This is an article which introduced itself while I was writing out an interesting list of odd words for the Wordplay section.
One of the very best things about having a website is that every day, even at my extreme age, I learn something new.
In this case, as well as practising some story-telling, I came across a number of really interesting examples of the art, all entirely new to me.
I have had such a lot of fun in compiling this article!
As I wrote out my list of unusual words, I came upon the word
Defenestration is the act of throwing someone or something out of a window (from the Latin: de: out of, with a downward motion implied; fenestra: window).
This suggested the first idea: story-telling inspired by dramatic pictures...
There are many reasons why people throw things out of windows: many different emotions may be involved...
Anger, despair, grief, frustration, celebration......
Each example of defenestration follows a human crisis of some kind.
I looked for pictures which told a story, and found many different examples.
I leave it to you to explain the background to these scenes of defenestration.
A good idea for a school textbook, I think.....
What on earth are these respectable city workers doing?
Will someone be injured?
Who will pay for the windows?
Why are they SMILING?
There seems to have been a serious disagreement here.
Who is at fault?
Will there be reconciliation?
This young toddler is throwing MONEY out of the windows.
It is obviously a very enjoyable experience.
Where are the grownups?
"How many times have I told you to put the toilet seat down?"
A quarrel over the remote control?
Far too much football?
"I want a flat screen"?
The first historical occurrence I found during the research was completely new to me.
THE DEFENESTRATION OF PRAGUE 1618
I had never before heard of this...
The Defenestrations of Prague were two dramatic incidents in the history of Bohemia.
The first occurred in 1419 and the second in 1618, although the term "Defenestration of Prague" more commonly refers to the latter incident.
The First Defenestration of Prague involved the killing of seven members of the city council by a crowd of radical Czech Hussites on 30 July 1419.
Jan Želivský, a Hussite priest at the church of the Virgin Mary of the Snows, led his congregation on a procession of protest through the streets of Prague to the New Town Hall on Charles Square.
The procession was the result of a growing discontent at the inequality between the peasants and the Church's prelates, and the nobility.
Radical preachers were urging their congregations to action, including taking up arms, to combat the corruption of the Church.
The Catholic town council members had refused to exchange their Hussite prisoners.
While the protestants were marching, a stone was thrown at Želivský from the window of the town hall.
This is that very window.
The mob became enraged at this event and, led by Jan Žižka, stormed the town hall.
Once inside the hall, the group threw the judge, the burgomaster, and some thirteen members of the town council out of the window and into the street, where they were either killed by the fall or dispatched by the mob.
King Wenceslaus IV, upon hearing this news, was stunned and he died shortly afterwards, perhaps due to the shock.
[Not the end of the Good King we sing about each Christmas-time, however: he was much earlier.]
The Second Defenestration of Prague precipitated the Thirty Years' War.
In 1555, the Peace of Augsburg had settled religious disputes in the Holy Roman Empire by enshrining the principle of Cuius regio, eius religio, allowing a prince to determine the religion of his subjects.
Rudolph the Second
The Kingdom of Bohemia since 1526 had been governed by Habsburg Kings, who did not, however, force their Catholic religion on their largely Protestant subjects.
In 1609, Rudolf II, Holy Roman Emperor and King of Bohemia (1576–1612), increased Protestant rights.
However, conflict in the 1600s was precipitated by two factors: Matthias, already aging and without children, made his cousin Ferdinand of Styria his heir and had him elected king in 1617.
Ferdinand was a proponent of the Catholic counterreformation and not likely to be well-disposed to Protestantism or Bohemian freedoms.
In 1618 Ferdinand forced the Emperor to order the cessation of construction of some Protestant chapels on royal land.
When the Bohemian estates protested against this order, Ferdinand had their assembly dissolved.
On May 23, 1618, four Catholic Lords Regent arrived at the Bohemian Chancellory at 8:30am.
After preparing the meeting hall, members of the dissolved assembly of the three main Protestant estates gathered at 9:00am, led by Count Thurn, who had been deprived of his post as Castellan of Karlstadt by the Emperor.
The Protestant Lords' agenda was to clarify whether or not the four regents present were responsible for persuading King Matthias to order the cessation of churches on royal land.
According to Martiniz himself:
Lord Paul Rziczan read aloud... a letter with the following approximate content:
"His Imperial Majesty had sent to their graces the lord regents a sharp letter that was, by our request, issued to us as a copy after the original had been read aloud, and in which His Majesty declared all of our lives and honour already forfeit, thereby greatly frightening all three Protestant estates.
As they also absolutely intended to proceed with the execution against us, we came to a unanimous agreement among ourselves that, regardless of any loss of life and limb, honour and property, we would stand firm, with all for one and one for all... nor would we be subservient, but rather we would loyally help and protect each other to the utmost, against all difficulties.
