Oct 242016
 

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The cathedral in Chartres was consecrated on this date in 1262. I could ramble on about its architecture, stained glass etc. but I am not going to (well — maybe a little). You can look that up for yourself, or, better yet, visit the cathedral. Instead I want to do two things. First, talk about the personal view of the cathedral by my friend and colleague Eric Carlson who taught with me at Purchase college for many years, and who wrote and lectured on the cathedral. Second, talk about the current restoration efforts which have seriously polarized opinion into haters and lovers.

When I taught Freshman Studies at Purchase college in the 1980s  we had weekly plenary lectures for the entire freshman class (around 150 students) on a variety of subjects from ancient Greece to Einstein. Eric gave a slide lecture for many years on Chartres cathedral as part of our segment on Medieval Europe. He began by talking about the cathedral from the perspective of the pilgrim journeying on foot or horseback to Chartres. For miles and miles pilgrims could navigate towards Chartres because the cathedral is visible across the plains from a great distance.

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As you get into the outskirts of the town it gets bigger and more magnificent.

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But when you get quite close, the buildings obscure it from view.

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Then suddenly you are upon it in all of its majesty.

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The pride of the cathedral is the stained glass (although, of course, there’s plenty of other features to admire, including the incredibly ornate exterior). The point about the glass is that to fit such large and complex windows, the whole architecture had to be designed to allow for such large piercings in the walls. The use of a three-part elevation with external flying buttresses allowed for far larger windows than earlier designs, particularly at the clerestory level.

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Most cathedrals of the period had a mixture of windows containing plain or grisaille glass on the one hand and windows containing dense stained glass panels on the other, with the result that the brightness of the former tended to diminish the impact of the latter. At Chartres, nearly all of the 176 windows were filled with equally dense stained glass, creating a relatively dark but richly colored interior in which the light filtering through the myriad narrative and symbolic windows was the main source of illumination, made possible because they were so large.

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The majority of the windows now visible at Chartres were made and installed between 1205 and 1240, but four lancets preserve panels of Romanesque glass from the 12th century which survived a fire in 1195. Three of these are located beneath the rose in the west façade: the Passion window to the south, the Infancy of Christ in the center and a Tree of Jesse to the north. All three of these windows were originally made around 1145 but were restored in the early 13th century and again in the 19th.

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The other 12th-century window, perhaps the most famous at Chartres, is the so-called « Notre-Dame de la Belle-Verrière », found in the first bay of the choir after the south transept. This window is actually a composite; the upper part, showing the Virgin and child surrounded by adoring angels, dates from around 1180 and was probably positioned at the centre of the apse in the earlier building. The Virgin is depicted wearing a blue robe and sitting in a frontal pose on a throne, with the Christ Child seated on her lap raising his hand in blessing. This composition, known as the Sedes sapientia (‘Throne of Wisdom’), which also appears on the Portail royal, is based on the famous cult figure kept in the crypt. The lower part of the window, showing scenes from the Infancy of Christ, dates from the main glazing campaign around 1225.

Each bay of the aisles and the choir ambulatory contains one large lancet window, most of them roughly 8.1m high by 2.2m wide. The subjects depicted in these windows, made between 1205 and 1235, include stories from the Old and New Testament and the Lives of the Saints as well as typological cycles and symbolic images such as the signs of the zodiac and labors of the months, or the Good Samaritan parable. Most windows are made up of around 25–30 individual panels showing distinct episodes within the narrative; only « Notre-Dame de la Belle-Verrière » includes a larger image made up of multiple panels.

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Several of the windows at Chartres include images of local tradesmen or laborers in the lowest two or three panels, often with details of their equipment and working methods. Traditionally it was claimed that these images represented the guilds of the donors who paid for the windows. In recent years however this view has largely been discounted, not least because each window would have cost around as much as a large mansion house to make – while most of the laborers depicted would have been subsistence workers with little or no disposable income. Furthermore, although they became powerful and wealthy organizations in the later medieval period, none of these trade guilds had actually been founded when the glass was being made in the early 13th century. A more likely explanation is that the Cathedral clergy wanted to emphasize the universal reach of the Church, particularly at a time when their relationship with the local community was often a troubled one.

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Because of their greater distance from the viewer, the windows in the clerestory generally adopt simpler, bolder designs. Most feature the standing figure of a saint or Apostle in the upper two-thirds, often with one or two simplified narrative scenes in the lower part, either to help identify the figure or else to remind the viewer of some key event in their life. Whereas the lower windows in the nave arcades and the ambulatory consist of one simple lancet per bay, the clerestory windows are each made up of a pair of lancets with a plate-traceried rose window above. The nave and transept clerestory windows mainly depict saints and Old Testament prophets. Those in the choir depict the kings of France and Castille and members of the local nobility in the straight bays, while the windows in the apse hemicycle show those Old Testament prophets who foresaw the virgin birth, flanking scenes of the Annunciation, Visitation and Nativity in the axial window.

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The cathedral has three large rose windows. The western rose, made c.1215 and 12 m in diameter shows the Last Judgement – a traditional theme for west façades. A central oculus showing Christ as the Judge is surrounded by an inner ring of 12 paired roundels containing angels and the Elders of the Apocalypse and an outer ring of 12 roundels showing the dead emerging from their tombs and the angels blowing trumpets to summon them to judgment.

Enough about windows. Eric went on about them for a long time. They are magnificent but slides do not do them justice. Before electric lighting, the windows and candles were the sole source of illumination. Now there is electric lighting everywhere. Despite the stained glass, the interior can seem gloomy to the modern eye.  The question arose several years ago whether this gloominess was appropriate both architecturally and spiritually. Surely in the 13th century when it was built Chartres was a testament to light?

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In 2009 the Monuments Historiques division of the French Ministry of Culture began a 18.5 million dollar program of works at the cathedral, described as a “restoration project.” Part of the project involved painting the interior masonry creamy-white, with trompe l’oeil marbling and gilded detailing. The restoration architect in charge of this painting is Frédéric Didier. The goal of the project, which is due for completion in 2017, is to make the cathedral look as it would have done when finished in the 13th century.

The goal of the project and its results has been widely condemned. Architectural critic Alexander Gorlin described the goal as a “great lie,” writing that the “idea that the 13th century interior of Chartres can be recreated is so totally absurd as to be laughable” and that it is “against every single cultural trend today that values the patina of age and the mark of time rather than the shiny bling of cheap jewelry and faux finishes.” Alasdair Palmer called the project an “ill-conceived makeover.” Architectural historian Martin Filler described the work as a “scandalous desecration of a cultural holy place”, an “unfolding cultural disaster,” and stated that it violates international conservation protocols, in particular the 1964 Charter of Venice of which France is a signatory.

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The restoration has however received almost universal backing from French experts and from the general public. Malcolm Miller, author of a number of books on the cathedral and widely considered one of its greatest expert, dismissed the objections: “They talk about the patina of the centuries. Nonsense. Rubbish. This is not the patina of the centuries. It is the rotting remains of a whitewash from the 18th century. The people who built this cathedral intended that its interior should be light. There was nothing natural about its darkness. It was nothing to do with ageing of the stone. It was caused, first of all, by centuries of candle smoke and then by a stupid decision to install oil-fired central heating in the 1950s. More recently, there was smoke damage from a couple of fires.”

So . . . which side are you on? Do you like art and architecture as it is now after centuries of change, or do you like it restored to its original state? Obviously with Chartres there are some practical considerations. We don’t know exactly what the interior looked like. There are only the most vagrant historical clues as to the original surfacing of the walls to go on. There is no question that in one sense the modern restoration is a “lie.” But is it a “great” lie, or just a little white lie?

In the art world in general, restoration of paintings and frescoes has been both reviled and praised. When the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel was brightened up some people were exalted, others alarmed. There is always going to be a group of people who likes the “patina of age.” I wonder whether Michelangelo would have liked the patina. It is not his doing. It is the doing of centuries of candle soot. When I was a student at Oxford in the 1960s and ‘70s the buildings were all scarred with a century of black soot from industry and cars. Then the colleges set to work cleaning the exteriors. Reclamation or ruination? When Rembrandt’s paintings were cleaned up they were completely changed. Obscured features emerged and the whole sensibility changed. His “Night Watch” was so called because it seemed to depict a night scene. But this was due to varnish that had darkened over time making it look like night. When it was removed in the 1940s a completely different – brighter – scene emerged, much closer to Rembrandt’s vision. How about you? Are you a “patina of the ages” type or not. I’m not. I’ll ask Eric what he thinks after I have posted this.

Here’s a recipe for souris d’agneau that is popular in the region of Chartres. “Souris” is the French for “mouse” but there are no mice involved. Souris d’agneau means lamb shank in English, one of my favorite cuts of meat (if cooked right). To do this properly you need lots of rock salt and duck fat (when you roast duck or goose ALWAYS save the fat). Traditionally cooks use a cocotte, a style of covered Dutch oven.

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Souris d’agneau

Ingredients

4 lamb shanks
8 tbsp duck fat (or olive oil)
6 tbsp honey
4 tbsp fresh herbs, chopped (thyme, rosemary, parsley)
1 head garlic

Instructions

Cover the shanks completely with rock salt (I mean bury them) and refrigerate overnight if you are squeamish.

Preheat your oven to 180°C/350°F.

