Luxury and Everyday Objects

Luxury and Everyday Objects

In the 15th century, the growing wealth of the bourgeoisie led to an increase in the demand for luxury goods. Alongside religious works commissioned by churches, this increase in demand could also be seen in relation to the profane arts. In addition to paintings and sculptures, objects such as jewellery, textiles, and furniture were commissioned for private use, while also functioning as demonstrations of status.

Depictions of Love

Although the Griffin Tapestry served to decorate a lavish room and as such was accessible to a large public, through its thematisation of love, it addresses a very private topic. The wildflower meadow and the griffin embody the nature of love – at once restrained and unbridled –, above which the couples converse, suggested by the strips of text they are holding.

Basel Workshop: Minne Tapestry with Couple and Griffin, ca. 1430–1450, woven textile, wool and linen, 105 x 148 cm © Staatliche Museen zu Berlin, Kunstgewerbemuseum / Jürgen Bartsch
Basel Workshop: Minne Tapestry with Couple and Griffin, ca. 1430–1450, woven textile, wool and linen, 105 x 148 cm © Staatliche Museen zu Berlin, Kunstgewerbemuseum / Jürgen Bartsch
Master of Cologne: The Magic of Love, ca. 1470, European beechwood, 23.9 x 18 cm © Museum der bildenden Künste, Leipzig
Master of Cologne: The Magic of Love, ca. 1470, European beechwood, 23.9 x 18 cm © Museum der bildenden Künste, Leipzig

In private, such themes came to be depicted in much less veiled ways. However, little of this has survived. One of the rare examples is the painting The Magic of Love, produced around 1470, most likely in Cologne. The painting illustrates the emotional frenzy that was connected with love in all its forms.

Playing Cards

The depiction of everyday observations traverses all artistic media and activities. In the 1430s, for example, the so-called Master of the Playing Cards designed a set of playing cards featuring copperplate engravings, in which the number three is represented by herons, for example. Their postures have the air of spontaneous snapshots, while the interplay between the figures reveals the presence of a skilful compositional eye.

Master of the Playing Cards: Three in Birds, ca. 1435–1440, copperplate engraving, 12.6 x 8.9 © Staatliche Museen zu Berlin, Kupferstichkabinett / Dietmar Katz
Master of the Playing Cards: Three in Birds, ca. 1435–1440, copperplate engraving, 12.6 x 8.9 © Staatliche Museen zu Berlin, Kupferstichkabinett / Dietmar Katz
Confectionary bowl from the Lüneburg Council Silver, shortly before 1482, silver, embossed, cast, chased, gilded sections, enamel, 20 x 36.5 cm © Staatliche Museen zu Berlin, Kunstgewerbemuseum / Saturia Linke
Confectionary bowl from the Lüneburg Council Silver, shortly before 1482, silver, embossed, cast, chased, gilded sections, enamel, 20 x 36.5 cm © Staatliche Museen zu Berlin, Kunstgewerbemuseum / Saturia Linke

Luxury Goods

Alongside the nobility, cities, guilds and wealthy members of the bourgeoisie increasingly became major commissioners of works of art. The objects produced for them primarily served to convey status. For example, it was common to pass around confectionary at public council meetings in the major trading cities served in bowls that one might expect to find in the collections of aristocrats. As part of the cities’ “council silver treasures”, they demonstrated the importance of the cities.

The Lüneburg Council Silver