My Mazamet

Life at № 42 by E.M. Coutinho

Masterpiece, from Master Piece, Objet de Maîtrise, Meesterstuk

Excerpt from Walter Cahn, Masterpieces: Chapters on the History of an Idea, Princeton, 1979

“The exercise of a profession during the Middle Ages necessitated admission to a guild or corporation, made manifest by the candidate’s recognition as a master. This step marked the end of a period of apprenticeship, often followed by a further stage of training as a journeyman. The ultimate moment in this process of qualification was obviously of the greatest importance to the young artisan and to the corporation alike. The former depended on its successful outcome for the possibility of earning his livelihood. For the latter, a number of contradictory pressures were involved. It was desirable for the collective prosperity and welfare that a sufficient number of new master be admitted. The new arrivals assured the continuity of an enterprise and the material security of the household following the death of the former head. In good times, they took care of increased demand. But new guild members were also potential competitors and the impulse to control their numbers must have been strong. Professional pride also led guilds to seek to verify the competence of petitioners for admission. But here, too, other motives can be discerned. It served the interest of stability that goods be produced and services rendered in accordance with accepted formulas and norms of craftsmanship. Esthetic and economic value were both enhanced when work was carried out, as it is frequently expressed in the documents, “in the accustomed manner.”

Such an admission procedure accompanied by a test of competence/ p. 4 could be accomplished in a variety of ways and may well have assumed in many cases a rather informal character. From the second half of the thirteenth century onward, however, we hear, first in isolated instances and with greater frequency toward the end of the Middle Ages, of a more clearly specified challenge: in order to demonstrate his skill, the candidate must execute a work for official examination, the masterpiece. So far as is known, this requirement is mentioned for the first time in the documents in Etienne Boileau’s Livre des métiers, datable between 1261 and 1271, which contains the statutes governing the corporations in the city of Paris.”

A Tapestry Bible: Manuel sur l’art de la tapisserie par Mr Deyrolle, ancien chef d’atelier aux Gobelins

In the French tapestry world the Master Piece one submitted depended on the manufactory they were applying to. The more complex and fine, the higher the aspirations of the apprentice. After much study of technique and often borrowing from manuals like that by Deyrolle, the person would submit something like this piece below which we came across recently. You may recognise the image as it’s based on the Delphic Sibyl at the Sistine Chapel. Interestingly, Michelangelo didn’t design tapestries, which is a shame; although of course, under his Sistine ceiling, Raphael’s tapestries do a pretty excellent job of being magnificent.

Anyway, here’s a real Master’s Piece submitted to one of the most important French tapestry makers. I think we can safely say he/she passed the test!

28 comments on “Masterpiece, from Master Piece, Objet de Maîtrise, Meesterstuk

  1. Steve Ruis
    November 23, 2020

    OMG, the detail! Was all of the work done by the master or much by apprentices as was the norm in painting?

    Liked by 3 people

    • The Pink Agendist
      November 23, 2020

      If the rules were followed, the entire piece had to be done by the person wanting to be admitted to the manufactory 🙂

      Liked by 2 people

  2. João-Maria
    November 23, 2020

    How curious; the front of the tapestry is this glorious instillment of liquid expression into Time, but the back of it seems to be the stuff of nightmares; some Cthulhian paracosmos where the underlayer of shapes is a sprawling dissolution.
    Such a wonderful theme for an eventual poem.

    Liked by 6 people

    • The Pink Agendist
      November 23, 2020

      Everything you say is always so incredibly beautiful and well constructed – which makes me wonder what’s underneath?

      Liked by 2 people

      • João-Maria
        November 23, 2020

        Nothing beautiful nor well constructed. Solon forbad the exportation of grain so Athens wouldn’t starve; I export my beautiful geometries with the same purpose. Something of starvation; something of lack… Something which I’m sure you’ve known, perhaps better than I.
        I’m a bore to you, I’m sure, E., but I always like to come by when my spirit isn’t too dissolved.

        Liked by 4 people

  3. Kris
    November 23, 2020

    I so love learning from you! And yet it runs eerily parallel to my work activities today of designing a “badge” system for recognizing digital learning accomplishments. Hmmm..have we really changed?

