Wednesday, January 11, 2017

Three Sides Live | Professor Etienne Rynne Lectures | October 1994 | Part III

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Prof. Etienne Rynne at the decorated east window of Annaghdown Cathedral,
 Co. Galway, in 1996 (© Chapple Collection)

In this, the third and final lecture, Prof. Rynne tackles ‘the big three’ of Irish Early Christian metalwork: The Tara Brooch, The Ardagh Chalice, and the Derrynaflan hoard. All of his obituaries noted that he accompanied the Ardagh Chalice to the British Museum when it was disassembled for cleaning and restoration. This gave him remarkable insight into the manufacture of the piece which, unfortunately, he never got around to publishing. While never filling the void, I hope that this very rushed presentation can go some way towards an understanding of its construction. Students of the Prof. will also recognise his oft-repeated (and terribly misogynistic) anecdote about women wearing their conference name badges upside-down. I have to say that, since hearing that story, I have always kept an eye out for its occurrence at conferences. I’ve only observed it a few times, and always by men rather than women. This recording nicely demonstrates the verbal backlash he received (and expected) for uttering it in public!

Again, I’ve included a rough timeline through the lecture, giving the order of the topics he covered and some of his quips and anecdotes.


Video also available: here

0:18 Tara Brooch: ‘it’s on chocolate boxes and it’s on Dancing Girls’ breasts … or it used to be’
0:42 Tara Brooch is different from everything else
1:01 Penannular & pseudo penannular
1:28 tied on with woven silver wire
1:50 illuminated manuscripts
2:02 ‘The Tara Brooch about 700 ... 725’
2:38 not made of gold! ‘There is only one gold brooch in Ireland at this time – the Dalriada Brooch from Lachan, Co. Derry’
3:22 ‘you can get the measurements yourselves quite easily, I can never remember them!’
3:43 Tara one of the earliest known brooches
3:53 ‘it was cast in the cire perdue method, or the lost wax method’
4:44 ‘it took me four lectures ... or five lectures I think for my ordinary students’
4:53 Bettystown 1850
5:42 sent to the Great Exhibition in London in 1862 & returned missing some filigree
6:09 how they held these panels in place
6:18 ‘just a little detail to show you’ … the dog that only the wearer can see
7:42 ‘If you don’t see the reason for this … next time you go to a conference … and I know I’m going to have P------- B----- and others giving out now that I’m being a male chauvinist pig and all the rest … I’m not! … I’m just telling you a fact … women don’t as often go to conferences as men … and often they come along with the husband … just shows they’re not as used to it … and when you go to conferences and things, you’re given your name on a little label and your name could be P------- B-----, or something … and I challenge any of you to go to any conference … and you’ll see … and nine times out of ten it will be women … who will have … because they’re not used to it … or don’t think the same way … you put it on upside down … quite often you’ll see people walking around with their name and it’s as proud as punch, and their name is upside down … because when they read it, they read it upside down’
8:48 [over loud disagreement] ‘I am just stating that [inaudible] [audience member: ‘very brave’] don’t blame me, I have no [] It’s the same idea’
9:24 [problem with slide projector] ‘why is this not working?’
9:45 missing panel & how they’re held in place
11:05 gilded
13:00 amber
13:15 decoration on the back
14:13 Niello
15:55 ‘So you can see – the Tara Brooch is pretty fine’
16:14 lost wax method
16:26 ‘chip carving … or kerbschnitt to be more correct’
17:01 ‘it’s a marvellous piece, but let us move on from the Tara Brooch to the [indistinct] du temps, the greatest piece of work metallurgical, artistical, probably ever done in the world … it’s Benvenuto Cellini or any of them couldn’t have done the Ardagh Chalice’
17:34 found in hoard in 1868
18:03 probably never used
18:19 ‘it’s a marvellous piece … the proportions are beautiful … I think it’s about seven-and-a-half inches high … [utters list of possible dimensions in quick succession] … it doesn’t matter! It’s elegant!’
