Monthly Archives: September 2012


In pre-modern Europe, the year was once organized by saints’ days, overlaid on key dates in the agricultural year.  Of these days, Michaelmas, coinciding with the harvest and celebrated on the 29th of September, was among the most important, and it still remains relevant on the British academic calendar.  Michaelmas is named for the most powerful of the medieval angels, the archangel Michael, who was a real fighter, fighting Persians, devils and dragons. I’ve always thought he was the best representative of medieval militant Christianity:  he convinced Joan of Arc to take up the mission of ridding France of the English during the Hundred Years’ War, and even after the Reformation he remained a powerful figure in British culture, appearing as the “flaming warrior”  who drives the sinful Adam and Eve out of Paradise and then defends it from all intruders in Milton’s Paradise Lost.

BL MS Harley624 (12th century) ; Michael Burgesse (engraver) after John Baptist Medina, illustration to Book XII of Paradise Lost, (1688); Michael speaking to Joan of Arc in the famous painting by Jules Bastien-Lepage (1879; Metropolitan Museum of Art) and in a Puck adaptation from 1912 featuring Teddy Roosevelt (Library of Congress).

Because Michaelmas coincides with the harvest it became associated with lots of other things:  it was the day that the annual rents were due, as well as a taxes, and the last flowers and fruits of the summer became known as Michaelmas Daisies (asters), and Michaelmas peaches and pears. It was a widespread custom to serve goose on Michaelmas evening, and to avoid blackberries the next day and after:  at that season of the year called Michaelmas, the Devil is said to touch with his club the black-berries, or to “throw his club over them”, none daring after that period to eat one of them, ‘or the worms will eat their ingangs’ (John MacTaggart, The Scottish Gallovidian Encyclopedia: Or, the Original, Antiquated, and Natural Curiosities of the South of Scotland (1824).  There was also a custom involving apples harvested on Michaelmas Day that could forecast the rest of the year:  take oak apples and cut them, and by them you shall know how it shall go that year; spiders shew a naughty year, flies a merry year, maggots a good year, nothing in them portends great death (Lilly’s New Era Pater, or, A Prognostication  for Ever (1750).

Michaelmas Daisies by Jacob Huysum after Elisha Kirkall and John Martyn, 1741, Wellcome Library Images; Michaelmas Pears by Thomas Bensley, Pomona Britannica, 1812; a “Michaelmas goose”, 1840, British Museum.

“English” Houses in Salem

Thankfully, I really do believe that Salem is nearly as well-known for its Federal architecture as its witch trials, but Salem is not just a Federal city. There are a vast variety of architectural styles in evidence around town, and some of the later (post 1870) styles get short shrift, I think. Even for a layman such as myself, Colonial, Federal , Greek Revival, and Gothic Revival structures are fairly easy to identify, but once you get into the myriad Victorian styles, it gets a bit more confusing, and then the amorphous Colonial Revival provides even more confusion. What is “Victorian Eclectic” (all Victorian houses seem rather eclectic to me)?  Are Stick and Shingle houses Victorian or Colonial Revival? Do Craftsman and Arts & Crafts houses fall under the umbrella of Colonial Revival or are they completely different styles?  Or are they the same style?  And where does the Cottage style fit in–there seem to be so many different types of cottages!  I could go on and on with the questions, but until I figure out all the later nineteenth and early twentieth-century styles I just go with my own labels and classifications based on impressions.

That said, there are several houses in Salem which I always think of as English. They have a certain detail, or presence, or situation, that just conjures up England for me, even though they are all (for the most part) wooden, American houses.  I’m really not sure precisely when these houses were built, or for whom:  while downtown pre-1850 houses are quite well-documented in Salem, later houses in more outlying neighborhoods (where most of my English houses are located) do not seem to have (written) histories.  I welcome all estimates of dates and proper styles:  to my untrained eye, they look like a little bit Cottage, a bit Tudor Revival (another easily identifiable style), a bit Shingle, and a bit Arts & Crafts.  Hence my confusion!

South Salem, on the side streets off Lafayette:  a really cute English cottage very near Salem State with lots of neat details, a twin-gabled house, a sprawling two-story Tudor Revival, and two houses, wooden and stucco, that were built on land devastated by the great Salem Fire of 1914 that read “English” to me.

Off the Common:  a very English craftsman cottage, and a house that has a very distinguished, English presence.