    Liked by 3 people

    • The Pink Agendist
      November 23, 2020

      I imagine mankind will always need badges! And no, we haven’t changed at all, we just change the labels we use.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. acflory
    November 23, 2020

    Pinky’s article mentioned the ‘life’ values of becoming a master craftsman, but there would have been soft values at play too – the need to be recognized by one’s peers, the need for admiration…and validation, etc. Those soft values haven’t changed in all the centuries since the Middle Ages because /we/ haven’t changed.
    Are your badges for online learning at all levels?

    Liked by 1 person

    • The Pink Agendist
      November 23, 2020

      Absolutely! Soft values play a major role in everything, don’t they?

      Liked by 1 person

      • acflory
        November 24, 2020

        Indeed they do! lol And they’re just as powerful because we’re mostly unaware of their existence. 😀

        Liked by 1 person

  5. acflory
    November 23, 2020

    Reblogged this on Meeka's Mind and commented:
    Beautiful art, stitch by careful stitch. I am in awe.

    Liked by 3 people

  6. acflory
    November 23, 2020

    At their best, the great Guilds would have struck a fine balance between the need for consistent quality and the stifling of innovation. Makes you wonder whether the Renaissance would have been as magnificent had those artists not had the Guild system to break away /from/?

    Liked by 2 people

    • The Pink Agendist
      November 23, 2020

      And later on the impressionists broke away too. I suppose there’s a cycle of creation and organization which is almost universally followed by calls to obey convention.

      Liked by 1 person

      • acflory
        November 24, 2020

        -nods- Very much so. Inevitable really because human nature never changes. I think we’re going through a kind of neo-renaissance now, due at least in part to the disruptions caused by technology, but the desire to use that technology comes from a desire to break away from the restrictions of the ‘gatekeepers’ [read modern day Guilds]. Fascinating to see the cycles repeating themselves.

        Liked by 1 person

      • The Pink Agendist
        November 24, 2020

        Interestingly, on a person level, I’ve always felt the need to work outside of organisational structure. The problem with organisations is often that making money becomes the number one priority – whereas I sometimes want to research things that don’t have high profit margins 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

      • acflory
        November 25, 2020

        I know that feeling, Pinky. It’s why I prefer being an Indie. Working for yourself gives you [almost] total control, not just of the creativity, but also of the quality. We can choose not to cut corners, not to take the easy, profitable path, and thereby end up with something better.
        Makes you wonder how the artists in the Guilds must have chaffed at the rules and regulations! lol

        Liked by 1 person

  7. karenjane
    November 23, 2020

    Such detailed neat work was indeed a Masterpiece. The view of the back made me smile, as the glorious muddle of yarn ends is not as neat as I’d expected it to be (& now I won’t feel as bad about my own rare attempts at tapestry/embroidery).

    Liked by 3 people

    • The Pink Agendist
      November 23, 2020

      I think the issue there is the quantity of colours, the more they use, the more individual knots are needed 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

      • acflory
        November 25, 2020

        Ah hah! Thanks, I just found the answer to my question. We’ve been talking about the back as well. 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

  8. Helen Devries
    November 24, 2020

    And check the compagnonnage movement of the 19th century, with the museum at Tours.

    Liked by 3 people

  9. acflory
    November 25, 2020

    Pinky??? Do you know if leaving the back ‘woolly’ was normal??

    Liked by 1 person

    • The Pink Agendist
      November 25, 2020

      It depended on the type of weaving and also on the weaver themselves. Some were incredibly tidy and kept the knots/threads down very low while others seem to not care so much 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

      • acflory
        November 26, 2020

        lol – now doesn’t that sound modern!?! Human nature really doesn’t change.

        Liked by 1 person

  10. Anonymole
    November 27, 2020

    Master’s Piece, too cool. I’m thinking that the guild system must be the origins of democratic government, agencies dedicated to the quality of an industry.

    Cool post. You collecting wall-rugs now?

    Liked by 2 people

    • The Pink Agendist
      November 28, 2020

      In the old days I use to trade only in religious art, then after the financial crisis I had to diversify so I moved to textiles and silver 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  11. Martina
    December 11, 2020

    It’s beautiful. I can’t help but notice the female face contrasting with such a masculine arm! A sign of the times, I guess.

    Liked by 1 person

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Information

This entry was posted on November 23, 2020 by in art and tagged , , , , , , .
<span>%d</span> bloggers like this: