Figure 1: Shadow Box, front view, 2016, digital image.
For my Object Biography I have chosen an item from my wife’s side of the family. This item holds pride of place as the centrepiece of their family history, displayed on the walls of their family home in Bindoon, Western Australia. The Shadow Box picture frame of Petrus “Peter” and Johanna Maria Patleych (nee Ednitsch), on their wedding day 20 June 1915 in Kottingbrunn, Austria. Surrounded by the Brautschleier or brides Hochzeitsschleier (wedding veil), and the groom’s Knopflochblume (buttonhole flower) arrangement. 1
This Shadow Box was made soon after the wedding and was on display in the Patleych family home. 2
Kottingbrunn is a small village in the district of Baden, Lower Austria, about 40km south east of Vienna.3 Remembered by my mother-in-law Hanna as a very beautiful place where most locals had some small area of wine grapes, and were part of a co-op harvest to make local wine. Each person would place a wreath out to show if he had his seasons wine ready for sale. “Heuriger Wein” (this year’s wine) served with dry bread, lard and cheese.
The tradition of a Wedding Shadow Box was common in Austria and Germany around this time. 4 5 Walter, my father-in-law recalls one for a member of his family and also in other friends’ houses and later in museums. 6 It may have become less common after war time as the dress and veil materials were used to make other things as it was in short supply.
The frame made possibly from black forest pine, measures 47cm tall, 38cm wide with a 3.5cm flowered decorative patterned bevelled edge. The side view shows a built out box, measuring 4cm less than the overall height and width of the frame. On either side a small securing pin holds the end of a measured length of string to allow for hanging. The box and the display frame give an overall depth of 8cm. A glass face protects the contents from touch, and on examination the depth of the display area measures approximately 6cm. The centre of the display area has a 6x8cm wedding photo of the couple in their wedding attire, standing beside each other. The groom in a dark knee length jacket, a buttonhole flower is positioned high on his left lapel, dark suit pants, black dress shoes, white high collar shirt, and white gloves. In his left hand he holds a dark top hat by the rim firm against his side. He stands front-on but with his left foot slightly in front of his right, facing directly forward with his right arm slightly crossing his body, allowing his bride to interlock her left arm over his. The bride is dressed in a white, long sleeved full length dress with a waist belt. Flowers held in her right hand, in front of her body. On her head sits a veil with a long ¾ length trail hanging behind. She faces forward but leans slightly into her groom.
The photo has a 0.5cm white boarder mounted with a teal backdrop. Surrounding the inside third of the display area is the material from the brides veil and positioned along the top veil line is the brides floral head piece. The grooms buttonhole flower is mounted in the bottom right corner. Close inspection of the veil does show some deterioration and discolouration.
Some restoration work was done on the mounting of the veil as it had fallen down inside the box. The rear of the box was repaired and re-sealed with fresh tape. This process covered a studio label that unfortunately was not recorded at the time and without removing the tape, can’t be seen. During the restoration opening some old newspaper was found behind the mounting backing but this was placed back in when it was re-assembled and can’t be seen from external examination.
I had looked at the Shadow Box many times and was aware of who the people in the photo where but until this assignment had no real knowledge of how it came to be in the possession of my in-laws. After a Sunday lunch, sitting down with my wife Alex and her parents Walter and Hanna, I proceeded to do an informal interview to find out more.
Living in Munich, Germany meant that Hanna only saw her grandparents about once a year when going on holidays to Vienna. Hanna admitted that she acquired the Shadow Box directly from her grandmother’s house sometime after her grandfather’s death and that she may have just “taken it” so it was not grabbed by a cousin in the event that something happened to her grandmother.
Hanna’s memories of her grandfather Peter described a funny guy who liked wine, but could be a little aggressive if he drank too much. A stubborn man, he could be described as religious. A Catholic altar boy, who sang at church, Hanna remembers he would sing the grandchildren’s names like a church song. “Hannelore, Hannelore, Hann… e…lore.” His occupation as an Engineer, building electrical water turbines had him away a lot, travelling around the mountains of Austria. He enjoyed getting involved in wine making but he himself didn’t have a true setup. He did spend considerable time in his vegetable garden. In later life he suffered from Alzheimer’s and went into a nursing home when Johanna could no longer care for him.
Peter died in 1969 at the age of 78 years, after being run over when he stepped into the street without looking, on his morning walk to the shop. He had a habit of stepping out, believing that “they (the car drivers) will stop for me” as he felt being an engineer, he was an important person in his village.
Johanna was remembered as a very lovely person. She would visit Peter in his nursing home once a week, traveling on the bus from her oldest daughter Rosa’s place where she lived until she went into a nursing home in Baden, Austria for her final years. My wife Alex has fond memories of Johanna, her great grandmother and recalled her feelings when she heard of her passing in 1991 at the ripe old age of 98.
During the interview Alex was amazed at some of the facts that where revealed, that even she had not known about her great grandparents. Alex has always loved this item and its special place it held in her parents’ home, and made it clear that it would find a new location in her home when the time came, stating “I may even just take it!”
Student ID: 425182
HAA006 Place, Image, Object
1 Darryl Brady, Research, Brady Family Tree in Western Australia, http://www.bradyfamilytre.org, 1998-2016.
2 Darryl Brady, Interview with Walter and Hannelore “Hanna” Etz (nee Ostermann) and Alexandra “Alex” Brady (nee Etz), Etz Family Home, Bindoon, 10 July 2016.
3 Wikipedia contributors, “Kottingbrunn,” Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia, https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Kottingbrunn&oldid=715238493 (accessed 13 July 2016).
4 Wikipedia contributors, “Shadow box,” Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia, https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Shadow_box&oldid=722997219 (accessed 23 July 2016).
5 Cheryl Sharpes, “A Wedding Tradition”, Web Site, http://www.aweddingtradition.com/shadowboxlink.htm (accessed 23 July 2016).
6 eBay International, “Kijiji Classifieds”, Web Site, http://www.kijiji.ca/v-art-collectibles/hamilton/museumpiece-1904-german-wedding-shadow-box-veil-orange-blossoms/1125006922 (accessed 23 July 2016).