All of these houses could probably be labelled Shingle, or perhaps Colonial Revival, and none of them rise to the level of the more strident English country houses built in America after the turn of the last century found in the pages of periodicals like The American Architect and Building News, but I still think of them as old “English” houses in New England.

English-American houses in the American Architect and Building News (1917) and The Pageant of America, Volume 13:  The American Spirit of Architecture (1926).

Variations on Blue and White

I’ve never been a blue person; there is no blue in my house except for my turquoise dining room which I think of as green.  When I went through my transferware phase, I collected red (pink) and white rather than the more attainable blue and white, and in the summer time, when it seems like all of my favorite shelter magazines feature blue and white portfolios, I leaf quickly through.  That said, I have been quite taken by the latest installation of the Peabody Essex Museum”s ongoing “FreePort” exhibitions, through which contemporary artists engage with and respond to the museum’s collections, creating completely new works in the process.  FreePort [No.005]:  Michael Lin takes the traditional blue and white of Chinese export ware and runs with it, as Mr. Lin has emblazoned the armorial and heraldic crests of porcelain produced in China for the European market on the staircase walls and floors of the Museum’s Asian Export galleries.  The effect is modern and baroque at the same time.

And then, as  if these vibrant blue-and white walls and floors were not enough to make us look at plates in a completely different way, Lin also produces a mass of “Mr. Nobodys”, the first Chinese representations of Europeans, with their anonymity enhanced by the massing, and their commercial qualities (we are talking about the Chinese export trade here) enhanced by the fact that you can buy one in the PEM Museum Shop.

For comparison’s sake, another Mr. Nobody from the collection of the Victoria & Albert Museum, London.  This one, however, was produced in England in the later seventeenth century.

The motifs and the figurines are interesting examples of cross-cultural exchange, an important dynamic in world history.  I can’t imagine a better way to (literally) illustrate it.  The Lin installation reminds me of another artistic expression, Blue and White by the Silk Road Ensemble, a multimedia performance that traces the migration of blue-and-white porcelain around the world.

This is a big task, because there are a lot of varieties of Asian-influenced blue and white porcelain and pottery:  delftware, fritware, transferware, just to name a few. Blue and white earthenware is everywhere, crafted in very diverse forms, over many centuries.  Here are two particularly disparate examples:  Iranian rasps in the form of shoes from the eighteenth century, and an image of omnipresent “oriental” planters from Victorian England.  Because I was so inspired by Lin, I tried my hand at my own blue and white Salem fabric design via Spoonflower with limited success:  Samuel McIntire’s sheaths of wheat look a bit too tropical in blue!  Obviously Christopher Dresser’s stenciled ceiling (a nice counterpart for Lin’s walls and floors) is much better.

Fritware and late 19th century songsheet, Victoria & Albert Museum, London; design for a stenciled ceiling, Christopher Dresser, Studies in Design, 1876.

Salem Sketches

It’s been difficult to focus on Salem these past few weeks with so much going on in the historical world:  the potential discovery of King Richard’s skeleton, the raising of a plague ship, a wife for Jesus (or maybe not)!  Then again, I’m not a fan of a parochial perspective; I’ve always felt that the present and the past and places are best viewed in the broadest context possible, so Salem is the world.  That said, occasionally I just want to act like a Victorian antiquarian and stay local. Today, I’ve got some very random sketches of Salem gathered from a variety of sources:  guide books, auction archives, historical societies, old books. Most are very vernacular and commercial, though a few are the works of well-know artists. They’ve been gathering virtual dust in my digital files for a while, so it is time to get them out there.

The sketches appear in chronological order, beginning with two charming drawings by the early nineteenth-century artist Michele Felice Cornè  (1752–1845), a Neapolitan who emigrated to the United States in 1800 and lived in Boston, Salem, and Newport. These drawings date from around 1810, when Cornè was living in Salem, enjoying the patronage of the Derby family. It takes a sketch to reveal little details like the toddler’s bassinet (cage?) below, details that would never appear in one of Cornè’s formal paintings of ships or houses. That’s what I like about sketches, as opposed to more formal compositions:  they give forth a seemingly-casual, and often more intimate, impression of daily life.

Cornè sketches, c. 1810, courtesy Newport Historical Society.

Lots of later nineteenth-century drawings of Salem exist, when both the city and its residents began to market “olde Salem”, first featuring architecture, and then (unfortunately) witchcraft. The sketches in Historical Sketches of the Old Houses of Salem (1870) display a bit of  (sometimes black) humor, as in Six Witches Will be Hung To-Day.  Come One! Come All! and our “Four Fathers”.  The decision to back the Witch City brand had not been made yet, in fact; this early guidebook looks like it is trying to offer up all of Salem’s attractions (including very big chimneys) at the same time.

