NK - (Article, long) 500-year-old family handbook

Bethor2000 at aol.com Bethor2000 at aol.com
Wed Jan 6 10:36:00 PST 1999


  A 500-year-old family handbook gets first U.S. showing
 1.04 a.m. ET (605 GMT) January 4, 1999

 By Carl Hartman, Associated Press

 WASHINGTON (AP) — A unique family
 manual for making love, war, sugar cookies and
 other imperatives of life is getting its first U.S.
 showing in Washington, illustrated with some of
 Germany's finest art from 500 years ago. 

 The medieval version of a one-volume
 encyclopedia seems to have been put together
 for a castle in a mining area near the Rhine River
 not far from Heidelberg. Suggested as the
 craftsman of the detailed drawings and
 engravings is an artist named Erhard Reuwich. 

 But that is little more than a guess, based on a picture of a Turk that
Reuwich did
 in the 1480s that looks a lot like one in the book. To be on the safe
side, experts
 identify the artist only as "the Housebook Master.'' 

 "It was a time when artists worked in guilds, not as individuals,'' explained
 Andrew Robison, in charge of prints at the National Gallery of Art. "They
 known by their work, not by their names.'' 

 The roughly bound book has been taken apart to make a facsimile edition of
 copies, for sale at $1,980 each. One copy of this edition is on show,
along with
 pages from the original and other engravings believed to be by the same

 The National Gallery has put together an exhibit with examples of objects
that the
 book depicts: a painted shield, half a suit of armor, an incense burner
and a handy
 gadget called an aquamanile. Servants put it on the table for rinsing
fingers, at a
 time when most Europeans ate with their hands and forks were a novelty. 

 Unlike some artists of the time, the Housebook Master combined a whimsical
 sense of humor with a feeling for personality. In a picture of the Holy
 Joseph hides behind a grassy bench and rolls apples around the front of it to
 amuse the infant Jesus. The artist also spent hours on an intricately
 engraving of a dog scratching itself. 

 The dog picture makes a bit of a mystery because it is done in dry-point, a
 technique that allows only a few good copies to be made, unlike a normal
 that can produce hundreds of prints fit for sale. 

 Crafted diagrams show ladders and other devices for scaling a castle wall.
 clearly designed for the agile infantryman, it seems to be what today would
 called "dual use'' equipment, because a tower window in the wall frames not a
 soldier but a comely young woman. Other pages include cooking recipes, a
 process for separating silver from copper ore,
 the mixing of a laxative and a liquid to remove
 stains from clothes. 

 Some of the book is built around astrology. 

 A page devoted to the planet Venus shows the
 Greek goddess namesake on a horse coursing
 through the heavens. Underneath, a young man
 sits in a bath and a young woman is about to step
 in, wearing little but a seductive smile. On the
 opposite page a verse concludes: 

 "Beautiful bodies, parched by love's heat, 

 "My children find love's duties sweet.'' 

 "Love and War: A Manual for Life in the Late
 Middle Ages'' will be at the National Gallery of
 Art until Jan. 31 and at the Frick Collection in
 New York City from May 9 to July 25. 

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