Stained glass designed and executed by Dirck Vellert (fig. 1) features in a new exhibition at the Met, running until June 23rd, 2019, that aims to transform perceptions of Northern Renaissance art. The collection of 63 carefully-selected works dating from the sixteenth century illustrate that art was appreciated, accessed and obtained across the entire social spectrum during this period, from high-born to low, in both civil and religious spheres. Spanning exquisitely expensive tapestries and gold ware, through to simple salt-glazed stoneware, the items are presented on stark metal screens and in simple plexiglass boxes, like those used in modern cold-storage facilities. The aim: rather than transporting the viewer back in time to a distant (alien) past, the objects are brought forward to the present day.
To help illustrate the original market value of the art, Elizabeth Cleland, the exhibition’s associate curator, calculated the cost of each piece in terms of a European-wide stable metric of the time: one milking cow. Next to each work, a note is made of how many milking cows it was worth. Vellert’s panel, at 12 cows, finds a place around the centre of the cost spectrum, between, at one end, a fine tapestry of St Veronica, for example, valued at 52 cows, and a light-hearted, German Bottoms-Up stoneware cup, available for the bargain price of the equivalent of 1/8 of a cow!
For more information about the exhibition, and the thoughts behind its presentation, see the Mets Curator Conversation: Seeing the Northern Renaissance through Contemporary Eyes: https://www.metmuseum.org/blogs/now-at-the-met/2017/relative-values-elizabeth-cleland-curator-conversation.