A Craft Linking Thought, Knowledge and Action

'Deduction' (Bruges, 1467-1468), University of Cambridge Nn.3.2

‘Deduction’ (Bruges, 1467-1468), University of Cambridge Nn.3.2

Sometime between 1463-1464 George Chastellain, Jean de Montferrant and Jean Robertet exchanged poems and epistles that eventually became a manuscript titled, ‘Les Douze Dames de Rhétorique’ (The Twelve Ladies of Rhetoric). Each branch of rhetoric features a poem and the image of a women symbolizing the branch.

The women symbolizing Deduction is shown in a carpenter’s workshop and in the background is a construction site. With her hair covered and wearing an apron Deduction is dressed as a women that would be found helping out in the family workshop. In her role of explaining her branch of rhetoric and the scene in which she is set, she points to her head with one hand while holding a set of tools (square, dividers, plumb) in the other hand.

In her poem she explains: “Without a doubt I arrive late and I am slow to speak to merit an important place in this august assemblage. But, I am relevant, I function and I am quite useful for the completion of any beautiful work. Once it is assembled, one must give it a title because the more a work stands out for its rich materials and beautiful apperance, the more I apply a prudent hand to bring it glory and title.”

The books and tools in the workshop show the combination of thought and knowledge used by the master carpenter to develop and draw the building designs. In the background we see the carpenter’s knowledge and experience turned into the action of constructing several buildings. In this small illustration the craft of the carpenter is a perfect example of applying reasoning and knowlege (gained through experience or consultation) to solve a problem or to attain a specific result.

Now, consider the design and making of the staked chair in the ‘Anarchist’s Design Book’. Illustrations and actual pieces of staked furniture were studied. Experiments with the joint were made. Past chairmaking experience was used to develop designs. Models were constructed to adjust leg angles and test stability. Prototypes were built to work out any flaws. Thought, knowledge and action and the maker has a chair that will last for generations.

Of the many images of woodworking workshops I have found ‘Deduction’ is one of my favorites.

Below are two more versions of ‘Deduction’ probably copied from the one above. The tools in hand and other details are a bit different. Also, one of the authors had himself painted with the twelve ladies.

Suzanne Ellison

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11 Responses to A Craft Linking Thought, Knowledge and Action

  1. kenmorgan says:

    Is there an English translation?

    • saucyindexer says:

      I have not found an English version available online or in an archive. The original manuscript is in Latin and Old French with only five copies known to exist, limiting the possibilty of translation to English.

  2. tsstahl says:

    “one of the authors had himself painted with the twelve ladies.”

    Well played, long dead Sir, well played. 🙂

  3. Eric R says:

    Really like the stuff you write S.I.
    Great work.

  4. Farmer Greg says:

    So very cool. The furniture is also very interesting, especially how the trestles under the table are configured. And I am curious what the flowers scattered on its top signify. Thanks for sharing all this with us.

    • saucyindexer says:

      All of the other ladies in the book are either in an outdoor setting surrounded by nature or are in a room with scenes of nature in the background. I think the flowers on the bench are to bring nature into the setting as the construction in the background is manmade and devoid of trees and plants.

  5. Paul Murphy says:

    Interesting to see that the panels on the lower left are riven. The artist has captured the detail of medullary rays. Some of the other wood has this as well, but the panels show it best.

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