Pour the oil and honey in your cocotte or Dutch oven. Heat on the stove over low heat, and stir to  combine. Add the herbs. It doesn’t hurt to bruise them a little in a mortar and pestle first. If you have to use dried herbs, halve the quantity.  Add the shanks and roll them around in the oil/honey mix to coat. Break apart the head of garlic and toss in the cloves skin and all.

Cover the pot and put in the center of your oven. Check after about an hour and a half. That’s usually enough for me. The shanks should be browned and nicely falling apart. Longer usually causes the pot to dry out. Serve on a heated serving dish with the sauce poured over the shanks. Rice or potatoes and a green salad make a good accompaniment.

 

Aug 022016
 

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Today is the birthday (1865) of John Radecki (also known as Johann and Jan Radecki) who was a master stained glass artist who was born in Poland but spent most of his professional life working in Australia. He is considered one of the finest stained glass artists of his era. Rather than dwelling exclusively on Radecki, I’m going to take a peek at stained glass manufacture in general, although this will just be a peek.

Colored glass has been produced since ancient times. Both the Egyptians and the Romans excelled at the manufacture of small colored glass objects. Phoenicia was also important in glass manufacture with its chief centers in Sidon, Tyre and Antioch. In early Christian churches of the 4th and 5th centuries, there are a few remaining windows which are filled with ornate patterns of thinly-sliced alabaster set into wooden frames, giving a stained glass like effect. Evidence of stained glass windows in churches and monasteries in Britain can be found as early as the 7th century. The earliest known reference dates from 675 when Benedict Biscop imported workmen from France to glaze the windows of the monastery of St Peter which he was building at Monkwearmouth. Hundreds of pieces of colored glass and lead, dating back to the late 7th century, have been discovered here and at Jarrow.

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In the Middle East, the glass industry of Syria continued during the Islamic period with major centers of manufacture at Ar-Raqqah, Aleppo and Damascus and the most important products being highly transparent colourless glass and gilded glass, rather than colored glass. The production of colored glass in Southwest Asia existed by the 8th century, at which time the alchemist Jābir ibn Hayyān, in Kitab al-Durra al-Maknuna, gave 46 recipes for producing colored glass and described the technique of cutting glass into artificial gemstones.

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Stained glass, as an art form, reached its height in the Middle Ages when it became a major pictorial form used to illustrate the narratives of the Bible. In the Romanesque and Early Gothic period, from about 950 to 1240, the untraceried windows demanded large expanses of glass which of necessity were supported by robust iron frames, such as may be seen at Chartres Cathedral and at the eastern end of Canterbury Cathedral. As Gothic architecture developed into a more ornate form, windows grew larger, affording greater illumination to the interiors, but were divided into sections by vertical shafts and tracery of stone. This elaboration of form reached its height of complexity in the Flamboyant style in Europe, and windows grew still larger with the development of the Perpendicular style in England.

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During the Renaissance stained glass work flourished, beginning with the windows in Florence Cathedral. The stained glass includes three ocular windows for the dome and three for the facade which were designed from 1405-1445 by several of the most renowned artists of this period: Ghiberti, Donatello, Uccello and Andrea del Castagno. Each major ocular window contains a single picture drawn from the Life of Christ or the Life of the Virgin Mary, surrounded by a wide floral border, with two smaller facade windows by Ghiberti showing the martyred deacons, St Stephen and St Lawrence. One of the cupola windows has since been lost, and that by Donatello has lost nearly all of its painted details.

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In Europe, stained glass continued to be produced with the style evolving from the Gothic to the Classical, which is well represented in Germany, Belgium and the Netherlands, despite the rise of Protestantism. In France, much glass of this period was produced at the Limoges factory, and in Italy at Murano, where stained glass and faceted lead crystal are often coupled together in the same window. Ultimately, the French Revolution brought about the neglect or destruction of many windows in France. During the Reformation, in England large numbers of Medieval and Renaissance windows were smashed and replaced with plain glass. The Dissolution of the Monasteries under Henry VIII and the injunctions of Thomas Cromwell against “abused images” (that is, veneration), resulted in the loss of thousands of windows. Few remain undamaged. With this wave of destruction the traditional methods of working with stained glass died and were not to be rediscovered in England until the early 19th century.

Some Medieval and Renaissance stained glass techniques (and glass making techniques in general) have, in fact, been completely lost despite continued efforts to re-create them. The late 19th and early 20th centuries saw its own renaissance, of which John Radecki was a major contributor.

Radecki was born 2 August 1865 in Łódź in Poland, son of Pavel Radecki, a coal miner, and his wife Victoria, née Bednarkiewicz. Jan trained at a German art school at Poznań. With his parents and four siblings he migrated to Australia, reaching Sydney in January 1882. The family settled in Wollongong in New South Wales, where he and his father in the coalmines. His parents had two more children in Australia. Jan moved to Sydney in 1883 where he attended art classes. He boarded with the Saunders family from England and on 17 May 1888 married their daughter Emma. He became a naturalized Australian citizen under the name John in November 1904 (aged 39).

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From 1885 Radecki had been employed by Frederick Ashwin, who taught him to work with glass. In the 1890s the two men had crafted stained glass windows entitled ‘Sermon on the Mount’ (St Paul’s Church, Cobbitty) and `Nativity’ (St Jude’s, Randwick). Other works included a window at Yanco Agricultural College, produced in 1902 by F. Ashwin & Co. reputedly to Radecki’s design, and the chancel window (1903) in St Clement’s, Mosman. His first, major independent work was the ‘Te Deum’ window in Christ Church St Laurence, Sydney, in 1906. Ashwin and Radecki also collaborated on windows in St James’s, Forest Lodge, and St John’s, Campbelltown.

After Ashwin’s death in 1909, Radecki became chief designer for J. Ashwin & Co, in partnership with Frederick’s brother John; he was proprietor of the company from John Ashwin’s death in 1920 until 1954. The firm was the largest glassmaking establishment in Sydney, with a high reputation. Radecki’s work included windows in such churches as St John the Evangelist’s, Campbelltown, St Patrick’s, Kogarah, St Joseph’s, Rockdale, St Matthew’s, Manly, and Our Lady of Dolours’, North Goulburn, Scots Kirk, Hamilton, Newcastle, and the Presbyterian Church, Wollongong.

Here’s a small gallery.

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Certainly Radecki spent most of his life in Australia, but I guarantee that like most European immigrants he retained his Polish roots all of his life despite assimilating in to Australian culture. So, I am going to give a recipe for a classic Polish dish, golonka, or pork knuckle. Central Polish cuisine is a mix of Slavic and German traditions, and classic golonka is much the same as the German Schweinehaxe. I’ll give you a recipe although there’s really not much need. The main difficulty is finding the pork knuckle. You’ll need a good pork butcher. Also, you need a fresh one, not smoked or pickled. That’s the real challenge.

Pork knuckle is classic poor food which has since been elevated to gourmet status. Knuckle is actually quite delicious is cooked properly, but you have to take time. If you go whole hog (sorry !), it’s a three day process – 1. Marinating 2. Poaching 3. Roasting. Two works for me.

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Golonka

Ingredients

1 large fresh pork hock per person
light stock
salt
1 bay leaf
6 black peppercorns
2 juniper berries
1 large carrot
1 large onion, quartered
1 parsnip
1 rib celery
2 cloves garlic, peeled and minced
1 tbsp chopped fresh parsley
1 tsp caraway seeds

Glaze:

10 oz Polish beer
4 tbsp honey

Instructions

Put the hocks in a large, heavy pot, cover with water or light stock, add the vegetables and flavorings (including salt to taste), and gently simmer on low heat for at least 2 hours, or until the meat is falling from the bone. This might take 3 hours or longer depending on the meat.

Remove the hocks from the stock with a slotted spoon and reserve the liquid.

Preheat the oven to 375°F/190°C.

Place the hocks in a deep baking pan.

Mix the beer and honey together in a small saucepan and add 2 tablespoons of the reserved cooking broth. (The rest you should use for soup or stock). Heat the glaze to dissolve the honey, then pour it over the hocks.

Bake the hocks for about 40 minutes, or until the glaze is golden.

Serve with boiled potatoes. If you want you can make a gravy with the reserved cooking liquid, by adding a roux or cornstarch as thickener.

 

Feb 132016
 

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Today is a significant day for the city of Ely in the fens in Cambridgeshire for two reasons. First it is the feast day of St Ermenilda of Ely, and, second, because on this date in 1322 the main tower of Ely cathedral collapsed leading to the building of one of the most spectacular cathedral towers in Europe. I thought I would take the opportunity to give an account of the history of Ely cathedral (with a nod to Ermenilda) to demonstrate how, like many of the great cathedrals of Europe, it took shape over centuries and, in a way, is still a work in progress. Ely cathedral is not a finished “thing” to just go and stare at. It is a living, evolving form with a long history that is entangled with major events in the history of England. Ely Cathedral is the physical result and manifestation of the complex interaction over time of human foible, ingenuity, and ambition, warfare, politics, geology, and artistry. An anthropologist’s dream and joy. Pardon my excesses here. If it all wearies you, skip to my little discourse on cooking elvers – taking in the images on the way.

