Little Pigs

piggyOr boars to be more exact. This is an early 14th Century coat of arms from the Porcelet family of Provence. The family Piglet! I would guess they changed their name and emblem by the time the Renaissance showed up in the form of Caterina de Medici, who brought the fork, for sticking into Huguenots, and some couth, from Firenze. This coat of arms was at the Cloisters, where I went to hear the astonishing Forty Part Motet of Janet Cardiff and Thomas Tallis; it is playing until early December. While I was there, I heard a guard say he could take listening to the performance all day long; I listened five times and whole-heartedly agreed with him. Sublime.

swineFour rows of striding boars: one of the amazing Mesopotamian seals at the Morgan Library & Museum. This is one from late in the game, c. 550-330BC; the peoples between the rivers had been making them for nearly three millennia before this. The seal here in the left hand top corner is just over an inch tall, and made of rock crystal. Others were marble, lapis lazuli, chalcedony, serpentine, etc., and they depict hosts of animals real and mythological (including the serpent-necked feline!). I was privileged to be given a tour by the curator, Sidney Babcock, who was also responsible for rolling out each of the clay impressions set up alongside the actual seal. (The photographs below are for revealing greater detail of these often minute objects). After many years of being mostly behind the scenes, the seals now have a permanent exhibit in the Librarian’s Office, part of the McKim, Mead, & White building, the original library. Another astonishing experience. (Ah, New York!) Thank you, Sidney!

4 Responses to “Little Pigs”

  1. 1 Elizabeth November 14, 2013 at 12:08 pm

    Considering how fierce wild boars are, I can see why a family would want the association. Richard III also had a white boar as his personal device, which I mostly remember because of William Colyngbourne’s, treasonous rhyme, “The Cat, the Rat, and Lovel our dog / Ruleth all England under a Hog,” which he nailed to the door of St. Paul’s Cathedral on July 18, 1484.

    • 2 mthew November 15, 2013 at 9:35 am

      This Colyngbourne chap may have enjoyed Oinky, as they called him at Eton, Cameron’s call for austerity whilst weighed down with gold.

  2. 3 Paul Lamb November 15, 2013 at 7:14 am

    The Cloisters is an impressive place, but the medieval mindset that permeates it depresses me. (Also, I swear I saw a beaver on the grounds of the park there.)

    • 4 mthew November 15, 2013 at 9:32 am

      The medieval mindset may have been the best they could do at the time… but we should be thankful that we’ve moved beyond that. The place looks best in the sunlight, even indirectly, as in the cloisters themselves.

      And I have been retailing, with proper accreditation, your beaver ever since you told me about it.

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