S. Worthen (owlfish) wrote,
S. Worthen

A Temperate Gift

I have never seen anything so wonderfully appropriate for me as this: a box decorated for me by my fellow scholar in Temperance studies, suffisaunce. It is lovely and vivid, colorful and cheerful, and full of relevant iconographic richness. I love it so much! Thank you!

Consider the top panel, shown above. I'm quite certain that's me pictured there, in the guise of a personification of Temperance, identified by red hair and crowned with the laurels of graduation. She cleverly uses letters to distinguish the cardinal virtues, with the T for Temperance labeling the central figure, and F (Fortitude), J (Justice), and P (Prudence) hovering around. The windmill on one side and the mask-like glasses on the other are two of Temperance's attributes. Just below the glasses is what is either a sundial or a face; if it's a sundial, it's standing in for all the varied timepieces which are also used as her attributes. If it's a face, it's one of four on the front of the box, either the other cardinal virtues or perhaps Temperance's dependent virtues.

But the top is just the beginning. The bottom side of the box shows Temperance again, this time regulating clocks. (Admire the large mechanical clock off to the left.) Here, her T is both label and hammer, as if to help regulate the ringing of the clock's bells. The image is based on an illustration from Henry Suso's Horologium Sapientiae, a popular fifteenth-century devotional text which includes the oldest known image of a chamber clock. The subsequent rare conflation of Wisdom with Temperance and the consistency with which timepieces were used to represent only Temperance among the virtues is what makes this an important image for temperance studies. The rod-like objects held in her left hand may be reins or a bell-pull, or possibly (though less likely) even a scourge, an attribute of teachers at the time. The flame may represent love of God, indicative of the presence of the Holy Spirit in the Horologium Sapientiae image. Here, Temperance is either wearing a black cap, as indicated by its geometrical structure or - in the interpretation I prefer - it's actually very orderly black hair on her head, and thus an image of suffisaunce herself.

Relevant decorations complete the sides of the box.

Tags: academia, temperance

  • Nutcracker

    We had tickets today to go see the Nutcracker, the English National Ballet at the London Coliseum. Back in December, in preparation, we checked out…

  • The erasure of older female characters

    Older women rarely get to be protagonists, or otherwise portray as complex and interesting characters. That's a reason why there was a moderate…

  • I'm a little tea pot

    I realized yesterday that none of the local baby/toddler song groups I've been going to for the last several years has done "I'm a little teapot."…

  • Post a new comment


    default userpic

    Your reply will be screened

    Your IP address will be recorded 

    When you submit the form an invisible reCAPTCHA check will be performed.
    You must follow the Privacy Policy and Google Terms of use.