Previously published on intrenationalroutier,wordpress.com on March 21, 2011
For those of you feeling the urge to do some reproduction 17th century graffiti, here’s some tips and original examples.
There are a number of reasons why our forebears felt compelled to commit their carvings to posterity.
- To denote ownership of an object, for example, how to you show that a mass-produced turned bowl is yours?
This wooden tankard from the Mary Rose has an owner’s mark on the lid, others have them on the base. The use of symbols was particularly important in a pre-literate world. 1545.
Photo by the Reverend, Mary Rose Museum.
- To record an event for posterity – the equivalent of “Jonno waz ‘ere, 1976″. This is particularly common in association with the Grand Tour, where wealthy young men would tour Europe and sometimes Asia, catch “interesting” diseases and scrawl their name on monuments before returing to England and taking their proper place in society.
Wall Graffiti in St Alban’s Cathedral. Charles Clarke appears to have either visited twice, or decided to expand on the simple C C in 1613.
Photo by the Reverend
- Piety, shown in wall scratchings in an age before cheap ecclesiastical junk mail, and including defacing statues and windows in churches.
The Interior of the Buurkerk at Utrecht (detail), 1644, Pieter Saenredam. Photograph: The National Gallery.
The sketch depicts the Four Sons of Aymon escaping on a magic horse after one of them killed Charlemagne’s nephew, the act was a subersive way of redecorating the inside of a church recently whitewashed by the protestant reformation, or possibly an irristable urge when presented with a large, fresh white surface.
Political discourse or parody, sometimes on a grand scale. cf. The Rude Man at Cerne Abbas.
Boredom or lack or other art materials.
- Or a combination of the above – for example religous prisoners in the Tower
So have fun customising your item, wall, toilet, church or hillside, but make sure you get the design and letter forms right for the period.