Friday, August 16, 2013

Basel Beauties

We started our cruise on the Rhine River in Basel, Switzerland.  Basel is located where the Swiss, French, and German borders meet.  German is the predominant language spoken and written in the area.

We arrived late Saturday afternoon, shortly before most things began closing for the weekend, but we were still able to explore the streets of this lovely town. The weather was unusually hot, and not all places are air conditioned, as we soon found out. 

On Sunday we went to the Historisches Museum, which is housed in the old Barfüsser Church. It has existed as a museum since the middle of the 19th century.

The main floor of the church has exhibits on the history of Basel from the Middle Ages to the present and also items from the Basel Cathedral Treasury.  According to the museum, the Treasury contains one of the world's most important collections of medieval ecclesiastical treasures. Many of these items are gold or silver. Also on the first floor is some ecclesiastical art including wood carvings and sculptures, a large carved altar, paintings, tapestries, and more.  Despite the heat, we enjoyed our time at the museum.  

Then we saw a door leading downstairs and decided to explore that too. Plus the downstairs was air conditioned--whew!

What a marvelous collection of things we saw: pottery and jewelry from archaeological excavations, coins and medals, porcelain, watches and clocks, games and toys, musical instruments, and more.  There were also several  period  rooms set up to show how the  people in Basel lived during the 18th and 19th centuries.  
My favorite area of the museum was a section called The Great Cabinet of Curiosities.  As  early as the 16th century, there was a great interest in Basel for private collecting as the people had a great interest in nature, history, art, and increasing their knowledge of the world.  I believe their passion for collecting is what inspired this exhibit.

There were quite a few wonderful caskets and cabinets.  I thought this one was particularly interesting because it has some secret drawers.  The cabinet was designed with stacks of wooden drawers on the inside.  In this photo, the middle section has been removed.

Now turn these drawers around and look what you see--secret drawers on the back.  When the drawers are in place in the cabinet, no one would know that there were any secret drawers. As many of you know, secret drawers were common on the needlework caskets from the 17th century.  I guess it should be no surprise that there were also secret drawers on other cabinets and caskets.

Although this is not needlework-related, I couldn't resist a photo of this wonderful ivory miniature.  The tiny little tea set fits in the top!   How cute is that!

Most of the remaining photos are of some of the wonderful tapestries in the museum. There were some tapestries upstairs on the main floor, but the following ones were on the lower floor.  There were 15 large onesand three smaller ones all dating from the 18th century.  The majority were made in Basel.

It was hard to get any good photographs because of the very large size of the tapestries and also because of the museum lighting, but here are photos of a few of my favorites.

The next tapestry, which was originally a cushion panel, was made in Strasbourg in the early 1500's.  It measures 75 centimeters (30 inches) high by 63 centimeters (25 inches) wide and was worked using wool, linen, cotton, silk, and metallic threads. I love the lady with her unicorn although her dress is rather unusual, don't you think? According to the museum text the woman is a "wild woman" sitting in an idyllic landscape. The museum also explained that according to medieval beliefs, unicorns could only be captured by virgins.  I don't  know if that explains her "wildness" or her dress.

This center scene of the next tapestry shows a card-playing  game.  Various gaming items are displayed in the  cases in front of the tapestry.

Here is an enlargement of the center scene from the previous tapestry.

The next tapestry is entitled Gardens of Love (Life in Earthly Paradise).  This was a very popular theme among the tapestry makers of the Upper Rhine area.  Such tapestries were often commissioned to be made as wedding gifts, and a family crest could be worked into the design.  Such a large tapestry would certainly be a way to show off one's wealth, wouldn't it?

In the photo above, you can see several beautifully dressed couples enjoying themselves in a garden-like setting.  The poor lady on the far right has "lost" her suitor, which makes you wonder how much of the original tapestry was lost for whatever reason.

 And now for two enlargements:

Next is the Bischofszell embroidery, which shows the town of the same name.  What a lively scene!  This embroidery dates from the 10th century and is stitched in wool on a wool ground.  It measures 117 centimeters (46 inches) high by 285 centimeters (112  inches) wide.

The next two photos are details from the previous embroidery.

Near the tapestries was a large wall hanging including this interesting mermaid motif.

Here is a detail of her face.

And right next to the wall hanging was this piece.  I loved seeing the two pieces side by side.

There were lots and lots of wonderful treasures, but these are the ones I thought would be of most interest to you.

While at the museum, I learned that the silk ribbon industry was the main source of of Basel's economic prosperity in the 18th and 19th centuries.  The museum has about 900 pattern books, each with several hundred samples.  They also have more than 1500 ribbons and about 1600 textbooks, handbooks, documents, manuscripts and sample cards.  The museum also has several ribbon looms. Unfortunately, none of these were on display.

Before leaving the museum, I visited the gift shop and found two wonderful treasures--a round mouse pad with a tapestry scene and also a little book on the tapestries.  Although I can't read the book because it was written in German, I can at least enjoy the photos.  Besides, it was only 3 Swiss francs (just a little over $3 US).  How could I pass that up?

After leaving the museum, we stopped to get a drink at one of the outside cafes.  Look what I saw opposite the cafe!  An antiques shop with a half-price sale!

Looking in the window, here is some of what I saw!

Unfortunately, the shop was closed.  We had a little bit of free time the following afternoon, so we went back.  What a disappointment that the shop was still closed.  I think they must have been on vacation.


Kathy Ellen said...

It looks like your first day of exploring the Historisches Museum was well worth the visit. What magnificent tapestries, and I love that exquisite casket cabinet!

Oh, what treasures in that shop window, and how disappointing that you were unable to go inside!

Have a wonderful trip, Ellen! Blessings!

The Inspired Stitcher said...

Oh my goodness, what a fun place to visit. Love the box's hidden drawers and the lion's head pulls. Too bad that antiques shop was closed. Lots of lovely in that window.

woolwoman said...

what a fantastic trip Ellen. Loved all the tapestry photos - some of them would be great inspiration for hooked rugs except that creepy character from the Garden of Love crawling up that womans hair or whatever it was doing - Shudder - that gave me the creeps. Lovely scenery along the Rhine. WOW - you are sure going to be busy teaching this fall. How nice you got a teaching assignment down under next year. Hugs mel

Barb said...

Thanks for sharing the amazing photos. How frustrating to find the shop still closed!

Jules said...

And if there is no other reason to visit Europe than to see the exquisite tapestry...

Thank you so much for sharing with us!

Margaret said...

Wow, what a treat for the eyes! Fantastic! I love the tapestries! And the antique shop --- too bad it was closed. The mermaid is so unusual -- amazing to see two examples side by side like that.

Krista said...

Wow! It looks like you are an adventure of a lifetime! All of the tapestries are just gorgeous!

Poussy Stitches My Love said...

I love the canevas ... and lovely pictures, thank my dear

bisous from FRANCE, Marylin

Vickie said...

ooOoo! Splendid post. aaaaaaahhh! You never got in the half price sale?!

Annette-California said...

I have only studied every photo about 6 times:))) WOW! Oh Ellen you get 5 gold stars for your photos. I loved all the embroideries, caskets and cabinets. LOVE the Unicorn and lions and the old writing stitched on the tapestries. I was told that in August most Europeans go on vacation or holiday as they say. Gezz and all the beauties looking at you thru the windows - so not fair. Great post. love Annette