Because, however, it is clear that such a letter came about through the advice of some of our religious enemies, we wish to know, and hereby ask the lord regents present, if all or some of them knew of the letter, recommended it, and approved of it."
The Protestant Lords demanded an immediate answer.
They were ready to defend their religious liberties....
This is an oil-painting of the confusion in the room...
The first two Lords Regent, Adam von Sternberg and Matthew Leopold Popel Lobcowitz, were declared innocent by the Protestant Estate holders and too pious to have any responsibility in the letter's creation.
They were therefore removed from the room.
This left only Count Vilem Slavata and Count Jaroslaw Martinitz, known Catholic hard-liners, and the secretary to the Regents.
They eventually claimed responsibility for the letter and, assuming they were only going to be arrested, welcomed any punishment the Protestants had planned.
The Lord Count von Thurn turned to both Martiniz and Slavata and said "you are enemies of us and of our religion, have desired to deprive us of our Letter of Majesty, have horribly plagued your Protestant subjects... and have tried to force them to adopt your religion against their wills or have had them expelled for this reason".
Then to the crowd of Protestants, he continued "were we to keep these men alive, then we would lose the Letter of Majesty and our religion... for there can be no justice to be gained from or by them".
Soon after, the Regents were thrown out of the third floor window along with the Regents' secretary, Philipus Fabricius.
Amazingly, they survived after falling 70 feet (21 metres).
There were two explanations given for the fact that the Regents survived (depending on the religious side you were on).
Angels or manure!
The Catholics maintained that the men were saved by angels, who caught them; the Protestants believed that they fell into a heap of horse manure.
Protestant pamphleteers always asserted that they survived due to falling onto a dung heap, a story unknown to contemporaries and possibly framed in response to the Imperial officials attributing their survival to the intercession of the Virgin Mary.
Maybe neither story was true.
The officials were probably saved by their coats and the uneven castle walls slowing down their fall.
I cant help enjoying the idea of the dungheap though....
Like Cruella Deville in 101 Dalmations!
Philip Fabricius was later ennobled by the emperor, and granted the title Baron von Hohenfall (literally "Baron of Highfall").
After the death of Matthias in 1619, Ferdinand II was elected Holy Roman Emperor.
He reconquered Bohemia with the assistance of Bavaria in 1620, executed the rebel leaders, confiscated their estates and outlawed Protestantism in Bohemia.
The defenestration was in vain!
The next example of defenestration I found was my absolute favourite.
Again, I had never heard of this before, but I would love to visit the site.
The DEFENESTRATION BUILDING IN SAN FRANCISCO
This is an empty, abandoned four-storey apartment block on the corner of 6th and Howard Street which was made into a work of art and a space for artists to work in.
It was intended to be a short-lived project, but has survived since 1997 and involved a large number of local people, both in the provision of artefacts and later restoration and conservation work.
This is the plaque on the building.
This multi-disciplinary sculptural mural involves seemingly animated furniture apparently bursting out of the windows; tables, chairs, lamps,a grandfather clock, sofas, a refrigerator, all looking alive.their bodies bent like strange insects, fastened to the walls and window-sills, their bent legs seeming to grasp the surfaces.
All these everyday objects are pushing out of windows like escaped prisoners, on to available ledges, up and down the walls, on to the fire escapes and off the roof.
This “DEFENESTRATION” was created by Brian Goggin with the help of over 100 volunteers.
The concept of “DEFENESTRATION”, a word literally meaning “to throw out of a window,” is embodied by both the site and staging of this unique installation.
The site is part of a poor, neglected neighbourhood that historically has faced economic challenges and has often endured the stigma of skid row status.
Reflecting the harsh experience of many members of the local community, the furniture is not luxurious: it is well-worn, cast-off and unappreciated.
The everyday, unpretentious humanity of these downtrodden objects has been reawakened through the action of the piece.
Here the act of “throwing out” becomes an uplifting gesture of release, inviting reflection on the spirit of our neighbours, the objects we use daily, and the simple homes in which we build our family lives.
The ground level of the building has been used as a rotating gallery for display of the vibrant artwork of
local street muralists.
Opened in 1997 as a sculptural mural, this has been one of San Francisco's most celebrated works of public art; however, Brian Goggin's "Defenestration" has begun to show its age.
Several of the artefacts - lamps, tables, beds, couches and chairs pitching out of windows and down the sides of San Francisco's long-shuttered Hugo Hotel - have already been removed in the interest of public safety.
Some of them appeared, and were even for sale, in "Operation Restore 'Defenestration,' " an exhibition held at 1:AM Gallery, just across Howard Street from the Hugo, to rally financial and other support for getting the outdoor work back into shape.
