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Plaster casts of Vesuvius’ victims restored

History Blog - Sun, 2015-05-24 10:37

When Vesuvius erupted on August 24th, 79 A.D., a column of ash and pumice rained down on Pompeii, depositing as much as a foot per hour in some parts of the city. Fleeing the shower of stone and ash, many people took shelter in buildings, a deadly choice as it happened, since within six hours from the beginning of the eruption, the weight of accumulated pumice fall caused roofs and walls to collapse. An anomalously high percentage of the remains of people who died in this phase of the eruption — 345 individuals, or 88% of the people killed during the pumice fall deposit phase — were found indoors, killed by the buildings they had taken fled to for protection. Out of the people found outdoors (49 of them, or 12% of the pumice fall victims), most of them were probably killed by debris from collapsing structures. The rest were likely felled by larger stones striking them at ballistic speeds.

Most of the remains discovered, 650 people, were found in pyroclastic density currents (PDCs) deposit, 334 (51%) of them outdoors, 316 (49%) indoors. There is no evidence that they were burned to death. They were encased by fine ash and covered by the pyroclastic flow that blanketed the town, sealing in the ash and pumice layer and suffocating the people trapped underneath it to death.

The ash and pyroclastic layers hardened quickly around the bodies. The soft tissues decomposed over time, leaving only bones in cavities once occupied by whole bodies. More than 1700 years later, excavators of the ancient site noticed that underneath the skeletal remains of a young woman was an imprint of her breasts and body. They didn’t know how to preserve it, however, so the imprint was lost as excavations continued, as were similar such finds.

The breakthrough came on February 5th, 1863, when Giuseppe Fiorelli, Pompeii’s director of works who introduced a revolutionary new scientific rigor to the excavation of the city, was told by a labourers that they had found a cavity with bones at the bottom. Fiorelli told them to stop digging immediately and had plaster poured into that cavity and two others found nearby. They waited two days for the plaster to dry and then chipped away the ash exposing the cast of a person killed during the eruption of Vesuvius almost 1800 years earlier. Facial expressions, clothes, the position of the bodies all were perfectly captured by the plaster casts.

Plaster had been used once before in 1856 to capture an imprint in the ash, but it was the imprint of a long-gone architectural feature, not of a human being. That was Fiorelli’s brilliant innovation. He remained director of works until 1875. Under his leadership, plaster casts were made of people, animals — most famously the dog on its back with four legs in the air found in the House of Orpheus — furniture, doors, window frames, even the holes in the ground left by roots. The plaster casts of roots allowed archaeologists to identify plants with enough precision to recreate the landscaped pleasure gardens of the wealthy a well as the more practical vegetable gardens that fed the people of Roman-era Pompeii.

It was the expressive pathos of the human figures, their final moments frozen in time by the volcano that killed them, that has made a profound impression in all who have seen them since 1863. Luigi Settembrini, professor of Italian literature at the University of Naples, visited the site just a few days after the first castings were made. That night, February 13th, 1863, unable to sleep, he wrote a letter to Fiorelli.

It’s impossible to see those three cast figures and not feel moved. [...] They’ve been dead for 18 centuries, but they are human creatures seen in their agony. This is not art, not imitation, but their bones, the reliquaries of their flesh and clothes mixed with plaster: it’s the pain of death that reacquired body and shape. [...] Up until now there have been discovered temples, houses and other objects to interest the curiosity of cultured people, artists and archaeologists, but now you, oh my Fiorelli, have discovered human pain, and whoever is human feels it.

The filling of the cavities with plaster has continued ever since. In 1984 they tried a different medium, resin instead of plaster. Inspired by the lost wax method of bronze casting, archaeologists injected wax into the cavity left by the body of a young woman found in the Villa of Lucius Crassius Tertius in Oplontis. Once the wax was hardened, it was coated in plaster. The wax was then melted and the empty plaster cast filled with liquid epoxy resin. The result was a transparent cast through which you could see the Maiden of Oplontis’ bones and her jewelry in situ. Although its transparency and durability are marked advantages, resin casting is complicated, time consuming and expensive. Today Pompeii’s archaeologists are still using plaster. It’s a tricky process. Only a small percentage of the remains found can be cast — there are only around 100 plaster casts (including animals) out more than 1,100 bodies found — due to the condition of the ash shell, and the bones are very brittle. The plaster has to be thick enough to support the bones suspended in it but thin enough to flow freely into nooks and crannies so it can capture all possible detail.

Because the casts are human remains, archaeologists have been reluctant to restore them. The very old plaster has begun to degrade, however, exposing the bones inside. Now, as part of the Great Pompeii Project, a program of restoration and stabilization of many endangered areas of the ancient archaeological site, all 86 plaster casts of human remains are being restored. The plaster is being rehydrated where possible and repaired where it has crumbled away. The casts have been X-rayed and laser scanned so archaeologists knew exactly where everything inside was before they began to work on the plaster. With the precise data mapping of the laser scan, restorers have also been able to create precise replicas of the cast with 3D printing. That will be very helpful going forward for traveling exhibitions and the like.

