilege the executioner had at the time was that he got to keep the garment of the sentenced – as long as the criminal were considered without honor or a stranger to the community. And as most sentenced to death were considered without honor, the executioner pretty much kept all the clothing he desired. This meant that the executioner in many cases could be quite well dressed, to commons folks annoyance”. (93, Sanden)

That the feared and hated executioner was allowed to dress more or less finely, wasn’t highly appreciated.  In 1603 there is a somewhat disgruntled quote on the dressing of a german executioner. That his dress “be so great that not the princely grace was worthy to shine the shoe, and that his mother shall have such stately dress and skirts that the princess herself did not have it better” (93, Sandén)

The Swedish executioner Clemet Foss was 1594 said to “be with gaudy clothes”, probably due to pickings from his victims, and well use of his incomes. When the wealthy Ulrich Schwarz, master of the carpenters guild in Augsburg and famous for his love for fancy clothes, was sentenced to death 1478 the city council “forbade the hangman to appropriate his clothing, so as not to perpetuate his memory” (86, Rublack).

I have found some claims that the executioner during medieval times dressed in certain ways. “Hangmen, in particular, were often forced to to wear striped, or strangely cut clothing and are frequently represented in this manner in crucifixion scenes or martyrical scenes” (103, Rublack).

"Die sieben Schmerzen Mariä" By Albrecht Durer, 1494-1497

“Die sieben Schmerzen Mariä” By Albrecht Durer, 1494-1497

However I am not sure that the strangely cut clothes in biblical scenes represent how the hangmen actually dressed, but is more of an exotic depiction of clothing. If the executioners garments in a biblical scene differ very much from common fashion during the 1500 and 1600s, it is most probably a fictional clothing style to symbolize a bygone time.

Some also claim that executioners were said to often be dressed in red (96, Sandén). But I am always suspicious of modern interpretation of color use in history. The color red is often said to be the color of devilry, or a lewd woman. But I would say that that the meaning of color differs greatly according to who wore it. Martin Luther for example, infamous for wearing black, personally wore a lot of red (97, Rublack). “Luthers choice of scarlet clothing also reflects the increasing sartorial distinction that scholars had begun to raise their status”. (98 Rublack).

In the end, the only thing we can do is to look at contemporary sources and study depictions of executioners of the time:

Execution from a french Chronicle, end of 15th century.

Execution from a french Chronicle, end of 15th century.

The execution of Robert Tresilian, as depicted in Jean Froissart's Chroniques. Date 15th century

The execution of Robert Tresilian, as depicted in Jean Froissart’s Chroniques. 15th century


Very early 16th century, origin unknown to me

woodcut of a decapitation, early 16th c.

Woodcut of a decapitation, early 16th c.

various torture and execution styles, 1509

Various torture and execution styles, 1509

A woodcut of Tyndale’s execution from Foxe’s Book of Martyrs (1563)

A woodcut of Tyndale’s execution from Foxe’s Book of Martyrs (1563)

"Scharfrichter" (Executioner) from "Praxis rerum criminalium iconibus illustrata", 1562.

“Scharfrichter” (Executioner) from “Praxis rerum criminalium iconibus illustrata”, 1562.

Woodcut from Swiss chronicle of Johann Stumpf, 1586.

Woodcut from Swiss chronicle of Johann Stumpf, 1586.


Executioner, end of 16th century

The execution of Mary Queen of Scots at Fotheringhay Castle, 8 February 1587.

The execution of Mary Queen of Scots at Fotheringhay Castle, 8 February 1587.


Suggested further reading, for the curious:

 The Director of the Theater of Horror
 The Journeyman
→ God’s Executioner

The 16th century cook and his attire

Everything started with me searching different depictions of the female apron during the 16th century. And it ended up with me finding a lot of depictions of 16th century male cooks. Why not collect these, I realized.

On these depictions we see that there is a fashionable difference between an apron for a male or a female. The male apron seem to be extremely simple – just a squared piece of linnen fastened with a knot, and quite short.

I also would like you to note that quite a few of the depictions of our culinary artists portray them with fashionable clothes – it is slashed and well fitting, many with the hypermodern “kuhmaulschuhe”, the cow mouth shoe. I would like to point out that these cooks are most probably some sort of court cooks, or working for lords with a more lavish taste in food.

Also we see quite a few not only stylish, but also hygienic, hair nets and hair gears on our male chefs.

The Cook and His Wife Albrecht Dürer (German, Nuremberg 1471–1528 Nuremberg)

The Cook and His Wife Albrecht Dürer (German, Nuremberg 1471–1528 Nuremberg)

"Kuechenmeisterei" by Peter Wagner, Nuremberg, 1486.

German Cookbook “Kuchenmeistery”, 1485

German Cookbook "Kuchenmeistery" 1485

German Cookbook “Kuchenmeistery”, 1485

"Das Buch Granatapfel im Latin Genant Malogranatus", 1510, Hans Burgkmair I.

“Das Buch Granatapfel im Latin Genant Malogranatus”, 1510, Hans Burgkmair I.

"Der Weisskunig" (The White King Learning to Conduct a Kitchen), 1514-1516, Burgkmair d. Ä.

“Der Weisskunig” (The White King Learning to Conduct a Kitchen), 1514-1516, Burgkmair d. Ä.

From a german manuscript namned "Frau untreue (Untrue woman). Artist unknown. Made first half of 16th century. 320 [118v] - Frau Untreue

From a german manuscript namned “Frau untreue” (Untrue woman). Artist unknown. Made first half of 16th century.

