Men's evil manners live in brass
February 24, 2010 6:05 AM   Subscribe

Medieval funerary effigies and brasses provide a valuable and fascinating look at the fashion, heraldry, and armor of the Middle Ages.

You can find lots and lots of pictures on the internet, as well as lists of places where you can go see them for yourself.
If you're looking for something specific, try the search form here. If you're of an analytical mindset, look at the data about effigies and brasses collected here.
posted by Shohn (5 comments total) 9 users marked this as a favorite
Awesome. I love funerary equipment.

For similar (though way older) artifacts with a totally different effect, here are my two favorite pieces from the MFA Boston's Etruscan collection (1, 2). Where the medieval sarcophagus lids/effigies are dignified, aloof, and, well, clothed, the Etruscan ones are heartbreakingly intimate.
posted by oinopaponton at 6:32 AM on February 24, 2010 [2 favorites]

(Also, I'll never stop being jealous of people who grew up in Europe. Being able to walk into your local church and see a knight's tomb?! So cool.)
posted by oinopaponton at 6:39 AM on February 24, 2010

There is a brass - I think in Lincoln Minster - which I fine really haunting. The shape remains of a man in armor but the lines have been worn smooth. It is as though he's slowly decaying, being forgotten, and even a "permanent" monument won't last forever.

...the Etruscan ones are heartbreakingly intimate.

I think I stood silent for a long while in that room of the MFA. One of the sarcophaguses there is so tender and real I felt like I was trespassing almost.
posted by Sova at 6:50 AM on February 24, 2010

When I was a kid my family had the opportunity to spend the summer living in the Exeter suburbs. My mother's knew through geneological study that some of our ancesters had been the "second sons" of the Exeter gentry and so we headed off to the cathedral to see if any were entombed there. My mother got rather creeped out by the effigies we found there because she said it looked like a family reunion in stone. This woman Dorothy (wife of John Dodderidge), was particularly disturbing to her as she looked EXACTLY like my mother's aunt, Margaret (daughter of John Daughtridge) who had just died the preceding Spring.
posted by Pollomacho at 7:16 AM on February 24, 2010 [1 favorite]

My parents used to go around Britain taking brass rubbings. We had them all over the house: rolled up on desks, hanging by strings in the study, cluttered in unruly stacks in the closets, framed in the living room. As a boy I wasn't sure why they were so into these things, but looking back I see the attraction, I guess. That my parents were academic history nerds is indisputable, but I think these rubbings made their studies more real for them somehow; brought history into the present for them in a very concrete way. I think it helped them to bond on some totally intellectual level that I could never see.

10 years or so after moving to America, they divorced. The romantic glue that medieval funerary monuments had been to them was in too short supply here, and their bond came undone.
posted by Pecinpah at 12:35 PM on February 24, 2010

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