Monday, 29 October 2007

In the Roman Museum in Trier, Love at First Sight

There he was, under glass looking up at me, in the Roman Museum in Trier, in Germany in about 1994.

I saw him for maybe five minutes but never forgot him.

I drew him over and over again in my sketchbooks. Over and over.

Eventually, in 2007, I could bear it no more and I decides to remake he-I-call-the-ploughman. I googled images until I found him again. It took over two weeks to find this image of the bronze statuette, scanned from some old book that came out in the 1970s.

I was so pleased. And I found out a lot more about the whole fashion statement. So much more. Below is a taster.

Small bronze figurine from the Trier-area, Germany, about 12 cm tall. The figurine shows a local peasant - a Treveri - dressed in a cape with hood of the kind the romans called a "cucullus". Photo: Rheinisches Landesmuseum Trier, picture taken from E. Munksgaard (1974), p. 114, fig. 82

This type of fur-cape is also known from the iron age of other parts of Europe. It is for instance common on pictures and statues from the area around the German city of Trier, where the celtic tribe the Treveri lived. It seems to be a part of a common North-European dress of the time. In the Trier area it seems mostly to have been worn by men, especially herdsmen and peasants. From this area also comes a small bronze-statue of a man wearing such a fur-cape (fig.7). Elisabeth Munksgaard writes that from 382 AD, the use of this kind of cape was only allowed for slaves - according to a law made by emperor Thedosius. In spite of this decision, giving this kind of cape the symbolic value marking its wearer as a person of the unfree class, it seems to have been used for a long time - at least made of wool. Maybe only capes of fur and leather were a slave-sign. Woollen capes of a very similar pattern were worn by some of the medieval people found in the graves at Herhjolfsnæs on Greenland, and they seem to constitute a common part of the male dress of the medieval times.

from Cimbric caps and bonnets

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