The accomplished artist Eliza Pratt Greatorex (1819-1897), who was renown for her pen-and-ink sketches of American and European streetscapes, came to Salem to sketch (of course) the “Witch House” (more formally and correctly known as the Jonathan Corwin House) which she portrays as The Last of the Old Witch House.  Little did she know that it would endure as one of the centerpieces of the Witch City.

Eliza Pratt Greatorex, The Last of the Old Witch House, Salem, Massachusetts.  New York Public Library Digital Gallery.

More simplistic (and cheerful) sketches of Salem are in Lydia Louise Very’s Old Fashioned-Garden (1900) and What to See in Salem (1915), both published by the Salem Press Company. Very was part of the very interesting Very family of Salem, and sister of the transcendental poet Jones Very, for whom she cared during his long struggle with mental illness. Moving forward into the twentieth century, there is a pen-and-ink sketch of Chestnut Street that was published in several national newspapers in 1930.

No witches:  sketched views of Salem in 1900, 1915 & 1930.

Sketching continues, it just takes different forms in the present, like these characters from the new Salem video game by Ten Ton Hammer, featuring : Puritans, Permadeath, and Open PvP in a Fantastical New England. These guys remind me a bit of the “four fathers” of past sketches.

No Poe?

The Library of Congress is currently running an exhibition (both digital and material) entitled Books That Shaped America as part of their multiyear “Celebration of the Book”.  There are 88 books in all, and the list is intended to provoke reading, thought, discussion, and additions:  According to the Librarian of Congress, James H. Billington, it is a “starting point… intended to spark a national conversation on books written by Americans that have influenced our lives, whether they appear on this initial list or not.” To contribute to this conversation, you can take a survey on the site. I have found myself thinking about the list quite a bit over the last week or so, and every time I make a mental case on why a certain book should be (or should not be) on the list I go to the exhibit website and read the Library’s rationale.

The books include classic examples of both nonfiction and fiction:  the former category includes several works of grammar, cookbooks, scientific books, and quite a few works which call for social reform, pretty understandable given the list’s focus on impact, influence, identity. There are several early primers, but twentieth-century textbooks do not make the grade.  Amelia Simmons’ American Cookery (1796) is on the list, along with Irma Rombauer’s Joy of Cooking (1931), but not Fannie Farmer’s Boston Cooking-School Cookbook (the first to use standardized measurements) or Julia Child’s The French Chef Cookbook (which really revolutionized the American palate, in my understanding).

A history of how-to:  The New England Primer (1802), The American Woman’s Home by Catharine Beecher and Harriet Beecher Stowe (1869) and Dale Carnegie’s incredibly influential How to Win Friends and Influence People (1936).

The fiction works seem more predictable:  lots of New England authors, I must say, including Salem’s own Nathaniel Hawthorne, Thoreau, Melville, Alcott, Dickinson.  Washington Irving is on the list, as is, of course, Mark Twain.  All the expected southern authors (with the exception of Flannery O’Connor) are included, and many major twentieth-century texts, from The Jungle to In Cold Blood.  The list also includes classic children’s books, including  The Wonderful Wizard of Oz (1900), Good Night Moon (1947), and Where the Wild Things Are (1973).

Forceful Fiction:  Washington Irving’s Legend of Sleepy Hollow (1820), L. Frank Baum’s Wonderful Wizard of Oz (1900), and J.D. Salinger’s Catcher in the Rye (1951).

Actually, I think that children’s literature is a bit over-represented as compared to other genres.  And I know I’m biased, but history seems under-represented, as well as economics (Sandburg’s Lincoln? Milton Friedman?).  As for fiction, I think I’ve figured out why works by James Fenimore Cooper and Edith Wharton were not included but why no Poe?  Certainly The Raven must be put on the list, at the very least.

Antonio Frasconi illustration for/of The Raven, 1959, in the current exhibition at the Brandywine River Museum: Picturing Poe: Illustrations for Edgar Allen Poe’s Stories and Poems.

