|previous article in this issue||next article in this issue|
Document Details :
Title: Een 16de-eeuwse majolicavloer in de kapel van het Hof van Rameyen in Gestel
Subtitle: Deel II: Onderzoeksmethodes en conclusies
Author(s): CAIGNIE, Frans
Journal: Tijdschrift voor Interieurgeschiedenis en Design
Volume: 32 Issue: Date: 2003
A 16th-century Majolica Floor in the Chapel of Rameyen Castle in Gestel
Rameyen Castle is located on the banks of the river Nete in the town of Gestel, part of the municipality of Berlaar, some 10 kilometres from Lier in the Belgian province of Antwerp. The floor of the chapel in this castle is covered with majolica tiles made in 1526-27.
This floor is one of the most important remaining examples of Antwerp majolica. The first description was made by Henri Nicaise, who ascribed the work to an Antwerp atelier between 1527 and 1541, based on material and stylistic elements. In the first three decades of the 16th century, Italian potters in Antwerp produced floors consisting of tiles decorated with single motifs such as stylised plants, arabesques, human figures, animals, birds and rosettes. This decoration was usually painted on square tiles surrounded by hexagonal tiles. The style of the tiles is typical of Italian floors designed for aristocratic dwellings and religious buildings. In the first section of the article, the Rameyen floor is situated within the production of Antwerp majolica in the first half of the 16th century. The case in question is an order for a small chapel in a castle.
The production of these tiles can probably be ascribed to Jan Frans (Jan Francisco de Bresse), who may have worked in Den Salmin the Cammerstrate in Antwerp, the atelier of Guido Andries. The form of the tiles, their integration into the building and the overall decoration of the floor – coat of arms and mottoes – receive an extra layer of meaning through the connection with those who commissioned them. The grotesques are beautifully painted, unique in their composition and reflecting the refined tastes of Jan van Immerseele and Maria de Lannoy, owners of the castle, who as members of the educated bourgeoisie would certainly have been connoisseurs of Italian art.
As part of the general restoration of the castle and its out-buildings, the 440 tiles of the chapel floor were restored at the end of 2000. Since the floor was actually removed at the beginning of 1998, it was possible to study the tiles in detail. Each tile was given a location number in situ, and after the development of a model of the floor, many wrongly positioned tiles were now given their correct location. The second part of the article emphasises the importance, in such research into elements of historic interiors, of gathering as much information as possible and recording it carefully and in detail both as text and image, even if the utility of the exercise is not immediately obvious. For an historic element such as this tile floor, which was only briefly available for study, much of the information disappeared after the tiles had been relayed following the restoration. The possibility for further study of the tiles thus depended completely on the data preserved as text and image.
This is illustrated by an overview of fourteen characteristics of the tiles under consideration. Besides their form and measurements, the edges of the tiles also provide useful information, such as traces of glazing, cut marks and deterioration. The back of the tile reveals the original colour of the fragment as well as cracks in the material. Fingerprints and other impressions made in the still soft clay of the tile, together with identifying marks, sketches and exercises made in glaze on the back all help bring to life the original craftsman and the way in which the product was made.
It is not our intention in this publication to attempt to answer all the questions surrounding these tiles. The characteristics studied each provided new information, about the tile itself, about tile production in the early 16thcentury, and about the specific situation in the castle chapel. The compilation of many different characteristics can lead to the formulation of more general conclusions and hypotheses, supported, of course, by a sufficiently large amount of information.