Archive for December, 2008

Thursday, December 18, 2008

The Holly and the Ivy

Detail of a holly from The Mystic Capture of the Unicorn Juvenile ivy growing in Bonnefont Garden Red-berried holly and black-fruited ivy

Above, from left to right: Detail of holly from The Mystic Capture of the Unicorn; juvenile holly growing in Bonnefont Garden; red-berried holly and black-fruited ivy.

Holy stond in the hall
Faire to behold:
Ivy stond without the dore—
She is ful sore acold.

Holy and his mery men
They daunsen and they sing;
Ivy and her maidenes
They wepen and they wring.

—Fifteenth-century carol, Reginald Thorne Davies, Medieval English Lyrics: A Critical Anthology, 1972.

A group of English carols set down in the fifteenth century preserves evidence of a ritual contest between boys bearing branches of holly and girls bearing ivy. The red-berried holly, symbolizing light, warmth, and light, was meant to prevail over the black-fruited ivy, which signified the dark and cold of winter. Thus, ivy remained outside the door while holly was carried triumphantly into the hall. Read more »

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

The Wreath

Ears of wheat wired to florist's picks Two segments of wheat ears flank a segment of hazelnuts. Preparing to hang the wreath in the Romanesque Hall.

Above, from left to right: ears of wheat wired to florist’s picks; two segments of wheat ears flank a segment of hazelnuts; preparing to hang the wreath in the Romanesque Hall. Photographs by Barbara Bell.

The wreath now on display high on the west wall of the Romanesque Hall above the thirteenth-century limestone doorway from Moutiers-St. Jean was designed and installed for the first time last December. The design is based on that of a wreath motif in a fragment of a fifteenth-century wall hanging in the Museum’s collection, in which four festoons of fruits, leaves, and flowers are bound together with ribbon to form a circle. Read more »

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Decking the Halls: The Arches

boxwood-covered arches Preparing the ivy Decorated arch

Above, from left to right: boxwood-covered form for one of the Main Hall arches; preparing the ivy; a view of the decorated arch above the entry into the Romanesque Hall.

We have been working busily for the last few weeks preparing the holiday decorations that will deck the Museum from the first of December until the fifth of January. The decorations are made from natural materials, and all of the plant stuffs used were associated with the medieval celebration of Christmastide. This great feast embraced the twelve days between the Nativity and the Epiphany, which commemorated the visit of the Three Kings to the infant Jesus.

The wreaths and garlands on display are the work of many hands, and could not be fabricated by the Gardens staff without the help and enthusiasm of volunteers and other staff members who give up their lunch hours and their days off to help gather ivy, secure bay leaves and wheat ears to florist’s picks, and buff apples until they glow.

Read more »