Once I was a clever boy learning the arts of Oxford... is a quotation from the verses written by Bishop Richard Fleming (c.1385-1431) for his tomb in Lincoln Cathedral. Fleming, the founder of Lincoln College in Oxford, is the subject of my research for a D. Phil., and, like me, a son of the West Riding. I have remarked in the past that I have a deeply meaningful on-going relationship with a dead fifteenth century bishop... it was Fleming who, in effect, enabled me to come to Oxford and to learn its arts, and for that I am immensely grateful.

Wednesday, 8 September 2021

A medieval table fountain

By chance I came across an illustrated article together with a video about the sole surviving medieval table fountain. Now in the Cleveland Museum of Art in Ohio it was probably made in the second quarter of the fourteenth century in Paris. It is thought that it probably comes from the Court of the early Valois Kings of France. 

Records survive as well as some pictures of others of these high status objects which decorated the public rooms of their princely owners.

The structure and detail of the fountain are another reminder of the technical skill and ingenuity of medieval craftsmen and the delightful elegance of the Court culture of those centuries, the age of what is today termed International Gothic.That there was a tradition of producing such elegant goldsmiths work and also a delight in automata we know, but inevitably very few examples survive of such work and in consequence their existence either in the past or today where they do survive is not as well known as it deserves to be.

The article I first saw was produced at the time of the exhibition about it in Cleveland in 2016-17 and can be seen at A One-of-a-Kind Room Fragrancer from Medieval Europe Finally Gets Its Due

A quick trawl of the Internet yielded more online articles about it. The Museum has details of the fountain, together with photographs, on its website at Table Fountain and about the themes of the exhibition at Myth and Mystique: Cleveland’s Gothic Table Fountain

Medieval Histories has an article about the fountain at Cleveland’s Gothic Table Fountain

There is another excellent article about the piece which looks at it in the context of medieval social life and norms at Cleveland Museum of Art solves mysteries of its medieval French table fountain (photos, video)

There is more about the background to the fountain in a review article from the journal Pereginations of the exhibition catalogue which can be found at viewcontent

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