Wednesday, December 14, 2005

The Goose is Loose

"When the fox preaches, beware our geese." -- English Proverb

When I mentioned my "rabbit rosary" post, Who Knew?, on the Paternosters mailing list, a few more animals with rosaries came to light.

Specifically, I now have two examples of geese bearing rosaries.

The first -- which my friend Heather Rose Jones pointed out to me -- is of the classic proverb illustration, a fox in a monk's cowl, preaching to a congregation of geese.


This is an impression from a 15th-century cookie mold from Bonn, Germany (see Comments for footnote). Cookie molds are a recognized, though not very well studied, form of folk art from late medieval Germany, and provide a wealth of Biblical, humorous and proverbial imagery.

You can see the fox, up in his pulpit, who has already collected two geese -- you can see the heads sticking out of his hood. Yet his congregation of pious geese are still listening to him. You can tell how pious they are because they are all carrying rosaries in their bills.

(Personally, I would find it somewhat difficult to recite the rosary -- or anything else -- while carrying a string of beads in my mouth. Demosthenes practicing his oratory with pebbles in his mouth comes to mind. But then, these are clearly allegorical geese, so it's all right. Allegories, like dreams and visions, do not have to make sense.)

The second was contributed by Katherine Barich, who very kindly scanned and posted it for the mailing list:

Goose with beads

This is also German, by Albert Glockendon from the 1535 Brevarium Horae Divinae, a Book of Hours now in the Nurnberg State Library.

Like the previous example, this goose (and her following fox) are also a satire on clergy who "prey" on their congregations. But in this case the goose is also poking fun at fashionably dressed women, who carry rosaries more as a display of wealth than as a true reflection of their devotion. The goose is not only carrying the type of large, rather ostentatious an expensive rosary that we've seen in Big, Red, and German and Big Berthas, she's also wearing the very fashionable "bundlein" headdress, which you can see on a real human in the Herlein Friedrich painting in Sunday's post on "wallpaper."

Perhaps I should have saved these postings for next April 1st, but they were just too cute and I had to share them!