Peine forte et dure

Hard and severe Punishment, intended to compel an individual to enter a plea in a legal proceeding in which they had no confidence, or hope: the precedent in the English Common Law that entitled the Court of Oyer and Terminer to crush Giles Gorey to death under a pile of stones on September 19, 1692 for “standing mute”.  For those who take the remembrance and commemoration of the Salem Witch Trials seriously, the next few days are the dark crescendo of the hysteria, escalating toward the execution of the last eight victims on September 22. I wrote about these days in a series of posts last year, so I’m not going to repeat myself, but I did want to explore the history of peine forte et dure a bit more:  Corey’s miserable experience was a singular application of the precedent in American history, but it was a relatively rare infliction in English history as well.

Samuel Clarke,  A Generall Martyrologie (London, 1651).

Peine forte et dure is a late Medieval “innovation” in the English Common Law, first employed in the reign of Henry VI (1421-71).  English courts had always demanded that the accused enter a plea, but it was generally imprisonment and/or starvation that was used to compel submission. The first recorded use of the peine was on a woman, Juliana Quick, who was accused of High Treason because of her malicious slander of Henry–a king who did not command a great deal of respect among his subjects given his sporadic bouts of insanity.  Quick’s comments, ending with thou art a fool, and a known fool throughout the kingdom of England  must have stood out among the throng. Quick died in 1444, and by a century or so later the process was standardized:  the prisoner was stretched on his or her back, and stone or iron weights were placed on the body until the point of submission or death. The next recorded application of the peine also involved a woman, the “Martyr of York” Margeret Clitherow, who failed to enter a plea to protect her Catholic household in 1586. Queen Elizabeth personally apologized to the citizens of York for her torture and execution.

In the seventeenth century, Peine forte et dure was only applied in cases of murder, and more specifically in cases of the murder of family members. There were two very conspicuous cases, both of which were publicized in pamphlets:  William Calverley, a very troubled member of the Yorkshire gentry, was pressed to death in 1605 for failing to enter a plea after murdering his two young children and attempting to murder his wife and a third child, and Major George Strangways died under duress after refusing to plead on charges of murdering his brother-in-law in 1658.  Calverley’s case seems to have almost immediately caught the public’s attention and we have two competing narratives–that of a deranged madman and that of a man driven to extreme measures by the miseries of an enforced marriage.  The Calverley case might even be the source of A Yorkshire Tragedy, an early seventeenth-century play that was once attributed to Shakespeare but is now thought to be the work of Thomas Middleton.


Covers and illustration from three 17th century pamphlets inspired by the Calverley case:  Two most unnatural and bloody murders, The Miseries of enforced marriage, and A Yorkshire Tragedy. Note the cloven foot in the first pamphlet:  the devil made him do it.  As you can see, the tabloid press is not an invention of the twentieth century!

Colonel George Strangways was a more heroic character; he claimed to have been saving his sister from her up-to-no-good lawyer husband, who was attempting to steal her fortune.  One of his motivations for refusing to enter a plea was the fear that his family estate would be confiscated if found guilty of murder.  The judge ordered the application of peine forte et dure, and Strangways suffered for so long that the witnesses to his torture felt compelled to add their own weight and thus bring about a speedier, and more merciful, death. “Pain” was used as a threat over the next century, but applied in only a few cases, including, of course, Giles Corey in Salem and several notorious highwaymen in the early eighteenth century. In 1772, “the act being barbarous to Englishmen”, it was abolished.

The Unhappy Marksman, London, 1659.

Digging up the Past

All good historians, especially those who focus on the pre-modern era, know that much of history is behind a closed door which we cannot crack.  But occasionally someone comes along, usually a nice archivist or archeologist, who opens it up for us.  This week two stories which demonstrate this occurrence very well caught my attention–actually one has been holding it for a while.  So it is time to report.

King Richards Body:

The Battle of Bosworth (1485) marked the end of the life and reign of Richard III, the last of the Plantagenet dynasty as well as the last English king to be killed in battle. At his death, Richard’s reputation was already tarnished, but it would become even more so due to the energetic efforts of a sophisticated Tudor propaganda campaign, which employed the able pens of Sir Thomas More and William Shakespeare, among others.  Richard’s vanquisher and successor, Henry VII, did not want to create a shrine for Richard but he also made plans to give him an appropriate, though quiet, royal funeral. Richard’s body was taken to Leicester and put on public display after Bosworth, and then buried rather secretly in the church of Grey Friars Friary, which was destroyed a half-century later during the forcible dissolution of England’s monasteries by Henry VIII.  The burial site of the last Plantagenet was forgotten over the ensuing centuries, until just last week when a team of University of Leicester archeologists dug up the corpse of fifteenth-century man who suffered battle blows similar to Richard’s experience, and who possessed a slightly-curved spine (there were gasps when this was announced) but was clearly not the “crookback” or hunchback of Tudor narratives. If the DNA testing proves conclusive, the royal body was enshrined beneath a city centre parking lot.