This video, which I would strongly recommend muting, shows an overview of the restoration, starting with the casts being moved from the areas of the archaeological site where they’ve been on display to the restoration workshop (set up in one of Pompeii’s ancient buildings) of the Special Superintendency for the Archaeological Heritage of Naples and Pompeii. It’s remarkable how much it looks like the wounded being carried on stretchers to a field hospital full of war casualties.

Twenty of the restored casts will go on display in Pompeii’s amphitheater as part of the Pompeii and Europe exhibition starting May 27th and running through November 2nd. The exhibition will take place concurrently at the Naples National Archaeological Museum.

Categories: Arts and Sciences, History

Heirs for Ealdormere

East Kingdom Gazette - Sun, 2015-05-24 09:55

From our compatriots at the Ealdormere Gazette

Wassail to Their Highnesses Ealdormere Today, Tormot Quilliam won Crown Tourney to make Damhnail Galbraith Princess of the northlands.
Filed under: Tidings, Uncategorized Tagged: Kingdom of Ealdormere

On Target: Making Cheap Archery Butts

AEthelmearc Gazette - Sat, 2015-05-23 19:14

THL Deryk Archer. Photo by Lady Katherine Tantzel.

Welcome to the second installment of THLord Deryk Archer’s column on making archery targets.

One of the issues beginning archers face is acquiring appropriate butts, which are the backing behind most targets. A professional-style Saunders mat can cost over $100 dollars, and may not be easily available lately as the factory has stopped making them. But there are less expensive alternatives!

This time I want to show you how to make a cheap archery butt. You will need:

  • 2 large cardboard boxes
  • 2 smaller cardboard boxes
    • Flat-screen TV boxes are ideal. You can get one “dumpster diving” at stores like WalMart or Taget; often they are happy to let you take their cardboard since it’s less trash for them. Look for ones that have hard Styrofoam inside, as that will help fill the target with additional padding.
  • A plastic political sign leftover after election day, or additional cardboard
  • Packing tape or duct tape

Open one of the large boxes, then cut the second large box into panels sized to fit inside the first large box and slide them inside the first box.


You can clean up your streets by gathering plastic “Vote for Tom” signs left over after election day. Cut the sign to size and slide it inside the first box alongside the sheet cut from the second box.

Next, cut the other small box in half and put the two pieces in sideways, making a “T” matrix or lattice. This will brace the sheets of cardboard and plastic you put in front of them.

Break up the foam from the TV boxes and use it as filler in the cavities formed by the small TV box.

Tape the box closed, add a target face, and you’re ready to go.

This makes a cheap archery butt for the beginner who doesn’t have a lot of cash. In addition, if you are doing a walking range, the box is light-weight and easy to carry compared to a traditional straw mat.

You can tie your butt to the ground or hang it from a tree.

After this butt is shredded by arrows, you can reuse its cardboard and styrofoam as filler for your next target.

I would love to hear from other archers, so please feel free to contact me on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/joseph.bartlow. Til next time, shoot safe, shoot often.


All photos not otherwise marked are by THL Deryk.

Categories: SCA news sites

Medieval panels looted from Devon church found

History Blog - Sat, 2015-05-23 07:02

Two 15th century painted oak panels ripped out of Holy Trinity Church in Torbryan, Devon, almost two years ago have been recovered by police. A sharp-eyed and damn decent collector spotted them in an online sale and notified the authorities who traced them in a property in south London. The place was raided by detectives from the Metropolitan Police Art & Antiques Unit in January and the panels recovered. A 50-year-old man from Wales has been arrested for the theft.

The panels were part of a rood screen, a tracery partition separating the nave from the chancel, built between 1460 and 1470. Inset in Gothic arches that mimic the design of the church’s stained glass windows are a series of 40 oak panels painted with figures of God, Mary, the Apostles and a panoply of saints. They are of extremely high quality, “cathedral quality,” according to the art historian Dr. Neil Rushton of the Churches Conservation Trust. Painted by a top artist of the period at the same time the church was constructed, the rood screen panels are colorful evidence of how much money, mainly from the wool trade, was in the area in the second half of the 15th century. They are the country’s best surviving examples of this kind of art from the late Middle Ages, almost all of which was destroyed in the Reformation, and therefore of national importance.

The panels that were stolen depict St. Victor of Marseilles and St. Margaret of Antioch, lesser known saints which make them rarer than the panels with more common iconography. Because of their rarity, there was speculation at the time of the theft that it may have been commissioned by an underworld collector who coveted these specific pieces, but the commissioned theft idea always gets deployed after these sort of crimes and it usually turns out to be a lot more Keystone Cops and a lot less Thomas Crown. This case is no different. Commissioned thefts don’t wind up for sale online.