Ely Abbey was founded in 672, by Æthelthryth (St Etheldreda), daughter of the East Anglian King Anna http://www.bookofdaystales.com/aethelthryth/ It was a mixed community of men and women. Later accounts suggest her three successor abbesses were also members of the East Anglian Royal family (including Ermenilda). In later centuries the depredations of Viking raids may have resulted in its destruction, or at least the loss of all records. It is possible that some monks provided a continuity through to its refoundation in 970, under a Benedictine rule. The precise site of Æthelthryth’s original monastery is not known. The presence of her relics, bolstered by the growing body of literature on her life and miracles, was a major driving force in the success of the refounded abbey. The church building of 970 was within or near the nave of the present building, and was progressively demolished from 1102 alongside the construction of the Norman church. Ermenilda of Ely was abbess here after her husband, Wulfhere of Mercia, died in 675.

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St Ermenilda

The cathedral is built from stone quarried from Barnack in Northamptonshire (bought from Peterborough Abbey, whose lands included the quarries, for 8000 eels a year), with decorative elements carved from Purbeck Marble and local clunch. The plan of the building is cruciform (cross-shaped), with an additional transept at the western end. The total length is 537 feet (163.7 m), and the nave at over 75 m long (250 ft) remains one of the longest in Britain. The west tower is 66m high (215 ft). The unique Octagon ‘Lantern Tower’ is 23 m (74 ft) wide and is 52 m (170 ft) high. Internally, from the floor to the central roof boss the lantern is 43 m (142 ft) high.

Having a pre-Norman history spanning 400 years and a re-foundation in 970, Ely over the course of the next hundred years had become one of England’s most successful Benedictine abbeys, with lands exceeded only by Glastonbury, a famous saint, treasures, library and book production of the highest order. However the imposition of Norman rule was particularly problematic at Ely. Newly arrived Normans such as Picot of Cambridge took possession of abbey lands, there was appropriation of daughter monasteries such as Eynesbury by French monks, and interference by the Bishop of Lincoln was undermining its status. All this was exacerbated when, in 1071, Ely became a focus of English resistance to the Norman Conquest, through such people as Hereward the Wake, culminating in the Siege of Ely, for which the abbey suffered substantial fines.

Under the Normans almost every English cathedral and major abbey was rebuilt from the 1070s onwards. If Ely was to maintain its status then it had to initiate its own building work, and the task fell to Abbot Simeon. He was the brother of Walkelin, the Bishop of Winchester, who had been prior at Winchester Cathedral when the rebuilding began there in 1079. In 1083, a year after Simeon’s appointment as abbot of Ely, and when he was 90 years old, building work began. The years since the conquest had been turbulent for the Abbey, but the unlikely person of an aged Norman outsider effectively took the parts of the Ely monks, reversed the decline in the abbey’s fortunes, and found the resources, administrative capacity, identity and purpose to begin a grand new building.

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The design had many similarities to Winchester, a cruciform plan with central crossing tower, aisled transepts, a three storey elevation and a semi-circular apse at the east end. It was one of the largest buildings under construction north of the Alps at the time. The first phase of construction took in the eastern arm of the church, and the north and south transepts. However a significant break in the way the masonry is laid indicates that, with the transepts still unfinished, there was an unplanned halt to construction that lasted several years. It would appear that when Abbott Simeon died in 1093, an extended interregnum caused all work to cease. The administration of Ranulf Flambard may have been to blame. He illegally kept various posts unfilled, including that of Abbot of Ely, so he could appropriate the income. In 1099 he got himself appointed Bishop of Durham, in 1100 Abbot Richard was appointed to Ely and building work resumed. It is Abbot Richard who asserted Ely’s independence from the Diocese of Lincoln, and pressed for it to be made a diocese in its own right, with the Abbey Church as its Cathedral. Although Abbot Richard died in 1107, his successor Hervey le Breton was able to achieve this and become the first Bishop of Ely in 1109. This period at the start of the 12th century was when Ely re-affirmed its link with its Anglo-Saxon past. The struggle for independence coincided with the period when resumption of building work required the removal of the shrines from the old building and the translation of the relics into the new church. This appears to have allowed, in the midst of a Norman-French hierarchy, an unexpectedly enthusiastic development of the cult of these Anglo-Saxon saints and benefactors.

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The Norman east end and the whole of the central area of the crossing are now entirely gone, but the architecture of the transepts survives in a virtually complete state, to give a good impression of how it would have looked. Massive walls pierced by Romanesque arches would have formed aisles running around all sides of the choir and transepts. Three tiers of archways rise from the arcaded aisles. Galleries with walkways could be used for liturgical processions, and above that is the Clerestory with a passage within the width of the wall.

Construction of the nave was underway from around 1115, and roof timbers dating to 1120 suggest that at least the eastern portion of the nave roof was in place by then. The great length of the nave required that it was tackled in phases and after completing four bays, sufficient to securely buttress the crossing tower and transepts, there was a planned pause in construction. By 1140 the nave had been completed together with the western transepts and west tower up to triforium level, in the fairly plain early Romanesque style of the earlier work. Another pause now occurred, for over 30 years, and when it resumed, the new mason found ways to integrate the earlier architectural elements with the new ideas and richer decorations of early Gothic.

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The half-built west tower and upper parts of the two western transepts were completed under Bishop Geoffrey Ridel (1174–89), to create an elaborate west front, richly decorated with intersecting arches and complex mouldings. The new architectural details were used systematically in the higher storeys of the tower and transepts. Rows of trefoil heads and use of pointed instead of semicircular arches, results in a west front with a high level of uniformity. Originally the west front had transepts running symmetrically either side of the west tower. Stonework details on the tower show that an octagonal tower was part of the original design, although the current western octagonal tower was not installed until 1400. Numerous attempts were made, during all phases of its construction to correct problems from subsidence in areas of soft ground at the western end of the cathedral. In 1405-7, to cope with the extra weight from the octagonal tower, four new arches were added at the west crossing to strengthen the tower. The extra weight of these works may have added to the problem, as at the end of the fifteenth century the north-west transept collapsed. A great sloping mass of masonry was built to buttress the remaining walls, which remain in their broken-off state on the north side of the tower.

The Galilee porch is now the principal entrance into the Cathedral for visitors. Its original liturgical functions are unclear, but its location at the west end meant it may have been used as a chapel for penitents, a place where liturgical processions could gather, or somewhere the monks could hold business meetings with women, who were not permitted into the abbey. It also has a structural role in buttressing the west tower. The walls stretch over two storeys, but the upper storey now has no roof, it having been removed early in the nineteenth century. Its construction dating is also uncertain. Records suggest it was initiated by Bishop Eustace (1197–1215), and it is a notable example of Early English Gothic style. But there are doubts about just how early, especially as Eustace had taken refuge in France in 1208, and had no access to his funds for the next 3 years. George Gilbert Scott argued that details of its decoration, particularly the ‘syncopated arches’ and the use of Purbeck marble shafts, bear comparison with St Hugh’s Choir, Lincoln Cathedral, and the west porch at St Albans, which both predate Eustace, whereas the foliage carvings and other details offer a date after 1220, suggesting it could be a project taken up, or re-worked by Bishop Northwold.

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The first major reworking of an element of the Norman building was undertaken by Bishop Northwold (bishop 1229–54). The eastern arm had been only four bays, running from the choir (then located at the crossing itself) to the high altar and the shrine to Etheldreda. In 1234 Bishop Northwold began an eastward addition of six further bays, which were built over 17 years, in a richly ornamented style with extensive use of Purbeck marble pillars and foliage carvings. It was built using the same bay dimensions, wall thicknesses and elevations as the Norman parts of the nave, but with an Early English Gothic style that makes it ‘the most refined and richly decorated English building of its period’. St Etheldreda’s remains were translated to a new shrine immediately east of the high altar within the new structure, and on completion of these works in 1252 the cathedral was reconsecrated in the presence of King Henry III and Prince Edward. As well as a greatly expanded presbytery, the new east end had the effect of inflating still further the significance of St Etheldreda’s shrine. Surviving fragments of the shrine pedestal suggest its decoration was similar to the interior walls of the Galilee porch. The relics of the saints Wihtburh, Seaxburh (sisters of St Etheldreda) and Eormenhild (daughter of Seaxburh) would also have been accommodated, and the new building provided much more space for pilgrims to visit the shrines, via a door in the North Transept. The presbytery has subsequently been used for the burials and memorials of over 100 individuals connected with the abbey and cathedral.

In 1321, under the sacrist Alan of Walsingham work began on a large free-standing Lady Chapel, linked to the north aisle of the chancel by a covered walkway. The Chapel is 100 feet (30 m) long and 46 feet (14 m) wide, and was built in an elaborate Decorated Gothic style over the course of the next 30 years. Masons and finances were unexpectedly required for the main church from 1322, which must have slowed the progress of the Chapel. The north and south wall each have five bays, comprising large tracery windows separated by pillars each of which has eight substantial niches and canopies which once held statues. Below the window line, and running round three sides of the Chapel is an arcade of richly decorated ‘nodding ogees’, with Purbeck marble pillars, creating scooped out seating booths. There are three arches per bay plus a grander one for each main pillar, each with a projecting pointed arch covering a subdividing column topped by a statue of a bishop or king. Above each arch is a pair of spandrels containing carved scenes which create a cycle of 93 carved relief sculptures of the life and miracles of the Virgin Mary. The carvings and sculptures would all have been painted. The window glass would all have been brightly colored with major schemes perhaps of biblical narratives, of which a few small sections have survived. At the Reformation, the edict to remove images from the cathedral was carried out very thoroughly by Bishop Goodrich. The larger statues have gone. The relief scenes were built into the wall, so each face or statue was individually hacked off, but leaving many finely carved details, and numerous puzzles as to what the original scenes showed. After the Reformation it was redeployed as the Parish Church for the town, a situation which continued up to 1938.