King Richard III and Queen Anne during their brief reign; the great 18th century actor David Garrick in the big scene from Shakespeare’s Richard III, c. 1800 (courtesy British Museum) the excavation site in Leicester, and the press conference announcing the discovery of the skeleton, just last week (courtesy University of Leicester).

The Plague Ship:

The last major outbreak of the bubonic plague in the west occurred in Marseilles, France in 1720, when the epidemic was brought to Europe by a merchant ship named the Grand SaintAntoine on its return journey from the infected and infectious Middle East. Its passengers were allowed to disembark before authorities ordered its burning, and the process took several days, during which the disease spread to the city and its environs, eventually killing over 120,000 people. Just last week, and just as the possible skeleton of a king was being raised to the light, the ship was raised from its watery grave.

1720 print of the Plague of Marseilles by Jacques Rigaud (courtesy British Museum); a plague doctor in Marseilles (1721 engraving by Johann Melchior Füssli,Wellcome Images); and the raised anchor of the Grand Saint-Antoine last week (BORIS HORVAT/AFP/Getty Images).

So nice to see crowds observing the raised anchor in this last picture: there were crowds looking at the trenches in Leicester last week as well.  That’s the thing about archeology:  objects (and bones!) generally capture the public’s historical interest far more often than dry dusty texts.  For me, there is just nothing better than seeing people in the present captivated by people in the past.

Another Cartophilic Collection

I’ve posted on trade cards several times, and they remain a form of ephemera that I casually collect. It seems to me that these early business cards are among the least ephemeral of ephemera–so many survive.  And most of them are the standardized children/animals/flowers variety.  So I’m pretty picky:  my collection is full of Salem items, cards with unusual shapes, cards that advertise Sarsaparilla (for some reason, a new interest of mine; when sold as a medicinal tonic at the end of the nineteenth century it contained something like 18% alcohol) and apothecaries in general, and those put out by the home furnishings trades. Occasionally odd images catch my fancy, and I don’t care what they are selling. I really prefer the earliest trade cards, issued in western Europe in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, but I could never afford them and most of them are in rare book libraries anyway. It’s been a while since I featured any trade cards, so I thought that I’d showcase my most recent finds.

First, some Salem cards. Frank Cousins was an amazing photographer/entrepreneur who did much to capture and sell Salem a century ago:  the cards for his Essex Street shop, the Bee-Hive, were often issued in interesting shapes.  I always go for any view of the wharves and great examples of typography, and I love the font on Mr. Goodwillie’s card. The last card, presenting a western image of Chinese workers, is extremely interesting:  “others”, particularly Chinese, often appear on late nineteenth-century trade cards, and almost always in a stereotypical, racist and/or jingoistic way.  I’m not sure what’s going on with this card, issued by a Salem pharmacist; most likely it is part of a series.

As you can see, A.A. Smith is offering “petroleum remedies”:  even more unusual is the”magnetized food” on sale at a Brooklyn pharmacy.  I’ve included the back of the card so you can see the pitch:  using children to appeal to their mothers, obviously an age-old practice.  And then there are two cards issued by the Charles I. Hood Company of Lowell, Massachusetts, the leading manufacturer of the equally healthy Sarsaparilla.

Magnetized Food” trade card from the Library Company of Philadelphia Digital Exhibit: Nineteenth-Century Pharmacists’ Trade Cards from the William H. Helfand Collection.

I thought I was familiar with all the digital databases of works on paper but just recently I found the online collection of the Rothschild family’s Waddesdon Manor, which includes over 700 trade cards from the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. This is an amazing resource for all sorts of things. The Rothschilds were probably the greatest collectors of the nineteenth century, and I was surprised to see so many humble trade cards among their more luxurious acquisitions, but apparently Ferdinand von Rothschild, the builder of Waddesdon, was interested in every aspect of French life and culture in the eighteenth century. Here are three late-seventeenth-century cards from his collection, with which urban outfitters offered their services and wares:  the first one is from a hat-maker, the second from a vestment-maker, and the last one from a furrier. Mere slips of paper that survived all these many years.