18:41 the bowl
19:06 how it’s held together
19:28 handles
19:45 raised glass studs
20:31 moulds for casting glass studs found at Lagore crannog (with glass stud still in it)
20:58 how they were held together
22:40 the bowl girdle
22:00 description of the panels
24:11 Audience member: ‘is that lettering down at the bottom?’
ER: ‘Holy Lord! [audience giggling] there’s the bowl … obviously, somebody has seen something! … but the number of people that go in [to the National Museum of Ireland] and look at the Ardagh Chalice and DON’T see! … that’s one thing you learn from archaeology … I keep telling you … [] I tell my students – if they learn nothing else, they learn to see, not just to look!’
24:44 ‘I’ve brought people into the museum and I’ve brought them … borrowed from the museum the big magnifying glass and they still couldn’t bloody well see!’
25:04 inscription on the bowl ‘the names of the twelve apostles … minus Judas … I think I say in the hand-outs that St Paul replaced Judas … most people say that … I’ve been looking into it later and according to the gospels it was Mathias who replaced Judas … and I’m going to have to check to see … check these bloody names and see whether Paul is included at all’
25:48 ‘same sort of letters as the Book of Lindisfarne
26:00 ‘how did they get the girdle on to hold it?’ … note of ER travelling to the British Museum to see it taken apart
28:04 the foot mount
28:54 silver-topped rivets to hold the handles
29:08 Brass rim
29:25 the bottom
30:56 ‘I think the projector is not one I’ve used locally … usually’
31:44 upper & lower foot girdles
32:07 blue glass studs that the chalice stood on when in use
33:17 ‘those are copper and silver wires … probably done like Mr [indistinct] through a hole [indistinct] in a spool … put thread through it and you get a long hollow string and then they cut it and opened it out’
33:36 ‘and these are very interesting … and I know … you could lick your finger and just wipe them you could see for a minute, but in the British Museum they actually put oil on them and they were able to get them so you could see through them ... or translucent … just long enough to take a photograph before it dried out … and if you look you can perhaps notice … a pattern behind … [indistinct] but here is the silver panel that’s behind them all … there’s a stamped silver panel’
34:27 ‘and I’m finishing with Derrynaflan … I forgot to bring down … I should have brought down the slide with the chalice of Derrynaflan and the chalice of Ardagh next to one another … because I’m going to tell you that [] the chalice of Derrynaflan is a second rate object! I know if we hadn’t got the Ardagh Chalice we’d say it was terrific … and any other museum or country in the world would give its eye teeth for it … but it’s a very poor imitation’
35:20 Derrynaflan & Ardagh hoards thieves’ hoard vs. custodian’s hoard
36:10 Paten
36:36 strainer
36:40 covered by bowl
36:48 paten & stand are the prize pieces
37:00 possibly made by same person/workshop who made the Ardagh Chalice
37:17 strainer
37:30 Ardagh Chalice was take/given & replaced with Derrynaflan Chalice
37:40 Derrynaflan 50 to 60 years later than the Ardagh Chalice
38:00 the strainer
38:14 The tape stopped in the recorder at this point – apparently due to an oily residue on the tape.

ER continues on the strainer: ‘It would make an awful mess! … in other words … and furthermore … this is bronze … this handle is too springy and light … if you filled it up with wine it’d go woop like that … clearly … this was not meant to be used … neither were the other objects … they were for presentation on an altar for special occasions … feast days … like the Ardagh Chalice … like the Book of Kells … like all these objects … Do socair glór Dé agus a onóir, mar sin de [to the peaceful glory of God and his honour, and so on] … there is the chalice … it looks lovely ... it isn’t … it’s [indistinct] it’s a poor effort! It really … It’s missing the rim … brass rim which take the bare look off the other one …’

After a little more explaining how awful the Derrynaflan Chalice is, the tape quality degrades markedly as the lecture ends

Prof. Etienne Rynne at the north doorway of Annaghdown Cathedral
Co. Galway, in 1996 (© Chapple Collection)