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The central octagonal tower, with its vast internal open space and its pinnacles and lantern above, forms the most distinctive and celebrated feature of the cathedral. However, what has been described as Ely’s ‘greatest individual achievement of architectural genius’ came about through a disaster at the center of the Cathedral. On the night of 12–13 February 1322, possibly as a result of digging foundations for the Lady Chapel, the Norman central crossing tower collapsed. Work on the Lady Chapel was suspended as attention transferred to dealing with this disaster. Instead of being replaced by a new tower on the same ground plan, the crossing was enlarged to an octagon, removing all four of the original tower piers and absorbing the adjoining bays of the nave, chancel and transepts to define an open area far larger than the square base of the original tower. The construction of this unique and distinctive feature was overseen by Alan of Walsingham. The extent of his influence on the design continues to be a matter of debate, as are the reasons such a radical step was taken. Mistrust of the soft ground under the failed tower piers may have been a major factor in moving all the weight of the new tower further out. The large stone octagonal tower, with its eight internal archways, leads up to spectacular timber fan-vaulting that appears to allow the large glazed timber lantern to balance on their slender struts. The roof and lantern are actually held up by a complex timber structure above the vaulting which could not be built in this way today because there are no trees big enough any more. The central lantern, also octagonal in form, but with angles offset from the great Octagon, has panels showing pictures of musical angels, which can be opened, with access from the Octagon roof-space, so that real choristers can sing from on high. More wooden vaulting forms the lantern roof. At the centre is a wooden boss carved from a single piece of oak, showing Christ in Majesty. The elaborate joinery and timberwork was done by William Hurley, master carpenter in the royal service.

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It is unclear what damage was caused to the Norman chancel by the fall of the tower, but the three remaining bays were reconstructed under Bishop John Hotham (1316-1337) in an ornate Decorated style with flowing tracery. Structural evidence shows that this work was a remodeling rather than a total rebuilding. New choir stalls with carved misericords and canopy work were installed beneath the octagon, in a similar position to their predecessors. Work was resumed on the Lady Chapel, and the two westernmost bays of Northwold’s presbytery were adapted by unroofing the triforia so as to enhance the lighting of Etheldreda’s shrine. Starting at about the same time the remaining lancet windows of the aisles and triforia of the presbytery were gradually replaced by broad windows with flowing tracery. At the same period extensive work took place on the monastic buildings, including the construction of the elegant chapel of Prior Crauden.

In the late 15th and early 16th centuries elaborate chantry chapels were inserted in the easternmost bays of the presbytery aisles, on the north for Bishop John Alcock (1486-1500) and on the south for Bishop Nicholas West (1515–33). Alcock was appointed Bishop of Ely in 1486. The resources Ely put at his disposal allowed him found Jesus College, Cambridge and build his own fabulous chantry chapel in an ornate style. The statue niches with their architectural canopies are crammed so chaotically together that some of the statues never got finished as they were so far out of sight. Others, although completed, were overlooked by the destructions of the reformation, and survived when all the others were destroyed. The extent that the chapel is squashed in, despite cutting back parts of the Norman walls, raises the possibility that the design, and perhaps even some of the stonework, was done with a more spacious bay at Worcester in mind. On his death in 1500 he was buried within his chapel.

Nicholas West had studied at Cambridge, Oxford, and Bologna, had been a diplomat in the service of Henry VII and Henry VIII, and became Bishop of Ely in 1515 where he lived in opulence with over 100 servants. He was able to build the magnificent Chantry chapel at the south-east corner of the presbytery, paneled with niches for statues (which were destroyed or disfigured just a few years later during the Reformation), and with fan tracery forming the ceiling, and West’s tomb on the south side.

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In 1771 the chapel was also used to house the bones of seven Saxon ‘benefactors of the church’. These had been translated from the old Saxon Abbey into the Norman building, and had been placed in a wall of the choir when it stood in the Octagon. When the choir stalls were moved, their enclosing wall was demolished, and the bones of Wulfstan (died 1023), Osmund of Sweden, Athelstan of Elmham, Ælfwine of Elmham, Ælfgar of Elmham, Eadnoth of Dorchester and Byrhtnoth, eorldorman of Essex, were found, and relocated into Bishop West’s chapel.

On 18 November 1539 the royal commissioners took possession of the monastery and all its possessions, and for nearly two years its future hung in the balance as Henry VIII and his advisors considered what role, if any, cathedrals might play in the emerging Protestant church. On 10 September 1541 a new charter was granted to Ely, at which point Robert Steward, the last Prior, was re-appointed as the first Dean, who, with eight prebenderies formed the Dean and Chapter, the new governing body of the cathedral. Under Bishop Goodrich’s orders, first the shrines to the Anglo-Saxon saints were destroyed, and as iconoclasm increased, nearly all the stained glass and much of the sculpture in the Cathedral was destroyed or defaced during the 1540s. In the Lady Chapel the free-standing statues were destroyed and all 147 carved figures in the frieze of St Mary were decapitated, as were the numerous sculptures on Bishop West’s chapel. The cathedrals themselves were spared on the basis of three useful functions: propagation of “true worship” of God, educational activity, and care of the poor.

Difficult as the 16th century had been for the cathedral, it was the period of the Commonwealth that came nearest to destroying both the institution and the buildings. Throughout the 1640s, with Oliver Cromwell’s army occupying the Isle of Ely, a puritanical regime of worship was imposed. Bishop Wren was arrested in 1642 and spent the next 18 years in the Tower of London. That no significant destruction of images occurred during the Civil War and the Commonwealth would appear to be because it had been done so thoroughly 100 years before. In 1648 parliament encouraged the demolition of the buildings, so that the materials could be sold to pay for ‘relief of sick and maimed soldiers, widows and children’. That this didn’t happen, and that the building suffered nothing worse than neglect, may have been due to protection by Oliver Cromwell, although the uncertainty of the times, and apathy rather than hostility to the building may have been as big a factor.

When Charles II was invited to return to Britain, alongside the political restoration there began a process of re-establishing the Church of England. Bishop Wren, whose high church views had kept him in prison throughout the period of the Commonwealth, was able to appoint a new Cathedral Chapter. The Dean, by contrast was appointed by the crown. The three big challenges for the new hierarchy were to begin repairs on the neglected buildings, to re-establish Cathedral services, and to recover its lands, rights and incomes. The search for lost deeds and records to establish their rights took over 20 years but most of the rights to the dispersed assets appear to have been regained.

In the 1690s a number of very fine baroque furnishings were introduced, notably a marble font (now in Prickwillow church,) and an organ case mounted on the Romanesque pulpitum (the stone screen dividing the nave from the liturgical choir) with trumpeting angels and other embellishments. In 1699 the north-west corner of the north transept collapsed and had to be rebuilt. The works included the insertion of a fine classical doorway in the north face. Christopher Wren has sometimes been associated with this feature, and he may have been consulted by Robert Grumbold, the mason in charge of the project. Grumbold had worked with Wren on Trinity College Library in Cambridge a few years earlier, and Wren would have been familiar with the Cathedral through his uncle Matthew Wren, bishop from 1638 to 1667. He was certainly among the people with whom the Dean (John Lambe 1693-1708) discussed the proposed works during a visit to London. The damaged transept took from 1699 to 1702 to rebuild, and with the exception of the new doorway, the works faithfully re-instated the Romanesque walls, windows, and detailing. This was a landmark approach in the history of restoration.

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In the 18th century James Bentham and James Essex made a number of significant changes to the cathedral. James Bentham (1709 – 1794), building on the work of his father Rev. Samuel Bentham, studied the history of both the institution and architecture of the cathedral, culminating in 1771 with his publication of The History and Antiquities of the Conventual and Cathedral Church of Ely. He sought out original documents to provide definitive biographical lists of abbots, priors, deans and bishops, alongside a history of the abbey and cathedral, and was able to set out the architectural development of the building with detailed engravings and plans. These plans, elevations and sections had been surveyed by the architect James Essex (1722–1784), who by this means was able to both highlight the poor state of parts of the building, and understand its complex interdependencies. The level of expertise that Bentham and Essex brought to the situation enabled a series of repairs and sensitive improvements to be proposed that occupied much of the later 18th century. Essex identified the decay of the octagon lantern as the starting point of a major series of repairs, and was appointed in 1757 to oversee the work. 400 years of weathering and decay may have removed many of the gothic features, and shortage of funds allied to a Georgian suspicion of ornament resulted in plain and pared down timber and leadwork on the lantern. He was then able to move on to re-roof the entire eastern arm and restore the eastern gable which had been pushed outwards some 2 feet (61 cm). Bentham and Essex were both enthusiastic proponents of a longstanding plan to relocate the 14th century choir stalls from under the octagon. With the octagon and east roof dealt with, the scheme was embarked on in 1769, with Bentham, still only a minor canon, appointed as clerk of works. By moving the choir stalls to the far east end of the cathedral, the octagon became a spacious and dramatic public area for the first time, with grand vistas to east and west and spectacular views of the octagon vaulting. They also removed the Romanesque pulpitum and put in a new choir screen two bays east of the octagon, surmounted by the 1690s organ case. Despite their antiquarian interests, Bentham and Essex appear to have dismantled the choir stalls with alarming lack of care, and saw no problem in clearing away features at the east end, and removing the pulpitum and medieval walls surrounding the choir stalls. The north wall turned out to incorporate the bones of seven ‘Saxon worthies’ which would have featured on the pilgrim route into the pre-Reformation cathedral. The bones were rehoused in Bishop West’s Chapel. The choir stalls, with their misericords were however retained, and the restoration as a whole was relatively sympathetic by the standards of the period.