Millinery Marvels

Look at these hats!  And fair warning:  the last one is a little racy. Besides the re-dedication of the Witch Trials Memorial ceremony, the other big Salem event of this past weekend was the opening of Hats: An Anthology by Stephen Jones  at the Peabody Essex Museum.  The exhibition features over 250 hats from the last millennium (although most were fairly modern), chosen by Jones in collaboration with the curators at the Victoria & Albert Museum in London, where the exhibition was first on view a couple of years ago.  The hats, sourced from Jones’ own workshop, private collections, and the Victoria & Albert, are showcased in an innovative and interactive way that emphasizes not only the objects but also hat-making and hat-wearing. Every time the PEM ventures into the fashion realm–from shoes to wedding dresses to the celebrated closet of Iris Apfel–there are crowds, and I’m sure this exhibition will be extremely popular as hats are immediately accessible. As Stephen Jones says, “With hats, what you see is what you get.”

I went to the exhibition preview late last week and snapped some photographs, but many of them came out murky or flashy so I’m supplementing this preview with images from the Victoria & Albert collection for the sake of clarity: details are very important with hats!

Philip Treacy hat (1995) in Salem and the V & A image.

A display from the Salem exhibition,  a straw hat by Madame Suzy (1937) and Jo Gordon’s “Kiss of Death” hat (1994).

A mock-up of a milliner’s workshop.

In addition to these hats, there was a Tudor cap, a leather Jester’s hat, several Schiaparelli “shoe hats”, baroque nightcaps, bonnets, fascinators, helmets, and avante garde creations of all kinds, including the x-rated example below: Kirsten Woodward’s aptly-titled Sex on the Brain (1996).  Pretty intricate–and intimate.

And pictured below is the master millinery among his hats, from the companion volume to the exhibition, also called Hats:  an Anthology by Stephen Jones (with Oriole Cullen,V & A Publishing, 2009).

Two Memorials

This weekend the Salem Witch Trials Memorial was rededicated, 20 years after its installation and after a year of renovation and fortification by its original mason.  The Memorial remains the only Witch-trial-related initiative that I can bear in Salem, and the ceremony marking its re-dedication was, for the most part, simple and respectful, just like the Memorial itself.  Descendants of the 20 victims were present, and they placed flowers and rosemary (for remembrance) on their ancestors’ symbolic “graves”, granite benches marked with their names and dates of death built into an encompassing granite dry wall. As you enter the green rectangular courtyard that is the Memorial, surrounded by the colonial gravestones of the Old Burying Point outside of its perimeter, you can read the victims’ protestations of innocence, which are carved on paving stones.  Just like the actual words that were uttered, they are cut off , by the Memorial walls.

Exterior and interior views of the Salem Witch Trials Memorial, designed by James Cutler and Maggie Williams and built by Hayden Hillsgrove; the descendants of the victims of 1692 stand by their ancestors’ markers; John Willard’s marker/bench.

The Witch Trials Memorial is successful because it is so strikingly simple in its understatement:  it does not tell us how to feel.  The victims speak for themselves, until they are cut off.  Unfortunately, the proclaimed mission and attendant speeches associated with the Memorial and the other official commemorative initiative, the Salem Award, attempt to impose a redemptive lesson about tolerance which I believe diminishes the historical tragedy of 1692. If you emphasize the ideal of tolerance above everything else, the presupposition is that the accusers of 1692 were not tolerant of the victims’ aberrant belief systemwhen there is no historical evidence that the latter were practicing witchcraft. It is always difficult to reconcile the past and the present and not lose sight of one or the other.

Just last summer, an equally evocative memorial to the victims of another seventeenth-century series of witch trials, the Vardø trials in the Finnmark region of northeastern Norway, opened to the public. As with the Salem installation, the Steilneset Memorial is a collaboration between an architect and an artist: Swiss architect Peter Zumthor and the late French-born artist Louise Bourgeois.  The Vardø trials, which occurred in two distinct phases in the dead of the Arctic winter (in 1621 and 1662-63), resulted in the execution of 91 people for the crime of sorcery. Zumthor’s two-structure memorial is a far more elaborate construction than Salem’s, but still absolutely austere. The architecture and the art represent both the individual victims and the collective tragedy, via one illuminated window for each of the victims in the long gallery building and a perpetually-burning chair in the “cube” structure next door. Like the Salem Memorial, Steilneset focuses completely on people, and lets its viewers draw life lessons.

The Steilneset Memorial in summer and winter, overlooking the Barents Sea, and the last creation of Louise Bourgeois,  “The Damned, The Possessed and The Beloved”.  Photographs by Bjarne Riesto.

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