Intact 1st - 3rd century Roman Glass Flask found in Turkey

Abbey Roman Flask – still in one piece after 2,000 years.

Among the Abbey Museum’s more recent acquisitions is a collection of forty-four objects from Turkey, Tunisia and Papua New Guinea including an amazing intact Roman glass flask. It is incredible to have such a fragile object in our collection, considering it was used by someone when togas were all the fashion and attending chariot races or watching gladiatorial battles were on the top of the entertainment list.

Our very fine large bulbous flask in green-yellow glass originated in the Roman Imperial Period and dates somewhere between the 1st and 3rd Century AD. Now to get a little technical – the flask has a slightly retracted base and long thin cylindrical neck ending in a solid rim with a rounded lip and flaring mouth. It was blown to a very fine standard and has this beautiful iridescent weathering and lime encrustation.

Intact 1st to 3rd century Roman Flask

The glass in our flask has iridescence where it has oxidised. This is a good sign as it indicates that this flask had been underground for much of the time …

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A world icon at the Abbey

From the collection of the Abbey Museum of Art and Archaeology,‘Ehon Azuma-asobi’ (Picture book of the pleasure spots of the Eastern Capital)

Here at the Abbey Museum of Art and Archaeology we are the fortunate custodians of a series of woodblock printed illustrations from an icon of the art world.  Can you guess the artist?

Born in 1760 in Edo (Tokyo) Japan, he would go on to inspire an entire 19th century cultural craze in the decorative arts to collect ‘all things’ Japanese (‘Japoinism’).  This artist inspired Art Nouveau, Impression, and was highly collected by none other than Degas, Gaugin, Klimt, Van Gogh and Manet.  Later in his life, at the age of 70 years, he created one of the most famous images of Art History, titled: ‘Under the wave off Kanagawa’ (Kanagawa oki nami ura) or ‘The Great Wave’ from the series of ‘Thirty-six views of Mount Fuji’ (Fujaka sanjurokkei).

I am of course referring to icon of world art, Katsushika Hokusai. 

The Hokusai prints held at the Abbey are …

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Conservation strategy discussion for Winchester Cathedral stained glass fragments

Stained Glass Studio – Where the Magic Happens

Recently, Michael Strong, the Abbey Museum’s Senior Curator and I headed north to Belli Park to meet with stained glass conservators Gerry Cummins and Jill Stehn. Gerry and Jill have been involved with the Museum’s stained glass conservation program for over ten years now. These two extraordinarily talented artisans have been responsible for the conservation of nearly all of the Museum’s medieval, Victorian and Edwardian stained glass collection.

As you may be aware, in 2017 we completed the conservation of all the stained glass windows housed in the Abbey Church. These windows include medieval panels from Winchester Cathedral and also the mortuary chapel of the Shirley family manor house in Ettington. There is a splendid panel of God the Father, believed to be from the Charter House of St Barbara in Cologne and a very fine Winged Ox and a Winged Lion from Heckenrode Abbey in Belgium. If you would like to have a tour of these beautiful windows the Abbey Museum runs guided tours on Tuesday and Thursday at 11.00 am or for groups …

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Deatil from Sale of Land document from the Abbey Museum Collection

BUY AN OXGANG OF LAND

Imagine walking into a real estate agent’s office and asking to buy an oxgang of land.  You would most likely receive some very strange looks and be sent packing. Or you might just be lucky enough to talk to a real estate agent who knew something about historical land measurements. They would then realise that you were using a unit of measurement that has been in vogue in England and Scotland since the early 16th century and under another name, a bovate, right back to the Vikings.

Medieval Measures

The Domesday Book refers to a bovata, which represents the amount of land which could be ploughed using one ox in a single annual season.  The Latin word for ox is Bos (from which we also get our descriptive word, bovine, meaning slightly slow and stupid).  Thus depending on the abilities of a ploughman, an oxgang could range between  15 and 20 acres.  A furlong (meaning furrow length) was the distance an ox- team could plough without resting. Pulling a plough through the heavy northern soils of the British Isles …

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Abbey Museum's stained glass window St Hilda

Symbols in Art – Clues and Problems

When we explore medieval religious art you could be astonished by the number of objects being held by the figures depicted either in paint or in stained glass windows. Looking at some of the stained glass windows in the Abbey Church there are a number of saints that follow this medieval tradition. They range from serpents to puppy dogs, from skulls to monstrances. Why are they there? What do they mean?