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The next major period of restoration began in the 1840s and much of the oversight was the responsibility of Dean George Peacock (1839–58). In conjunction with the Cambridge Professor Robert Willis, he undertook thorough investigations into the structure, archaeology and artistic elements of the building, and made a start on what became an extensive series of refurbishments by restoring the south-west transept. This had been used as a workshop, and by stripping out more recent material and restoring the Norman windows and arcading, they set a pattern that would be adopted in much of the Victorian period works. In 1845, by which time the cathedral had works underway in many areas, a visiting architect, George Basevi, who was inspecting the west tower, tripped, and fell 36 feet to his death. He was given a burial in the north choir aisle. Works at this time included cleaning back thick layers of limewash, polishing pillars of Purbeck marble, painting and gilding roof bosses and corbels in the choir, and a major opening up of the West tower. A plaster vault was removed that had been put in only 40 years before, and the clock and bells were moved higher. The addition of iron ties and supports allowed removal of vast amounts of infill that was supposed to strengthen the tower, but had simply added more weight and compounded the problems.

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George Gilbert Scott was, by 1847, emerging as a successful architect and keen exponent of the Gothic Revival. He was brought in, as a professional architect to bolster the enthusiastic amateur partnership of Peacock and Willis, initially in the re-working of the fourteenth-century choir stalls. Having been at the East end for 80 years, Scott oversaw their move back towards the Octagon, but this time remaining within the eastern arm, keeping the open space of the Octagon clear. This was Scott’s first cathedral commission. He went on to work on a new carved wooden screen and brass gates, moved the high altar two bays westwards, and installed a lavishly carved and ornamented alabaster reredos, a new font for the south-west transept, a new Organ case and later a new pulpit, replacing the neo-Norman pulpit designed by John Groves in 1803. In 1876 Scott’s designs for the octagon lantern parapet and pinnacles were implemented, returning it to a form which, to judge from pre-Essex depictions, seems to be genuinely close to the original. Various new furnishings replaced the baroque items installed in the 1690s.

In 1845 Edward Sparke, son of the former Bishop Sparke, and himself a canon, spearheaded a major campaign to re-glaze the Cathedral with colored glass. At that time there was hardly any medieval glass (mostly a few survivals in the Lady Chapel) and not much of post-Reformation date. An eighteenth century attempt to get James Pearson to produce a scheme of painted glass had produced only one window and some smaller fragments. With the rediscovery of staining techniques, and the renewed enthusiasm for stained glass that swept the country as the nineteenth century progressed, almost all areas of the cathedral received new glazing. Under Sparke’s oversight, money was found from donors, groups, bequests, even gifts by the artists themselves, and by Edward Sparke himself. A wide variety of designers and manufacturers were deliberately used, to help find the right firm to fill the great lancets at the east end. In the event, it was William Wailes who undertook this in 1857, having already begun the four windows of the octagon, as well as contributions to the south west transept, south aisle and north transept. Other windows were by the Gérente brothers, William Warrington, Alexander Gibbs, Clayton and Bell, Ward and Nixon, Hardman & Co., and numerous other individuals and firms from England and France.

A timber boarded ceiling was installed in the nave and painted with scenes from the Old and New Testaments, first by Henry Le Strange and then, after Le Strange’s death in 1862, completed by Thomas Gambier Parry, who also repainted the interior of the octagon.

A further major program of structural restoration took place between 1986 and 2000 under Deans William Patterson (1984–90) and Michael Higgins (1991-2003), directed by successive Surveyors to the Fabric, initially Peter Miller and from 1994 Jane Kennedy. In 2000 a Processional Way was built, restoring the direct link between the north choir aisle and the Lady Chapel.

So, yes, I’ve gone a bit overboard in this, admittedly derivative, epitome of the history of the cathedral. Much the same could be done for just about every cathedral in Europe. It amuses be to do so. As an end note I’ll point out that Ely was an island in the Fens until they were drained in the 17th century, and now – an island of sorts – still rises above vast expanses of flat land. Hence the cathedral is sometimes called the “Ship of the Fens.”

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The economy of the region is mainly agricultural. Before the fens were drained, the harvesting of osier (willow) and sedge (rush) and the extraction of peat were important activities, as were eel fishing and wild fowling. Go to the link on Æthelthryth at the beginning for my long-ish discourse on Ely and eels. Here I’ll simply give you a recipe for elvers. Eels begin life as flat and transparent larvae, or leptocephali. Eel larvae drift in the surface waters of the sea, feeding on “marine snow,” small particles that float in the water. Eel larvae then metamorphose into glass eels and then become elvers before finally seeking out their juvenile and adult habitats. They are caught in traps as they migrate upstream or sometimes fished from rivers with large nets. At one time they were cheap food, but now they are an expensive delicacy – fetching £ 3,500 per pound recently in England.

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In Spain, where I have had them, they are called angulas and are available in restaurants in Madrid. True angulas are very expensive, so portions are small. Mock angulas, commonly called gulas may be substituted. Gulas are made from cheap white fish extruded into long thin shapes like pasta. They are available in jars or cans, are a much more affordable option and have a similar flavor profile to elvers.

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You can treat elvers much like pasta, by poaching them and making a simple dressing of, say, olive oil and garlic (my favorite), or something more elaborate if you wish, such as a tomato sauce. They are delicate but can handle a rich sauce.

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The classic English way to cook elvers is to fry them in bacon fat and serve them with scrambled eggs or in an omelet. Be warned, though. You cook elvers live, so if you have trouble with boiling lobsters you may not like the process. When you buy real elvers they are silvery transparent, but turn white when they are done.  Do not overcook them.

Jul 062015
 

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Today is the birthday (1887) of Marc Zakharovich Chagall, Russian-French artist. He is well known as a Jewish artist (though Chagall saw his work as “not the dream of one people but of all humanity”). His paintings reflect his childhood in Vitebsk (now in Belarus), and, among other things, inspired the tragicomic musical Fiddler on the Roof.

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Chagall was associated with several major artistic styles and created works in virtually every artistic medium, including painting, book illustrations, stained glass, stage sets, ceramic, tapestries and fine art prints. Using stained glass, he produced windows for the cathedrals of Reims and Metz, for the UN, and the Jerusalem Windows in Israel. He also did large-scale paintings, including part of the ceiling of the Paris Opéra.

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Before World War I, he traveled between St. Petersburg, Paris, and Berlin. During this period he created his own mixture and style of modern art based on his memories of Eastern European Jewish folk culture. He spent the wartime years in Soviet Belarus, becoming one of the country’s most distinguished artists and a member of the modernist avant-garde, founding the Vitebsk Arts College before leaving again for Paris in 1922.

He had two basic reputations: as a pioneer of modernism and as a major Jewish artist. He experienced modernism’s “golden age” in Paris, where he embraced and combined Cubism, Symbolism, and Fauvism, in which his own vision was a major factor in the development of Surrealism.” Most emphatically Chagall’s work is about color – using a limited palate to create startling colorful visions “When Matisse dies,” Pablo Picasso remarked in the 1950s, “Chagall will be the only painter left who understands what color really is”.

According to art historian Raymond Cogniat, in all Chagall’s work during all stages of his life, it was his colors which attracted and captured the viewer’s attention. During his earlier years his range was limited by his emphasis on form and his pictures never gave the impression of painted drawings. He adds, “The colors are a living, integral part of the picture and are never passively flat, or banal like an afterthought. They sculpt and animate the volume of the shapes… they indulge in flights of fancy and invention which add new perspectives and graduated, blended tones… His colors do not even attempt to imitate nature but rather to suggest movements, planes and rhythms.” He was able to convey striking images using only two or three colors. Cogniat writes, “Chagall is unrivalled in this ability to give a vivid impression of explosive movement with the simplest use of colors…” Throughout his life his colors created a “vibrant atmosphere” which was based on “his own personal vision.”

Chagall’s work is, indeed, highly personal and idiosyncratic; impossible to classify even though many try. Here’s a gallery – mostly about color. I used to have prints of some of these on my walls.

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Lazanki is a popular dish in Chagall’s home town of Vitebsk, and in Belarus in general (as well as Poland). Lazanki arrived in the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth in the mid-16th century when Bona Sforza, Italian wife of King Sigismund I the Old, brought high Italian cuisine to the country. Unlike most Italian dishes in these parts of Europe, lazanki has survived into the 21st century, although the long and cultural history of the dish has been largely forgotten.

Lazanki consists of pieces of dough made from wheat, buckwheat, or rye flour. Basically speaking, Belarusian lazanki and Italian lasagna come from the same roots. Traditionally they are squares or triangles made from flattened tough dough, which are boiled and then served with fried lard and onions on top. During Lent, Belarusians once put ground poppy seeds or mashed berries into the dough. Lazanki were also baked in pots together with meat or cabbage and stewed with sour cream. My preferred method.

