November Miscellany

Graffiti in Paintings

We have come across a small handful of 17th and 16th century paintings showing graffiti.

This picture, Interior of the Buukerk at Utrecht (1644) by Peter Saenredam actually shows graffiti being painted. If you focus on the bottom right of the picture (which hangs in the National Gallery in London) you can see a figure painting on the wall. Beside that figure is a drawing of a horse with four riders from a 14th century French tale.

From the 16th century Low Countries is a painting titled A Merry Company (c1530) by Jan van Hemmessen. Informal inscriptions and symbols can clearly be seen on the walls. A closer look at some of the graffiti shows that it was on the rude side!

There is also a painting of a Bordello Scene (1540-1550) by the Brunswick Monogrammist. As in a Merry Company, there are clear lines of text, tally marks and symbols on the walls and fireplace.

For more see: Fleming, Juliet. “Wounded walls: Graffiti, grammatology, and the age of Shakespeare.” Criticism 39.1 (1997): 1-30.

Graffiti Surveys

Members of the new Devon Historic Graffiti Survey Group at St Swithun, Woodbury

Following several months of discussion, Devon Archaeological Society has adopted the Historic Graffiti recording project submitted by Pru Manning, and the inaugural meeting and first training session was held on Saturday 24 November at Woodbury church in East Devon.

An enthusiastic and well-informed group, some with churches already in mind for their first recording projects, assembled on a drizzly afternoon to hear a brief talk about graffiti in churches. This was followed by an introduction to the recording forms, and an examination of the known graffiti in this particular church, with tips on how to light and photograph it successfully. Cameras and lights were compared and contrasted as members exchanged information on effective techniques. A happy and lively afternoon concluded with a general search for graffiti around the building.

Anyone interested in joining the Devon Group should contact Pru Manning at: [email protected]

Report and photo by Rebecca Ireland.

Items of interest

German Graffiti in a nunnery in Westphalia.
Some graffiti in the heights of Beverley Minster.