The Black Rock Arts Foundation acts as fiscal sponsor of the fundraising effort.
"We're trying to raise $75,000," Goggin said, "most of it going to equipment rental, insurance and materials.
It's a shoestring budget to try and keep a shoestring project together."
The 1:AM exhibition included some of the dismantled furniture, four red-enamelled metal chairs (each in an edition of nine and 'anthropomorphically altered' by Goggin like the found objects on the hotel exterior), and graphic works in several media that document "Defenestration."
"Defenestration was only going to be up for six months," Goggin said when we spoke, "so the fact that it's been there for 13 years is amazing to me."
The cost of the original project is difficult to estimate, he said, "because it was a combination of financial donations and in-kind
We had a hundred people volunteer to work on it. ...
If we'd had to pay for it all, it probably would have cost close to $100,000."
Goggin began the project after he received an individual artist's grant.
While eyeing prospective sites, he passed by the already deserted Hugo Hotel and noted down a fax number posted on the building to attract inquiries about it.
He faxed in a proposal of "Defenestration" with illustrations of what he had in mind.
He received a reply from the owner's daughter, who explained that her father, who was then in India for several months, would probably not agree to the proposal, but she suggested that if Goggin got the piece in place before he returned, he might let it stand.
And it so happened that he did!
"When we first put it up, we were asked (by the city) to get a sign permit for every component, so we went through that process," Goggin said.
"Now we're working with a structural engineer to make sure every component is safe.
The city is overseeing this, but they're letting me work by myself with the engineer."
The city now owns the Hugo Hotel, and "the redevelopment agency has agreed to let the piece remain up for at least a year and a half," Goggin said, while it seeks a developer to build low-income senior housing on the site."
Interestingly, Goggin said this art work was inspired by his reading about the First Defenestration of Prague,which I have already written about!
"There's this absurd image of furniture seeking a new life, which may well end as they get smashed to the ground," Goggin said.
"There's a sense of bliss and joy captured in that moment.
The next moment is left up to the observer.
I like it that people project on it things they see happening next."
DEFENESTRATION IN THE STRAND, LONDON 1749
This is the last story, of the defenestration of a London brothel, known in the press as the "Bawdy-House Battery".
Altogether, 15 'malefactors' were HANGED at Tyburn in October, 1749 for this violent affair, although public opinion was on the side of the offenders.
Over 800 people petitioned for pardon, at least for bystanders who were drawn into the conflict, and many pamphlets and prints were circulated, but in vain.
The newspaper account reads:
‘Thursday 14th September 1749 ... John Wilson and Bosovern Penlez were indicted, for that they, together with divers other Persons, to the Number of 40 and upwards, being feloniously and riotously assembled, to the Disturbance of the public Peace, did begin to demolish the dwelling House of Peter Wood.’
It happened in July of that year, when a sailor visited a brothel in the Strand and had all his possessions stolen by a prostitute.
After the brawl which followed the sailor ‘denounc’d Vengeance to his House’ and returned later that night with over 40 armed sailors who proceeded to ransack the ‘house of ill repute’.
Absolute chaos ensued.
All of the windows were smashed, naked prostitutes were pushed into the street, mattresses torn, tables, chairs and all of the contents of the house were thrown out of windows to the street below.
Here they were either smashed to pieces or burnt in a huge bonfire which the sailors had lit.
It is interesting to note that theft was prohibited by the crowd – one small boy was seen carrying away a cage and was told to return it to the fire.
As it would be difficult for the sailor to take the case to the law – he should not have been in the brothel to start with – justice had to be taken into his own hands.
If he had stolen from the brothel then his crime would have equalled the one for which the mob was formed in the first place.
Far from being frowned upon, most reports show that the surrounding inhabitants were pleased to see action being taken against the houses of ill repute in their neighbourhood, if a little concerned about the growing size of the fire that was forming in the street.
One account says that Mrs L----, a cheesemonger,
‘happen’d to clap Her Hands, and express Her Joy vociferously’.
The contemporary print shows a woman crying “a Joyfull Riddance” out of her window, while a prostitute, a quack doctor, a diseased man, a brothel keeper and a drunk bemoan their fate at the hands of the mob.
Guards were called, but when they arrived to see that it was a brothel being torn apart by sailors (sailors were renowned as ‘Liberty’s defenders’) their confusion as to what was right resulted largely in inaction – with most of them huddling around the fire unsure of what to do, before reluctantly breaking up the mob.
It was generally contended that nobody should be on trial as the mob was acting in the best interests of the neighbourhood.
There was high suspicion that Penlez’s death was a warning against mob actions, rather than a just punishment.
Certainly, the owner of the brothel was not entirely innocent of responsibility in the matter....