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Lazanki

Ingredients

Dough

rye or wheat flour
salt and sugar to taste
vegetable oil

Filling:

70g smoked-cooked pork brisket
100g semi-smoked sausages (“hunter’s sausages”)
1 medium-sized onion
vegetable oil
50-70g cream or sour cream
50g grated hard cheese

 

Instructions

The dough for lazanki is very much the same as for most pasta (see Hints tab). Sift flour on to a work surface, make a hollow it in, add salt and sugar, and a little bit of vegetable oil for elasticity. Pour water on the flour slowly and mix with your hands until you have a ball that is not sticky and can be kneaded. Knead the dough until it gets hard and flexible.

Roll out the dough to about 1-1.5mm thick, then cut it into triangles or diamonds. Let it dry a bit at room temperature.

Put the lazanki in salted boiling water for 5-7 minutes.

Meanwhile, make the filling. Dice the pork brisket and sauté it in a dry, heavy skillet until it browns and the fat melts. Add finely chopped onions and keep sautéing them until they brown to a golden color. Add the sausages in and sauté for another 3-4 minutes.

When the filling is ready, add the boiled lazanki with a small amount of water from the pan it was cooked in. Add the cream and cheese. Keep stirring the mix constantly while it is cooking. When the cheese becomes thick, remove the pan from the heat. You can serve it on the table straight from the pan, or in a heated serving dish garnished with green herbs. Dill is a good option.

Lazanki can also be baked (a better way, I think, but longer). Take a ceramic pot, put in the boiled lazanki and the filling one layer after another like making lasagna Add the cream and cheese and put it in the oven at 350°F until it is golden on top.

May 132015
 

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Today is the birthday (1882) of Georges Braque, a major 20th-century French painter, collagist, draughtsman, printmaker and sculptor — one of my all-time favorites. His most important contributions to the history of art were in his alliance with Fauvism from 1906, and the role he played in the development of Cubism. Braque’s work between 1908 and 1912 is closely associated with that of his colleague Pablo Picasso. Their respective Cubist works were in some cases indistinguishable.

Braque was born in Argenteuil, Val-d’Oise. He grew up in Le Havre and trained to be a house painter and decorator like his father and grandfather. However, he also studied artistic painting during evenings at the École des Beaux-Arts, in Le Havre, from about 1897 to 1899. In Paris, he apprenticed with a decorator and was awarded his certificate in 1902. The next year, he attended the Académie Humbert, also in Paris, and painted there until 1904. It was here that he met Marie Laurencin and Francis Picabia.

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Braque’s earliest works were impressionistic, but after seeing the work exhibited by the artistic group known as the “Fauves” in 1905, he adopted a Fauvist style. The Fauves, a group that included Henri Matisse and André Derain among others, used brilliant colors to represent emotions. Braque worked most closely with the artists Raoul Dufy and Othon Friesz, who shared Braque’s hometown of Le Havre, to develop a somewhat more subdued Fauvist style. In 1906, Braque traveled with Friesz to L’Estaque, to Antwerp, and then home to Le Havre to paint.

In May 1907, he successfully exhibited works of the Fauve style in the Salon des Indépendants. The same year, Braque’s style began a slow evolution as he became influenced by Paul Cézanne who had died in 1906 and whose works were exhibited in Paris for the first time in a large-scale, museum-like retrospective in September 1907. The 1907 Cézanne retrospective at the Salon d’Automne greatly affected the avant-garde artists of Paris, resulting in the advent of Cubism.

Braque’s paintings of 1908–1913 reflected his new interest in geometry and simultaneous perspective. He conducted an intense study of the effects of light and perspective and the technical means that painters use to represent these effects, seeming to question the most standard of artistic conventions. In his village scenes, for example, Braque frequently reduced an architectural structure to a geometric form approximating a cube, yet rendered its shading so that it looked both flat and three-dimensional by fragmenting the image.

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Beginning in 1909, Braque began to work closely with Picasso who had been developing a similar proto-Cubist style of painting. At the time, he was influenced by Gauguin, Cézanne, African masks, and Iberian sculpture while Braque was interested mainly in developing Cézanne’s ideas of multiple perspectives. The invention of Cubism was a joint effort between Picasso and Braque, then residents of Montmartre in Paris. These artists were the style’s main innovators. After meeting in October or November 1907, Braque and Picasso, in particular, began working on the development of Cubism in 1908. Both artists produced paintings of monochromatic color and complex patterns of faceted form, now termed Analytic Cubism.

A decisive time of its development occurred during the summer of 1911, when Braque and Picasso painted side by side in Céret in the French Pyrenees, each artist producing paintings that are difficult—sometimes virtually impossible—to distinguish from those of the other. In 1912, they began to experiment with collage and Braque invented the papier collé technique. French art critic Louis Vauxcelles used the terms “bizarre cubiques” in 1908 after seeing a picture by Braque. He described it as ‘full of little cubes’. The term ‘Cubism’, first used in 1911 with reference to artists exhibiting at the Salon des Indépendants, quickly gained wide use but Picasso and Braque did not adopt it initially. Art historian Ernst Gombrich described Cubism as “the most radical attempt to stamp out ambiguity and to enforce one reading of the picture—that of a man-made construction, a colored canvas.” The Cubist style spread quickly throughout Paris and then Europe.

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The two artists’ productive collaboration continued and they worked closely together until the beginning of World War I in 1914, when Braque enlisted with the French Army. In May 1915, Braque received a severe head injury in battle at Carency and suffered temporary blindness. He was trepanned, and required a long period of recuperation.

Braque resumed painting in late 1916. Working alone, he began to moderate the harsh abstraction of cubism. He developed a more personal style characterized by brilliant color, textured surfaces, and—after his relocation to the Normandy seacoast—the reappearance of the human figure. He painted many still life subjects during this time, maintaining his emphasis on structure. One example of this is his 1943 work Blue Guitar. During his recovery he became a close friend of the cubist artist Juan Gris.

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He continued to work during the remainder of his life, producing a considerable number of paintings, graphics, and sculptures. Braque, along with Matisse, is credited for introducing Picasso to Fernand Mourlot, and most of the lithographs and book illustrations he himself created during the 1940s and ’50s were produced at the Mourlot Studios. In 1962 Braque worked with master printmaker Aldo Crommelynck to create his series of etchings and aquatints titled “L’Ordre des Oiseaux” (“The Order of Birds”), which was accompanied by the poet Saint-John Perse’s text.

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Braque died on 31 August 1963 in Paris. He is buried in the cemetery of the Church of St. Valery in Varengeville-sur-Mer, Normandy whose windows he designed.

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Braque’s hometown, Le Havre, is a well-known fishing town in Normandy as these images attest (including a number of impressionist paintings by Monet who was a resident):

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I did find a recipe for scallops Le Havre but could not discover what made them unique to Le Havre. Besides it was not particularly interesting. So, I have settled for a Normandy fish stew that I like. It’s a simple but creamy bouillabaisse.

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Normandy Fish Stew

Ingredients

500g mussels

300ml cider

1 tbsp butter

2 leeks, cleaned and sliced

100g baby button mushrooms halved

150ml crème fraîche

4 fillets skin-on white fish

small bunch flat-leaf parsley, chopped

Instructions

Scrub and de-beard the mussels. Discard any that do not close when tapped.

Put the mussels and cider into a saucepan. Bring to a boil and cover. Cook for about 3 minutes or until the mussels have opened. Discard any that do not.

Drain the mussels by using a sieve lined with muslin over a bowl to strain out any sand.

Clean and dry the pan and place it on medium high heat. Melt the butter and sweat the leeks until soft. Add the mushrooms and cook 1-2 minutes longer.

Add the mussel broth and crème fraîche and simmer to reduce by half.

Add the fish and parsley, cover, and cook until the fish is just cooked through (time depends on the thickness of the fillets). Return the mussels to heat.

Serve in the pot at the table, with crusty French bread.

Mar 242015
 

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Today is the birthday (1834) of William Morris, major figure in the Victorian Arts and Crafts movement. He actually had a hand in a great many spheres including poetry, literature, painting, Medieval history, architecture, and socialist politics. There is too much to say about these areas in total so I am going to focus on one key area: design – including wallpaper, textiles, and tapestry. I will also take a sneak peek at stained glass.

Morris was born at Elm House in Walthamstow, Essex. As a child, Morris was kept largely housebound at Elm House by his mother; there, he spent much time reading, favouring the novels of Walter Scott. Aged 6, Morris moved with his family to the Georgian Italianate mansion at Woodford Hall, Woodford, Essex, which was surrounded by 50 acres of land adjacent to Epping Forest. He took an interest in fishing with his brothers as well as gardening in the Hall’s grounds, and spent much time exploring the Forest, where he was fascinated both by the Iron Age earthworks at Loughton Camp and Ambresbury Banks and by the Early Modern Hunting Lodge at Chingford. He also took rides through the Essex countryside on his pony, and visited the various churches and cathedrals throughout the country, marveling at their architecture. His father took him on visits outside of the county, for instance to Canterbury Cathedral, the Chiswick Horticultural Gardens, and to the Isle of Wight, where he adored Blackgang Chine. Aged 9, he was then sent to Misses Arundale’s Academy for Young Gentlemen, a nearby preparatory school; although initially riding there by pony each day, he later began boarding, intensely disliking the experience.

