Treasures of the Black Death -Review

Treasures of the Black Death Ed. by Christine Descatoire

 

I’m very excited by this book. Treasures of the Black Death is finally available somewhere other than the physical Wallace Collection Museum. (Which is an excellent museum and well worth going to)

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Treasures of the Black Death is a collection from two hoards found at Colmar and Erfurt. What makes it unique is that they are hoards buried by Jews fleeing persecution during the Black Death (coins in the finds have dated it to 1349). Many of the surviving pieces of jewellery are religious in nature and this collection shows some of the surviving secular pieces of the time. It also has photos of Jewish jewellery, such as the Jewish wedding ring used as the cover photo.

The test is a bit dry for my taste in places – there’s a lot of text on the history of the Black Death, on the history of the artifacts found, and on scientific analysis on the metal make up of the pieces. I’m mostly interested in jewellery books for the prettiness, but if the analysis of the metal used and detailed descriptions of how the finds were likely made .
But it also has some beautiful photos of the artifacts and some very detailed descriptions which is good for anyone interested in 14th jewellery and silver work.

 

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In the middle of the 14th century, Europe was devastated by an appalling epidemic which killed a third of its population. Accused of having spread the disease, Jewish communities faced terrible persecutions, which often led them to bury their most valuable goods. Two of these hoards, discovered at Colmar in 1863 and at Erfurt in 1998, are discussed and illustrated here. Comprising a great variety of jewelry, gold- and silversmiths’ work, and coins, these two hoards constitute an exceptional source for the study of secular metalwork in the 13th and 14th centuries, very few examples of which have otherwise come down to us. They provide precious evidence of the economic activities and daily life of the medieval Jewish communities, but also of their precarious position within Christian Europe. In Erfurt over 1,000 people were killed, the entire Jewish population. Some of the objects, because of their very personal character, are deeply poignant.

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