Sunday, February 28, 2010

Rothenburg's Kriminalmuseum and Munich's Altes Pinakothek

In a small town called Rothenburg we visited a Museum of Crime and Punishment. There were, of course, a number of torture devices that were pretty harrowing (lots of good ideas here for Dick Cheney), but most interesting was the collection of iron masks made to be worn by criminal offenders while chained to a pillory in a public square. The masks were surely heavy and painful to wear, but the main idea was to humiliate the person, to make them a caricature of their crime.
They were making sculptures of Christopher Forgues' drawings in Germany centuries before he was born:
There were a few executioner's masks.

In the commentary it was written that the purpose of the mask was less to conceal the identity of the ax man, and more to protect him from the "evil eye" and from being cursed by his victim. This was apparently enough of a concern that it was common practice for the executioner to ask his victim's forgiveness before cutting his head off.
Also on display were a lot of old law books and large collections of old coins with interesting and occasionally surreal imagery (note the one below featuring the disembodied, blessing hand of god rising out of the waves, presided over above by the thunderbolt-wielding eagle of the state).

Here are a few images from the Alte Pinakothek (old art museum) in Munich. Beautiful, meticulous, attentive and quietly bizarre depictions of saints and their symbols in their little jewel-like Northern European landscapes. I just can't get enough of this stuff.

Lastly, here are two figures from an Altarpiece by Albrecht Durer. These are pretty famous, I guess, but rightly so. To my eye Durer is wildly inconsistent. He made piles of amazing, evocative, almost insanely detailed and highly rendered drawings and paintings...and he also made a ton of super awkward and clunky work. But these are great. If you're in Munich, they are worth the trip to the museum.