Die Hausbucher der Nurnberger Zwolfbruderstiftungen 1527

“Die Hausbucher der Nurnberger Zwolfbruderstiftungen”, 1527


Unknown artist and date

"Zeltlager Kaiser Karls V. vor Lauingen", 1546.

“Zeltlager Kaiser Karls V. vor Lauingen”, 1546.


Interior of an Italian kitchen, after woodcut in 'Banchetti compositioni di Vivende' by Christoforo di Messisburgo, published 1549

Interior of an Italian kitchen, after woodcut in ‘Banchetti compositioni di Vivende’ by Christoforo di Messisburgo, published 1549


“The chief”, woodcut by Jost Amman, in the cookbook “Ein new Kochbuch” by Marx Rupolt, 1581.

Marx Rumpolt, Ein new Kochbuch, 1581.

From the the cookbook “Ein new Kochbuch” by Marx Rupolt, 1581.

Bartolomeo Scappi Trattato di cucina 1570

Unknown artist and date

Bartolomeo Scappi Trattato di cucina 1570 kitchen

Unknown artist and date


Bartolomeo Passarotti (1529-1592) Baker Preparing Pies

“Baker Preparing Pies”. by Bartolomeo Passarotti (1529-1592)

I will end this little entry with a far older picture – it seems the manly square apron have been in fashion for quite some time:

Psalter. Flemish c. 1320-30.

Psalter. Flemish c. 1320-30.

A must see: “The high art of the low countries”

Its recommend a documentary time, again! This time i’ll recommend something that isn’t only about the 16th century, but starts in the 15th century. It is the wonderful art that was born in the Netherlands and Belgium during this period. I cannot stress enough how much I love the northern European renaissance – it’s love for the common man (and woman) and the artists almost alchemichal talent in using paints and colors.

The film is called “The high art of the low countries” from 2013. In the first episode of three the British art historian Andrew Graham-Dixon focuses on the 15th and 16th century and deeply explores the brothers van Eyck, Bruegel the elder and Peter Paul Rubens along with churches and tapestries of the time.

It’s a must see!

Reenactment: female pilgrims 16th century

Me and a friend shared a mutual interest for Northern European early 16th century female pilgrims and decided to recreate their gear. Our inspirations are of simple female clothing during the period but also the early modern pilgrims that we found depictions of. The entire outfit is not complete yet – we want more winter wear also, and yet have to make proper bags for longer travels.

The clothes are all handsown by us, all equipment and accessories handmade by us or friends that are crafts men. Everything is in materials of the time such as wool, linnen, silk threads, leather and oak.



Our lovely hats are historically handmake by Amica at They are based on depictions of 16th century pilgrims.

image2 (1)


Our lovely shoes are historically handmade by Sofia at They are inspired from depictions of 16th century peasant shoes and also findings from the Mary Rose.

image1 (1)

I’m adding some of the inspirational pictures of 16th century pilgrims that we used during the process. Depicitions of female pilgrims during the period are, as always, alot fewer:

Please visit our amazing friends at Historical Textiles and Historiska Skor!

Good riddance to bad rubbish!

The saying “good riddance”, meaning “pleasure on being rid of some annoyance – usually an individual” is a phrase most people are familiar to.

But in the 16th century “riddance” wasn’t always of a good kind – it basically meant “deliverance from” or “getting rid of”.

A riddance can be of many kinds, it can be a “gentle riddance” as in Shakespeares “Merchant of Venice”. It was Shakespeare that first coined the combination of “riddance” and “good” as far as we know, in the line from “Troilus and Cressida” (1606):

Thersites: I will see you hanged, like clotpoles, ere I come any more to your tents: I will keep where there is wit stirring and leave the faction of fools. [Exits]

Patroclus: A good riddance!

But we find this little word in even earlier sources, in John Rastells little sarcastic love poem “Away mouring” written in 1525:

I haue her lost,
For all my cost,
Yet for all that I trowe
I haue perchaunce,
A fayre ryddaunce,
And am quyt of a shrew.

Lets just hope that the lady that Rastell is so bitter over truly was such a “fair riddance” as he’s implying.

I’ll end this little entry and conclude that the Devil himself just might sigh with relief and mumble “good riddance” as soon as he gets this angry witch of his back:

"Witch attacking the devil with a spindle", Jakob Binck (1528)

“Witch attacking the devil with a spindle”, Jakob Binck (1528)

Horror & gore! Hidden killers in early modern times

Its Recommend a Documentary time again!

This time it a sneak peak into the everyday lives of the tudor homes, and secret hidden dangers that effected the normal lives of people.

HEEMSKERCK, Maerten van Family Portrait c. 1530.

“Family Portrait” by Maerten van Heemskerck c. 1530.

The beautiful Dr Suzannah Lipscomb with BBC 4 takes us back to early modern times in search of the household killers of the era in the documentary series “Hidden killers“:

“It was a great age of exploration and science where adventurers returned from the New World with exotic goods previously unknown in Europe. An era in which the newly emergent middle classes had, for the first time, money for luxuries and early consumer goods, many of which contained hidden dangers.

The period also saw a radical evolution in the very idea of ‘home’. For the likes of Tudor merchants, their houses became multi-room structures instead of the single-room habitations that had been the norm (aristocracy excepted). This forced the homebuilders of the day to engineer radical new design solutions and technologies, some of which were lethal.”

I can tell you that there are some surprising finds that truly entertained and horrified me in this documentary. Like why drowning was a common reason of death for young women at the time. Or why teeth hygien suddenly horribly declined during the Tudor period.

I highly recommend it!