It can happen so quickly: an object slips from your hand, and you are left with a missing handle, a cracked pot, or simply a pile of shards. This is what a phrase on a jug from Alsace or southwestern Germany from 1734 warns of: “If you make me jump on a stone, my shards will make a tone.”
The jug in question is intact but this doesn’t apply to other exhibits in the exhibition: they are damaged, mended, or otherwise imperfect. You have statues without arms, heads without bodies, and pots with visible seams – signs of repair, sometimes done artfully, at others pragmatically.
Despite this, or precisely for this reason, they are now in the limelight, for they are of special significance and bear witness to distinct cultural, social, or religious practices. They embody history, knowledge, and skill. In Japan, for instance, a restored teapot is considered fine art, and gilded accordingly, literally.
The power of combining
When single pieces are joined together, something new with great potential can emerge from them. The exhibition reveals the power of combining, with the help of numerous textiles, figures, and relics.
Sewing together pieces of fabric can result in beautiful cloths, blankets or carnival costumes, either by chance or by design. Garments may acquire special significance, become symbols of power, prestige, and dignity.
Appliqués on garments, made of either metal, cloth, or animal products, lend the clothes or the people wearing them special powers, for instance, to ward off sickness or to celebrate a successful hunt. Substances inserted in wooden figures helps them to protect people from accidents or other adverse influences.
Dealing with fragments, fractures, missing pieces, and damaged patches is daily routine for our team of conservators. A walk-in workshop in the exhibition provides a chance to watch them at work.
The exhibition “Fragments” comes with an accompanying publication in German and English, available at the museum shop or in bookstores.
ISBN 978-3-7757-5306-7 (German)
ISBN 978-3-7757-5307-4 (English)