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Story of Sorgheloos

  • Object:

    Roundel

  • Place of origin:

    Netherlands (made)

  • Date:

    c.1520 (made)

  • Artist/Maker:

    Unknown

  • Materials and Techniques:

    Clear glass with painted details and yellow (silver) stain

  • Museum number:

    C.66-1929

  • Gallery location:

    Sacred Silver & Stained Glass, Room 83, The Whiteley Galleries, case S2

The tale of Sorgheloos is a secular version of the Biblical story of the Prodigal Son (Luke 15: 11-32). This type of story stemmed from Morality plays, which were sponsored by the trade and professional guilds in towns throughout medieval Europe.

Although the Sorgheloos story was a popular one, few designs or roundels depicting it survive. There are several roundels in collections with the same images as the two in the Victoria & Albert Museum (Museum numbers: C.65 & 66-1929), but we do not know their design sources.

The story concerns a young man (Sorgheloos or 'Carefree' in English) who squanders his fortune on gambling, loose women and corrupt friends. When he becomes penniless, his friends desert him and he ends up destitute. So, unlike the parable related by St. Luke, the story of Sorgheloos does not have a happy ending.

The other characters in the story are Weelde (Luxury) - a woman; a male companion called Gemack (Ease/Comfort), another male character called Pouer (Poverty), Aermoede (Wordly Pleasure or Luxury) - a woman; and Lichte Fortune (Fickle Fortune).

In this roundel, Sorgheloos has lost all his fortune and most of his friends. He attempts to return home to his family and friends, but they reject him. He is carrying Aermoede on his back. A contemporary proverb says: 'He who cannot support luxury must have poverty'. A later woodcut illustrating this scene includes the figure of Pouer (Poverty) clinging on to Sorgheloos' back and weighing him down.

Physical description

Painted and stained glass roundel. On the left of the roundel, a man in tattered trousers and bare feet is carrying a woman on his back. On the right, three men dressed in luxurious clothes are discussing the scene. A woman pokes her head out from a door behind them. In the centre foreground there is a small dog and in the background an elaborate townscape can be seen.

The whole executed in brown/black pigment and silver stain and set in a border of blue glass with a painted inscription:

Joieie mij (? uit pouer sijent sijt ontrene de groeije min vriendt) hebb ghelaeye armoede...

Place of Origin

Netherlands (made)

Date

c.1520 (made)

Artist/maker

Unknown

Materials and Techniques

Clear glass with painted details and yellow (silver) stain

Marks and inscriptions

Joieie mij (? uit pouer sijent sijt ontrene de groeije min vriendt) hebb ghelaeye armoede...
Indigence rides me, I shrink at the pain. While Poverty urges me onwards. My friends and relations all turn away.
On border

Dimensions

Diameter: 29.6 cm sight, Weight: 1.68 kg with wood frame

Object history note

Purchased from Wilfrid Drake from a sale at Sotheby's.

Historical context note

The tale of Sorgheloos is a secular version of the Biblical story of the Prodigal Son (Luke 15: 11-32). This type of story will have stemmed from the Morality plays sponsored by the trade and professional guilds of the towns throughout Medieval Europe.

Although the Sorgheloos story was a popular one, not many designs or roundels depicting the story survive. There are several roundels in collections that have the same images as the two V&A ones (C.65 & 66-1929) but their design sources have not been identified.

The story concerns a young man (Sorgheloos or Carefree in English) who squanders his fortune on gambling, loose woman and corrupt friends. When he becomes penniless, his friends desert him and he ends up destitute. So, unlike the parable related by St. Luke, the story of Sorgheloos does not have a happy ending.

The characters in the story are Sorgheloos, Weelde (Luxury) - a woman, Gemack (Ease/Comfort), Pouer (Poverty), Aermoede (Wordly Pleasure or Luxury) - a woman, and Lichte Fortune (Fickle Fortune).

In this roundel, Sorgheloos has lost all his fortune and most of his friends. He is seen here attempting to return home to his family and friends but they reject him. He is carrying Aermoede on his back. A contemporary proverb says: 'He who cannot support luxury must have poverty'. A later woodcut illustrating this scene includes the figure of Pouer (Poverty) clinging on to Sorgheloos' back and weighing him down.

Descriptive line

Stained and painted glass roundel depicting an episode in the story of Sorgheloos ('Sorgheloos and Aermoede being Rebuffed'). Made in the Netherlands, c.1520.

Bibliographic References (Citation, Note/Abstract, NAL no)

Timothy Husband, "'Ick Sorgheloose…':A Silver-Stained Roundel in the Cloisters," Metropolitan Museum Journal 24, 1989, pp.173-88
P.J. de Jong, "Sorgheloos, een zestiende eeuwse rijmprentenreeks; tekst en commentaat", Spektator 7, 1977-78, pp.104-20
Herman Pleij, "Sorgheloos", in Het zal koud zijn in 't water als 't vriest. Zestiende-eeuwse parodieen op gedruckte jaarvoorspellingen, The Hague, 1980
William Cole, A Catalogue of Netherlandish and North European Roundels in Britain, Corpus Vitrearum Medii Aevi, Oxford University Press, 1993

Labels and date

TWO SCENES FROM THE STORY OF SORGHELOOS

The cautionary tale of Sorgheloos ('Carefree' or 'Reckless') is a version of the parable of the Prodigal Son, illustrating the consequences of dissolute living. These roundels show the two final scenes of a larger cycle. In the first, Sorgheloos is shown carrying Aermoede ('Indigence') and being rejected by his former friends and relatives. In the second, the once-wealthy Sorgheloos' final fate is revealed: shivering before a feeble fire in a run-down hovel.

North Netherlands, about 1520
Museum nos. C.65-1929 (Sorgheloos in Poverty), C.66-1929 (Sorgheloos and Aermoede) [(PW) 2004]

Production Note

North Lowlands

Materials

Glass

Techniques

Painting; Silver staining

Subjects depicted

Men; Women; Poverty; Town; Dog

Categories

Stained Glass; Religion; Christianity

Collection

Ceramics Collection

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