I have another site that I built a few years ago and it’s all about Court Swords. I’ve been feeling for a while now that it is connected in some way to this art site. But I couldn’t think why I might feel that way. I now think it’s connected by what we value.
Swords have been valued as a weapon and an equalizer. A small man (or woman) can practice with a sword until they are the equal of anyone. You can make the same argument about a gun but guns are crass in comparison. Swords can be beautiful in their own right but often owners (when they had the money) embellished them with wonderful art. Court swords were carried by nobles in a royal court; they had money and they needed a pretty sword. Many of these aren’t really usable as weapons but they did serve as status symbols. A painting can serve the same function.
If you own a painting by a great artist then you can brag about it to your friends. You need an established expert who can tell everyone that it is great art and, of course you need a great deal of money. A sword would be equivalent to contemporary art; you just need a fair bit of money. The advantage of a sword is that you can take it with you wherever you go. At least you could in the 18th and 19th century. Police now might be a little suspicious. Bragging rights required one to spend as much money as possible on the sword. Depending on how much you had this could include precious stones and all manner of incredible engraving. The sword could be considered male jewellery assuming it wasn’t needed it as a weapon. Court swords usually weren’t much use as a weapon. Aith art you need a house to put it in. A small price to pay given that royal courts are now rather passé. In Vancouver of course you need to be a queen to own a house.
It’s interesting that now for a relatively small amount of money you can own art that you like, put it in your home and brag about it. Technology has changed our values. Interesting cars are much less money now than a few years ago. There are still some very exotic and expensive cars but most of us are not in that league. Art is the same, you can now own good art very inexpensively. You can still pay exorbitant amounts for it but art is in many ways the great equalizer. It’s now possible to own art that in the recent past would have been impossible for most of us.
Where does this urge to apply art to everything come from? It is prevalent in every human society so far. Art was valued for what it represents and perhaps as a communication tool for whatever gods you need to impress to put meat on the table. Maybe there was also a tribal chieftain who needed something to brag about. Now you can own art that means something to you.