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Home > City Resources > Art & Antiques > German Festival

Mother of God'Art' as a medium of expression has had no equal, be it in this age or in the past. The power of art in conveying messages to vast audiences is awe inspiring. Art during the middle ages in Europe played a major role both in the formulation of religious themes and practices and in the dissemination of these practices to the faithful in particular and to the people in general.
During this era, Germany as also other parts of Europe experienced a surge of artistic expression and upheaval of artistic and religious values, which continued into the age of Renaissance. Despite the old testament's prohibition of pictures as a medium of religious expression, an extensive system of Christian religious imagery established itself both in the rites of the church and in the field of private devotion. The impact of this imagery on the spectator often exceeded that of the printed and spoken word in comprehensibility and retention.

Brass Water ContainerFor the first time in India, the German National Museum is presenting itself in a series of exhibitions that display unique works of art, which were created during this period in Central Europe. The exhibition titled 'Ornament and Figure' is being held at the Salar Jung Museum in Hyderabad. This three week long display of art objects depicting the beauty of ornamentation in the West is part of the on-going German Festival in India. An assortment of objects from coins, burial goods, to weapons of war, utensils goblets, engraved items in metal and illustrated parchments are on display.

Lion head door pullDescribing the exhibition and commenting on the title, Ulrich Grofsmann, General Director of the German Museum said, "The museum is presenting a theme from the culture of Central Europe, especially Germany, and has put together from its own collections an exhibition concentrating on figures and ornamentation. In view of the fact that ornamentation plays such an important role in the art of India, the museum would like to present ornamentation in Central Europe as a comparison. However, as ornamentation in Europe has often been presented in pictorial representations of people, we have entitled the exhibition as Ornament and Figure."

Among the prominent displays is a Double Goblet consisting of two almost identical halves, each of which can be used as a drinking vessel. This comes from Nuremberg, which was the most important European centre of goldsmithy. "Fine vessels of this type were used to honour distinguished persons on official and private occasions. They were a sign of high respect for the recipient," said Grofsmann. Water vessels in the form of animals, usually lions, called Acquamaniles are also eye-catching. These were used to hold water for handwashing during religious ceremonies and in every day life and were common in the period between the 12th and 15th centurNuremberg's Double Gobleties.

Of the many wooden carvings displayed, the carving titled Enthroned Madonna is undoubtedly the best. This popular wood carving depicts the virgin Mary, crowned with a circlet, sitting on a bench throne and bearing baby Jesus on her left thigh. "This motif displays the image of the throne of wisdom. It also depicts the presentation of Jesus to the world. This is from the South Tyrol region and belongs to the 12th century," explained Grofsmann. Artistically done and intricately carved metal alloy door pulls from the Lower Saxony region in Germany are simple yet beautiful to behold. Again these door pulls too usually depict lions. The stylised head of the lion stands out of a circle, its mane represented as a wreath of slender, finely drawn strands with curls at the end, filling the entire picture field. These exquisite pieces belong to the 15th century.

Apart from these, a number of illustrated parchments bearing text and water colour drawings on various themes are mounted in the exhibition. Prominent among these being the parchment with the initial 'S' with outpouring of the Holy Ghost, which is from the Anger monastery. It is done with opaque water colour and is extremely attractive. Another parchment that grabs one's attention is the one with the initial 'S' with a mother of god from a Latin Liturgical Manuscript. It too is done with opaque water colours and is equally beautiful. Both these parchments are from around the end of the 14th century.

Outpouring of the Holy Ghost The exhibition has creations that span a period of some six centuries. It also reflects a whole range of artistic styles in respect to the ornamentation, colour combinations and subjects chosen for the creation of paintings, drawings and objects. Commenting on the various styles of works in the exhibition and their date of creation, Grofsmann said, "In contrast to India, stylistic continuity is not typical of European art. So the age of an object can often be judged by a look at its ornamentation."

Ornament and Figure have influenced European art in all its forms. We find it in architecture, painting, in graphic art in book design, on sculptures and even on weapons and doorlocks and doorpulls. In addition to its main themes of Ornament and Figure, the exhibition offers a little guided tour through the history of European art, which can be followed through changing styles from Romanesque through Gothic, to Renaissance, from the 11th to the 16th centuries.

-Shobhanadri Rao
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