Saturday, June 07, 2008

Archival Interior Decorating: Brûlé à Gant

My room here is HUGE- three large windows facing the street and the front garden, which at the moment is full of lavender, roses and hydrangea plus some kind of huge bush with glossy laurel-shaped leaves, covered with little sprays of white flowers (they look like miniature lilacs) putting out a too-sweet, very heady scent. The room is twice the size of my bedroom at least.

It's got some nice posters on the wall from the library, one an enlarged miniature portrait of Elizabeth which I quite like and couple of John Austen drawings. But directly above the couch is something a little disturbing. Two facsimile engravings. The bottom engraving depicts what I think are French or Belgian Protestant martyrs at the stake, but after being burnt, all charred and skeletal, with bits of hair and everything. A giant lumbering peasant is poking one of them with a pitchfork. The caption says "David et Levina etrangler et brûlé à Gant, Anno 1554." Anyway, it's kind of cool, but a bit gruesome for a bedroom. (If I had little kids, I'd have to hide it).

The top engraving is much less creepy- it's a portrait of Simon Mercier's arrest in a marketplace in 1553. There are some lumbering, drooling catholic friars in the background ready to pounce, but Simon seems in good health. Nonetheless, the caption reads "Simon Mercier, brûlé à Bergue-ap-Loom, Anno 1553." I thought I knew who Simon Mercier was but I googled him and couldn't find anything. And who are David and Levina and why do they have Jewish names?

Don't even get me started on the anti-Catholic woodcut of bishops at a feast over the bed. As a friend said, it's a good thing I'm not Catholic. Or Vegetarian.

6 comments:

Amphilanthus said...

Why don't you come to New York, and see me?

Pamphilia said...

Do you have any scary engravings on the wall?

The Evil Twin said...

David and Levina were Mennonites. David van der Leyen and Levina Ghyselins. Ghent (as we call it in English) was Catholic.
Your evil twin and ex-Renaissance bod...

Pamphilia said...

Thank you, et! I half suspected as much, with the biblical names. And I figured it must have been Flandres.

The Evil Twin said...

David is and I think always has been pretty standard as a given name. But Levina, yes, I would assume either Jewish or Very Protestant Christian.

Pamphilia said...

Yes- I would normally agree, but I don't know any Jewish women named Levina. I do, however, know lots of Jewish surnames with the same root- Levin, Levinas, Lewis, Levine, Leavitt etc. It's the family of the Cohanim, the high priests of the temple of the Tribe of Levi (their rules appear in Leviticus).

Even today their descendants (the Cohens and the Levis) are regarded as higher in the religious hierarchy than other Jews. They have a secret hand signal- though I think that's about all they have. But I wouldn't know, coming from a different tribe. ;-)