Wednesday, November 15, 2017

Musee de l'Ancien Eveche | The Helmet of Chlodomer?

The helmet as photographed in 2003
This wonderful helmet was found in the 1870s in a peat bog at Saint-Didier, near Vézeronce-Curtin, about 55km to the north-west of Grenoble. It is composed of a gilded copper helm with brass cheek-pieces, and a ring mail neck protection in iron (the leather portions are modern). The helmet appears to be of Byzantine manufacture and was, most likely, owned by a Frankish chieftain. The museum information card dates it to ‘Around 524’ as the find spot was close to the reputed site of the Battle of Vézeronce, fought between the Franks and the Burgundians on June 25, 524 AD. While the battle initially went in the favour of the Burgundians, the Franks turned the tide, albeit with the loss of their king, Chlodomer. The museum’s information card for this piece notes that such a richly decorated item would have belonged to an important individual and dangles the possibility that it may have been Chlodomer’s before saying that is impossible to know for sure.

The helmet as photographed in 2003

Wednesday, November 8, 2017

Musee de l'Ancien Eveche | The parakeet mosaic

I do love a good mosaic, and I have a particular soft spot for this one from Saint-Romain-en-Gal (Ancient Vienne), approximately 75km to the north-west of Grenoble. In its heyday, it would have adorned a wealthy house and dates to the second century AD. The panel is just over 1m square, and the alternating grey and white borders lead the viewer’s eye to a composition of two birds perched on either side of a two-handled vase (krater) with a jet of water erupting between them. Everything about this composition screams symmetry – two handles, two birds in mirror image, the same number of water streams falling one either side of the central pillar. However, it doesn’t quite work as the main jet of water – that should act as a line of symmetry – is offset ever so slightly (but noticeably) to the right. It simultaneously causes an itch somewhere deep inside my brain while still making me love it all the more.

I see different things in this mosaic every time I photograph it. I think that in this particular image it looks like the parakeet on the right has just said something to shock and offend the one on the left … but maybe that’s just me!