The Studious Cat

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Misericord from Sint-Petruskerk, Oirschot, Netherlands. Picture from the Elaine C. Block Database of Misericords held by Princeton College.

Whereas sorting via a file of misericords (initially amassed in 2016 for a three-part collection on the woodworkers present in misericords), I rediscoverd this photograph and determined to search out out extra about it.

The Message within the Misericord

A part of the research of misericords includes figuring out which parable, proverb or fable is depicted. With the mouse on the desk we all know this can be a cat and never a fox, canine or bear. Pieter Bruegel the Elder’s “Nederlandse Spreekwoorden” (Netherlandish Proverbs) painted in 1559 is as soon as supply used to match a misericord to a proverb. The one proverb within the portray involving a cat is that this one:

To “bell a cat” (even when one is armed to the tooth) is interpreted as finishing up a harmful plan, or a plan doomed to failure. There may be additionally the proverb “whereas the cat is away, the mice will play” or the choice “when the cat is at house the mice are afraid.” None of those choices apply to this misericord. One author thought maybe the cat was studying a Bible which might be an instance of “the world circled” with an animal performing human actions. The studying of this misericord could be to point out the stark distinction between a well-fed cat learning in a cushty setting in comparison with its regular “job” of being a mouser. This is able to be a reminder to a cleric or monk that the hassle to review ought to be taken significantly, whereas a cat has no alternative however to work repeatedly for its subsequent meal. Not all scenes could be deciphered to have a selected which means and this misericord may present the standard cat trait of curiosity and their annoying behavior of taking on their proprietor’s chair.

The Historical past of This Misericord

The misericord was carved in oak by Jan Borchmans between 1508-1511. He labored in church buildings in Oirschot, Netherlands, and in Averbode and Aarschot, each in Belgium. The {photograph} was taken in 1941 by Martien Coppens. In 1943 Hans Sibbelee additionally photographed the church in Oirschot as a part of a war-time effort to doc essential monuments and artistic endeavors. We’re lucky to have this photographic report. On October 2, 1944, Sint-Petruskerk was shelled through the Battle of the Scheldt, the World Struggle II marketing campaign to free Belgium and the Netherlands. The shelling brought about a fireplace that destroyed all of the choir carvings and misericords. Twenty-two days later and after great losses, Oirschot was liberated on October 24, 1944.

Though the story of this misericord is poignant, we’ve {a photograph} that enables us to understand Jan Borchmans’ craftmanship and maybe his humorousness. He very kindly supplied a footstool to accommodate this well-fed cat’s very massive hind toes.

I don’t learn about you, however this misericord has three parts that remind me of a workshop on Willard Avenue in Covington, Kentucky, the place chairs are made, books are edited and cats roam free.

Suzanne Ellison

P.S. If you need to take a look at my 2016 collection on misericords that includes woodworkers you may examine them right here (the woodworkers), right here (the carvers) and right here (the workbenches). The Carvers publish contains these misericord carvers:

Church of Notre-Dame des Grands-Andelys, France, dated 1413.

Christopher Schwarz additionally wrote one thing about workbenches and misericords and you may examine it right here. Altogether that ought to maintain your weekend actions.

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