In 1847, Morris’s father died unexpectedly. From this point, the family relied upon continued income from the copper mines at Devon Great Consols, and sold Woodford Hall to move into the smaller Water House. In February 1848 Morris began his studies at Marlborough College in Marlborough, Wiltshire, where he gained a reputation as an eccentric nicknamed “Crab”. He despised his time there, being bullied, bored, and homesick. He did use the opportunity to visit many of the prehistoric sites of Wiltshire, such as Avebury and Silbury Hill, which fascinated him. The school was Anglican in faith and in March 1849 Morris was confirmed by the Bishop of Salisbury in the college chapel, developing an enthusiastic attraction towards the Anglo-Catholic movement and its Romanticist aesthetic. At Christmas 1851, Morris was removed from the school and returned to Water House, where he was privately tutored by the Reverend Frederick B. Guy, Assistant Master at the nearby Forest School.

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In June 1852 Morris entered Oxford University’s Exeter College, although since the college’s lodgings were full, he only went into residence in January 1853. He disliked the college and was bored by the manner in which they taught him Classics. Instead he developed a keen interest in Medieval history and Medieval architecture, inspired by the many Medieval buildings in Oxford. This interest was tied to Britain’s growing Medievalist movement, a form of Romanticism that rejected many of the values of Victorian industrial capitalism. For Morris, the Middle Ages represented an era with strong chivalric values and an organic, pre-capitalist sense of community, both of which he deemed preferable to his own period. This attitude was compounded by his reading of Thomas Carlyle’s book Past and Present (1843), in which Carlyle championed Medieval values as a corrective to the problems of Victorian society. Under this influence, Morris’ dislike of contemporary capitalism grew, and he came to be influenced by the work of Christian socialists Charles Kingsley and Frederick Denison Maurice.

At the college, Morris met fellow first-year undergraduate Edward Burne-Jones, who became his lifelong friend and collaborator. Although from very different backgrounds, they found that they had a shared attitude to life, both being keenly interested in Anglo-Catholicism and Arthurianism. Through Burne-Jones, Morris joined a group of undergraduates from Birmingham who were studying at Pembroke College: William Fulford, Richard Watson Dixon, Charles Faulkner, and Cormell Price. They were known among themselves as the “Brotherhood” and to historians as the Birmingham Set. Morris was the most affluent member of the Set, and was generous with his wealth toward the others. Like Morris, the Set were fans of the poet Alfred, Lord Tennyson, and would meet together to recite the plays of William Shakespeare.

Morris was heavily influenced by the writings of the art critic John Ruskin, being particularly inspired by his chapter “On the Nature of Gothic Architecture” in the second volume of The Stones of Venice; he later described it as “one of the very few necessary and inevitable utterances of the century.” Morris adopted Ruskin’s philosophy of rejecting the tawdry industrial manufacture of decorative arts and architecture in favor of a return to hand-craftsmanship, raising artisans to the status of artists, creating art that should be affordable and hand-made, with no hierarchy of artistic media. Ruskin had achieved attention in Victorian society for championing the art of a group of painters who had emerged in London in 1848 calling themselves the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood. The Pre-Raphaelite style was heavily Medievalist and Romanticist, emphasizing abundant detail, intense colors and complex compositions; it greatly impressed Morris and the Set. Influenced both by Ruskin and by John Keats, Morris began to spend more time writing poetry, in a style that was imitative of much of theirs.

Having passed his finals and been awarded a B.A., Morris began an apprenticeship with the Oxford-based Neo-Gothic architect George Edmund Street in January 1856. His apprenticeship focused on architectural drawing, and there he was placed under the supervision of the young architect Philip Webb, who became a close friend. Morris soon relocated to Street’s London office, in August 1856 moving into a flat in Bloomsbury, Central London with Burne-Jones, an area perhaps chosen for its avant-garde associations. Morris was fascinated by London but dismayed at its pollution and rapid expansion into neighboring countryside, describing it as “the spreading sore”.

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Morris desired a new home for himself and his wife, resulting in the construction of the Red House in the Kentish hamlet of Upton near Bexleyheath, ten miles from central London. The building’s design was a co-operative effort, with Morris focusing on the interiors and the exterior being designed by Webb, for whom the House represented his first commission as an independent architect. Named for the red bricks and red tiles from which it was constructed, Red House rejected architectural norms by being L-shaped. Influenced by various forms of contemporary Neo-Gothic architecture, the House was nevertheless unique, with Morris describing it as “very mediaeval in spirit.” Situated within an orchard, the house and garden were intricately linked in their design. It took a year to construct, and cost Morris £4000 at a time when his fortune was greatly reduced by a dramatic fall in the price of his shares. Burne-Jones described it as “the beautifullest place on Earth.”

After construction, Morris invited friends to visit, most notably Burne-Jones and his wife Georgina, as well as Rossetti and his wife Lizzie Siddal. They aided him in painting murals on the furniture, walls, and ceilings, much of it based on Arthurian tales, the Trojan War, and Geoffrey Chaucer’s stories, while he also designed floral embroideries for the rooms. They also spent much time playing tricks on each other, enjoying games like hide and seek, and singing while accompanied by the piano. Siddall stayed at the House during summer and autumn 1861 as she recovered from a traumatic miscarriage and an addiction to laudanum; she would die of an overdose in February 1862.

In April 1861, Morris founded a decorative arts company, Morris, Marshall, Faulkner & Co., with six other partners: Burne-Jones, Rossetti, Webb, Ford Madox Brown, Charles Faulkner, and Peter Paul Marshall. Operating from a premises at No. 6 Red Lion Square, they referred to themselves as “the Firm” and were intent on adopting Ruskin’s ideas of reforming British attitudes to production. They hoped to reinstate decoration as one of the fine arts and adopted an ethos of affordability and anti-elitism. For additional staff, they employed boys from the Industrial Home for Destitute Boys in Euston, central London, many of whom were trained as apprentices.

Although working within the Neo-Gothic school of design, they differed from Neo-Gothic architects like Gilbert Scott who simply included certain Gothic features on modern styles of building; instead they sought to return completely to Medieval Gothic methods of craftsmanship. The products created by the Firm included furniture, architectural carving, metalwork, stained glass windows, and murals. Their stained glass windows proved a particular success in the firm’s early years as they were in high demand for the surge in the Neo-Gothic construction and refurbishment of churches, many of which were commissioned by the architect George Frederick Bodley. Despite Morris’s anti-elitist ethos, the Firm soon became increasingly popular and fashionable with the bourgeoisie, particularly following their exhibit at the 1862 International Exhibition in South Kensington, where they received press attention and medals of commendation. However, they faced much opposition from established design companies, particularly those belonging to the Neo-Classical school.

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At this point Morris focused his energies on designing wallpaper patterns, the first being “Trellis”, designed in 1862. His designs would be produced from 1864 by Jeffrey and Co. of Islington, who created them for the Firm under Morris’s supervision.

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Imagining the creation of an artistic community, Morris helped develop plans for a second house to be constructed adjacent to Red House in which Burne-Jones could live with his family; the plans were abandoned when Burne-Jones’ son Philip died from scarlet fever. By 1864, Morris had become increasingly tired of life at Red House, being particularly unhappy with the 3 to 4 hours spent commuting to his London workplace on a daily basis. He sold Red House, and in autumn 1865 moved with his family to No. 26 Queen Square in Bloomsbury, the same building that the Firm moved its base of operations to earlier in the summer.

At Queen Square, the Morris family lived in a flat directly above the Firm’s shop. Where changes were afoot. Faulkner left, and to replace him they employed a business manager, Warrington Taylor, who would remain with them till 1866. Taylor pulled the Firm’s finances into order and spent much time controlling Morris and ensuring that he worked to schedule. During these years the Firm carried out a number of high-profile designs; from September 1866 to January 1867, they redecorated the Armoury and Tapestry Room in St. James’ Palace, in the latter year also designing the Green Dining Room at the South Kensington Museum (it is now the Morris Room at the Victoria and Albert Museum). The Firm’s work received increasing interest from people in the United States, resulting in Morris’s acquaintance with Henry James and Charles Eliot Norton. However, despite its success, the Firm was not turning over a large net profit, and this, coupled with the decreasing value of Morris’ stocks, meant that he had to decrease his spending.

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By early summer 1871, Morris began to search for a house outside of London where his children could spend time away from the city’s pollution. He settled on Kelmscott Manor in the village of Kelmscott, Oxfordshire, obtaining a joint tenancy on the building with Rossetti in June. Morris adored the building, which was constructed circa 1570, and would spend much time in the local countryside. Conversely, Rossetti would be unhappy at Kelmscott, and eventually suffered a mental breakdown. Morris divided his time between London and Kelmscott, however when Rossetti was there he would not spend more than three days at a time at the latter. He was also fed up with his family home in Queen Square, deciding to obtain a new house in London. Although retaining a personal bedroom and study at Queen Square, he relocated his family to Horrington House in Turnham Green Road, West London, in January 1873. This allowed him to be far closer to the home of Burne-Jones, with the duo meeting on almost every Sunday morning for the rest of Morris’ life.

Morris and Burne-Jones then spent time with one of the Firm’s patrons, the wealthy George Howard, 9th Earl of Carlisle and his wife Rosalind, at their Medieval home in Naworth Castle, Cumberland. In July 1874, the Morris family then took Burne-Jones’ two children with them on their holiday to Bruges, Belgium. However, by this point Morris’ friendship with Rossetti had seriously eroded, and in July 1874 their acrimonious falling out led Rossetti to leave Kelmscott, with Morris’ publisher F.S. Ellis taking his place. With the company’s other partners drifting off to work on other projects, Morris decided to consolidate his own control of the Firm and become sole proprietor and manager. In March 1875, he paid £1000 each in compensation to Rossetti, Brown, and Marshall, although the other partners waived their claims to financial compensation. That month, the Firm was officially disbanded and replaced by Morris & Co, although Burne-Jones and Webb would continue to produce designs for it in future.