The use of symbols in figurative art began at a time when very few people could read or write, but also when the Church had a huge influence on the population. The introductions of symbols provided an easy form of identification for the onlooker. By incorporating symbols which were well known and associated with saintly men and women, the Church could use the works of art as teaching metaphors for a more spiritual life. These symbols often related to some aspect of the life of the individual depicted which they would have heard many times in sermons from the local bishop or priest. A palm frond told us that …

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Curator of the Abbey Museum

Curator Interview with Michael Strong

Interview with a Curator

This interview was intended to capture a relatable snapshot of Michael Strong’s life, so that every-day South East Queenslanders (or anyone for that matter!) could find out a little about his humble beginnings, his long connection to the Abbey Museum of Art and Archaeology and his contagious joie-de-vie and knowledge which he shares generously with whomever he meets. He met me at the door of his home-office,  located in the quiet, sunny suburb of Sandstone Point, just off Bribie Island. He was clearly not the boss of his white hair, and his eyes, which sometimes had a curious sadness, became animated at random as he reminisced with a slight British inflection on the fascinating story of becoming the Curator of the Abbey Museum. 

We began to speak.

Michael, tell me a little about your life and how you became the Curator of the Abbey Museum:

There was a pause

Ahhh? Where do you want to start? he asked. It’s a very complicated story, he joked.

Michael began…

I guess much of my story parallels …

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Regency at the Abbey Museum

Regency treasures at the Abbey Museum

A fashion plate is an illustration or picture of the latest fashions of the time and were published in women’s journals throughout the Regency era.  The Lady’s Magazine was one such journal and one of the first to include hand-coloured and engraved fashion plates in its publications. First published in 1770 the Lady’s Magazine was one of the leading periodicals of the late eighteenth and early nineteenth century. The magazine included:

short stories and poetry essays praising the ‘female virtues” of decorum and modesty advice for wives and mothers information on fashion (fashion plates) recipes medicinal ‘receipts’ offering cures for illnesses from cramp to ‘hectic fevers’ biographies of famous historical and contemporary figures domestic and foreign news

Although the Abbey Museum does not have full copies of the Lady’s Magazine, it does have an extensive collection of the fashion plates and fans which span 1773 to 1902.

This is known as the Regency era when the Prince Regent (Prince of Wales) ruled the United Kingdom because his father, King …

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Abbey Museum Jewellery

How Ornaments Make us Human

On Saturday 4th August Dr Michelle Langley entertained thirty Museum Friends and their guests with her fascinating presentation on jewellery – “bling” – over the millennia. Dr Langley is the DECRA (Discovery Early Career Researcher Award) Research Fellow at Griffith University; her special area of study is Sulawesi, Timor-Leste and Australia.

Dr Langley’s illustrated presentation described how humans have used personal ornamentation as far back as Neanderthal times and how this could be shown as a manner of differentiating humans from animals. She explained how cave paintings depicted people with various types of ornamentation and how this archaeological evidence provides insights into how some of these ornaments were made.

In addition to the pictorial evidence there is a wealth of recently discovered archaeological evidence of ornamentation found in burials and sites of early human occupation, especially in Indonesia, Timor-Leste and Australia. Analysis of these recent discoveries is showing that the belief in the capacity of our ancestors for language, art, complex technologies and social behaviour only developed after they reached Europe approximately 40,000 years ago is incorrect. …

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Abbey Museum Musketeer stained glass

Musketeer Makeover

After completing the fundraising for the conservation of the medieval and Victorian Stained glass in the Abbey Church and a window of one of the Three Magi above the door to the Abbey Museum, focus has turned to fundraising for the conservation of smaller, but still significant, panels that are currently in the reserve collection.

The first of these is a small but beautifully made panel depicting a Musketeer. This panel dates to the 17th century and probably comes from southern Germany.  I am very happy to announce that funds have now been raised for this window’s conservation. Thank you to everyone who generously donated towards this project or attended one of our special fundraising Trivia Nights dedicated to the stained glass conservation program.

Of course, the most celebrated and romanticised musketeers in history were the famous quartet immortalised by French author Alexandre Dumas whose swashbuckling novel in 1844 was set in the dangerous times for the scheming Cardinal Richelieu and King Louis XIII.

Who were the Musketeers?

Technically, any soldiers armed with …

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Queen Mary of Teck

… But Names Will Never Hurt Me

Many of our modern surnames have their origins in the middle ages. Some names indicate clan or family linage such as all of the Scandinavian and Scottish names ending in son meaning “son of” or those beginning with the Norman French “Fitz” such as Fitzmichael ( Son of Michael).  Scots and Irish Gaelic surnames frequently begin with Mac (son of ) or O’ ( descendant of) are also quite well known examples of the name declaring the family line.

Some relate to the area of a person’s origin e.g. Flemming (from Flanders), Scott, Munster, English etc.  The German and Dutch Von and Van also give a place of origin; though in the case of the German Von it generally means that they owned the place in question e.g. Ulrich von Lichtenstein was the ruler of Lichtenstein.

In the Abbey Museum collection you will notice a few items gifted to JSM Ward from Mary of Teck, who just to complicate matters was born in England and not Teck, which was in  the Kingdom of Württemberg, …

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