Now in complete control of the Firm, Morris took an increased interest in the process of textile dyeing and entered into a co-operative agreement with Thomas Wardle, a silk dyer who operated the Hencroft Works in Leek, Staffordshire. As a result, Morris would spend time with Wardle at his home on various occasions between summer 1875 and spring 1878. Deeming the colors to be of inferior quality, Morris rejected the chemical aniline dyes which were then predominant, instead emphasizing the revival of organic dyes, such as indigo for blue, walnut shells and roots for brown, and cochineal, kermes, and madder for red. Living and working in this industrial environment, he gained a personal understanding of production and the lives of the proletariat, and was disgusted by the poor living conditions of workers and the pollution caused by industry; these factors greatly influenced his political views. After learning the skills of dyeing, in the late 1870s Morris turned his attention to weaving, experimenting with silk weaving at Queen’s Square.

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In the Spring of 1877, the Firm opened a store at No. 449 Oxford Street and obtained new staff who were able to improve its professionalism; as a result, sales increased and its popularity grew. By 1880, Morris & Co. had become a household name, having become very popular with Britain’s upper and middle classes. The Firm was obtaining increasing numbers of commissions from aristocrats, wealthy industrialists, and provincial entrepreneurs, with Morris furnishing parts of St. James’ Palace and the chapel at Eaton Hall. As a result of his growing sympathy for the working-classes and poor, Morris felt personally conflicted in serving the interests of these individuals, privately describing it as “ministering to the swinish luxury of the rich.”

In summer 1881, Morris took out a lease on the seven-acre former silk weaving factory at Merton Abbey Mills, in Merton, Southwest London. Relocating his workshops to the site, the premises were used for weaving, dyeing, and creating stained glass; within three years, 100 craftsmen would be employed there. Working conditions at the Abbey were better than at most Victorian factories, however despite Morris’ ideals there was little opportunity for the workers to display their own individual creativity. Morris had initiated a system of profit sharing among the Firm’s upper clerks, however this did not include the majority of workers, who were instead employed on a piecework basis. Morris was aware that in retaining the division between employer and employed, the company failed to live up to his own egalitarian ideals, but defended this, asserting that it was impossible to run a socialist company within a competitive capitalist economy. The Firm itself was expanding, opening up a store in Manchester in 1883 and holding a stand at that year’s Foreign Fair in Boston.

The work of Morris & Co. continued during Morris’ final years, producing an array of stained glass windows designed by Burne-Jones and the six narrative tapestry panels depicting the quest for the Holy Grail for Stanmore Hall, Shropshire. Morris’ influence on Britain’s artistic community became increasingly apparent as the Art Workers’ Guild was founded in 1884, although at the time he was too preoccupied with his socialist activism to pay it any attention. Although the proposal faced some opposition, Morris would be elected to the Guild in 1888, and was elected to the position of master in 1892. Morris similarly did not offer initial support for the Arts and Crafts Exhibition Society, but changed his opinion after the success of their first exhibit, held in Regents Street in October 1888. Giving lectures on tapestries for the group, in 1892 he would be elected president. At this time, Morris also re-focused his attentions on SPAB campaigning; those causes he championed including the preservation of St. Mary’s Church in Oxford, Blythburgh Church in Suffolk, Peterborough Cathedral, and Rouen Cathedral.

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By the early 1890s, Morris was increasingly ill and living largely as an invalid; aside from his gout, he also exhibited signs of epilepsy. In August 1891, he took his daughter Jenny on a tour of Northern France to visit the Medieval churches and cathedrals. Back in England, he spent an increasing amount of time at Kelmscott Manor. Seeking treatment from the prominent doctor William Broadbent, he was prescribed a holiday in the coastal town of Folkestone. In December 1894 he was devastated upon learning of his mother’s death; she had been 90 years old. In July 1896, he went on a cruise to Norway with construction engineer John Carruthers, during which he visited Vadsö and Trondheim; during the trip his physical condition deteriorated and he began experiencing hallucinations. Returning to Kelmscott House, he became a complete invalid, being visited by friends and family, before dying of tuberculosis on the morning of 4 October 1896. Obituaries appearing throughout the national press reflected that at the time, Morris was widely recognized primarily as a poet.

President of the William Morris Society Hans Brill referred to Morris as “one of the outstanding figures of the nineteenth century,” while Linda Parry termed him the “single most important figure in British textile production.” At the time of Morris’ death, his poetry was known internationally and his company’s products were found all over the world. In his lifetime, he was best known as a poet, although by the late twentieth-century he was primarily known as a designer of wallpapers and fabrics.

He was a major contributor to the revival of traditional British textile arts and methods of production. Morris’ ethos of production was an influence on Bauhaus. Another aspect of Morris’s preservationism was his desire to protect the natural world from the ravages of pollution and industrialism, causing some historians of the green movement to regard Morris as an important forerunner of modern environmentalism.

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During his lifetime, Morris produced items in a range of crafts, mainly those to do with furnishing,[268] including over 600 designs for wall-paper, textiles, and embroideries, over 150 for stained glass windows, three typefaces, and around 650 borders and ornamentations for the Kelmscott Press. He emphasized the idea that the design and production of an item should not be divorced from one another, and that where possible those creating items should be designer-craftsmen, thereby both designing and manufacturing their goods. In the field of textile design, Morris revived a number of dead techniques, and insisted on the use of good quality raw materials, almost all natural dyes, and hand processing. He also observed the natural world first hand to gain a basis for his designs, and insisted on learning the techniques of production prior to producing a design.

Mackail asserted that Morris became “a manufacturer not because he wished to make money, but because he wished to make the things he manufactured.” Morris & Co.’s designs were fashionable among Britain’s upper and middle-classes, with biographer Fiona MacCarthy asserting that they had become “the safe choice of the intellectual classes, an exercise in political correctitude.” The company’s unique selling point was the range of different items that it produced, as well as the ethos of artistic control over production that it emphasized.

It is likely that much of Morris’s preference for medieval textiles was formed – or crystallized – during his brief apprenticeship with G. E. Street. Street had co-written a book on Ecclesiastical Embroidery in 1848, and was a staunch advocate of abandoning faddish woolen work on canvas in favour of more expressive embroidery techniques based on Opus Anglicanum, a surface embroidery technique popular in medieval England.

Morris taught himself embroidery, working with wool on a frame custom-built from an old example. Once he had mastered the technique he trained his wife Jane, her sister Bessie Burden and others to execute designs to his specifications. When “embroideries of all kinds” were offered through Morris, Marshall, Faulkner & Co. catalogues, church embroidery became and remained an important line of business for its successor companies into the twentieth century. By the 1870’s, the Firm was offering both embroidery patterns and finished works. Following in Street’s footsteps, Morris became active in the growing movement to return originality and mastery of technique to embroidery, and was one of the first designers associated with the Royal School of Art Needlework with its aim to “restore Ornamental Needlework for secular purposes to the high place it once held among decorative arts.”

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Morris took up the practical art of dyeing as a necessary adjunct of his manufacturing business. He spent much of his time at Staffordshire dye works mastering the processes of that art and making experiments in the revival of old or discovery of new methods. One result of these experiments was to reinstate indigo dyeing as a practical industry and generally to renew the use of those vegetable dyes, such as the red derived from madder, which had been driven almost out of use by the anilines. Dyeing of wools, silks, and cottons was the necessary preliminary to what he had much at heart, the production of woven and printed fabrics of the highest excellence; and the period of incessant work at the dye-vat (1875–76) was followed by a period during which he was absorbed in the production of textiles (1877–78), and more especially in the revival of carpet-weaving as a fine art.

Morris’s patterns for woven textiles, some of which were also machine made under ordinary commercial conditions, included intricate double-woven furnishing fabrics in which two sets of warps and wefts are interlinked to create complex gradations of color and texture. Morris long dreamed of weaving tapestries in the medieval manner, which he called “the noblest of the weaving arts.” In September 1879 he finished his first solo effort, a small piece called “Cabbage and Vine.”

For a recipe I turn to Mrs Beeton of course. Because Morris had a lifelong association with Oxford, I have chosen a classic Oxford recipe: Oxford sausage. This is Mrs’ Beeton’s own recipe.

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Oxford Sausage

(Author’s Oxford Recipe.)

837. INGREDIENTS.—1 lb. of pork, fat and lean, without skin or gristle; 1 lb. of lean veal, 1 lb. of beef suet, 1/2 lb. of bread crumbs, the rind of 1/2 lemon, 1 small nutmeg, 6 sage-leaves, 1 teaspoonful of pepper, 2 teaspoonfuls of salt, 1/2 teaspoonful of savory, 1/2 teaspoonful of marjoram.

 

Mode.—Chop the pork, veal, and suet finely together, add the bread crumbs, lemon-peel (which should be well minced), and a small nutmeg grated. Wash and chop the sage-leaves very finely; add these with the remaining ingredients to the sausage-meat, and when thoroughly mixed, either put the meat into skins, or, when wanted for table, form it into little cakes, which should be floured and fried.

 

Average cost, for this quantity, 2s. 6d.

 

Sufficient for about 30 moderate-sized sausages

You can also shape them into sausages but without skins as in the photo. They are excellent with roast potatoes and a rich beef/veal gravy, or as breakfast sausages with eggs.