Churches have increasingly been frequent targets of thieves, often for the scrap value of their architectural materials like lead roof tiles or even paving stones and grave markers. Art is a riskier proposition since it’s more likely to be recognizable, but that hasn’t stopped thieves from taking the chance before at the Holy Trinity Church. Four of the original 40 panels were stolen in the 1990s and three more were taken in 2003. Those seven panels are still missing which makes the recovery of the two most recent thefts even more significant.

West Mercia Police are now leading the investigation into the theft as part of Operation Icarus, which has also recovered a treasure trove of other church artefacts, including stonework, friezes, statues, paintings, brasses, misericords, stained glass and bibles. The police are appealing for help in identifying the artefacts, which include the misericords from St Cuthbert’s Church at Holme Lacy in Herefordshire, also in the care of The Churches Conservation Trust.

In response to the original theft, The Churches Conservation Trust conducted a thorough audit of security at Holy Trinity, Torbryan and a new alarm system is now in place at the church to protect its contents in future. A new scheme of interpretation is also being developed to explain the artworks and the history of this unique Grade I listed church to visitors. A service at the church on 30th May will give thanks for the return of the panels.

The 45 cm (17.7 inches) by 15 cm (6 inches) panels were stolen between August 2nd and 9th of 2013 when the church was open to the public. They are believed to have been pushed out of their casing from the front, but a panel of an unknown female saint to the immediately left of the stolen pieces was seriously damaged in the process. It was punched through and a large shard from the top of the panel to the saint’s legs broke off. Now that the missing panels have been recovered, it’s clear there was damage done to them as well during the theft. The restoration is expect to cost £7,000 ($10,843) and the Churches Conservation Trust has launched a campaign to raise the funds.

Click here to donate online. Your title (I recommend His Tremendousness), name, email and street address are required fields. You have to type in the amount you wish to donate and check the boxes to opt out of them spamming you via email, post or phone. The last field asks you to confirm or deny whether you’re an UK taxpayer and then when you click donate you’ll be taken to a secure credit card donation form. The amount is already fixed so if you change your mind about how much you want to give you have to go back to the previous page.

You can also donate by calling 0800 206 1463 or you can quickly donate £20 by texting TORB15 £20 to 70070.

Categories: Arts and Sciences, History

Event Report: Æthelmearc War Practice XXVI, Canton of Steltonwald, May 14-17, A.S. 50

AEthelmearc Gazette - Fri, 2015-05-22 08:21

Mistress Arianna of Wynthrope reports on the multitude of goings-on that took place at Æthelmearc War Practice.

This year’s Æthelmearc War Practice, hosted by the Canton of Steltonwald on May 14 – 17, was slightly dryer and much warmer than last year, leading to good fighting and fun. As always, the event was packed with both martial and peaceful activities.

Heavy Fighting

Lord Christian Goldenlok vs. Sir Óláfr Þorvarðarson. Photo by Lady Àine ny Allane.

Heavy combat kicked off Friday with the Gage Meet ‘n’ Beat, which saw participants testing their mettle against the members of the Kingdom’s Grant level award for fighting. The weather was warm but pleasant and fighters enjoyed the opportunity to learn from some of the best unbelted fighters in the Kingdom.

On Saturday morning, the 10-man unbelted melee tournament had six teams fight a round-robin competition that was won by members of the household of Woodland Watch, who were undefeated. Afterward, Woodland Watch’s 10-man team fought a melee against the Chivalry.

Video courtesy of Baron Richard Larmer 

Later there were bridge battles and open field battles with the Kingdom Warlord, Sir Steffan Ulfkellson, devising training scenarios for the fighters. About 150-175 fighters participated in the day’s combat, which ended with pickup fights just before the afternoon rainstorm hit.

Photo by Lady Àine.

On Sunday morning a group of about 20 fighters braved the rain to compete in the Kingdom Rattan Champion’s Tourney. Once two simultaneous round robin tournaments were done, there were two semi-finalists from each list: Sir Thomas Byron of Haverford, Baron Vladisla Nikulich, THLord Tegrinus de Rhina, and Sir Ariella of Thornbury. After defeating Baron Vlad, Sir Byron ended up facing his wife, Sir Ariella, in the finals, since she had bested Lord Tegrinus. This led to much amusement by the populace, including a few slightly ribald jokes, but the finals were fiercely fought.

Video by Mistress Arianna of Wynthrope 

Sir Byron ended up the winner and was proclaimed Kingdom Champion, accepting the regalia from the outgoing Champion, Sir Arnthor, who had been knighted the previous morning.


Friday night offered a rapier tournament called “There Can Be Only One.” This Highlander-themed tournament debuted at Ian’s Inn in the Shire of Ballachlagan two years ago. At War Practice, six teams of two fought a round-robin style tournament. As the sun faded over the hills, one team remained undefeated: Master Lodovick of Grays Inn and his cadet, Lord Jacob of Dunmore – but there could be only one! These two then had to fight each other in two out of three passes with the only killing blow being a cut to the neck. Master Lodovick won the tournament.

Saturday had roughly 40 fencers from four different kingdoms participate in various melee scenarios that were loosely based upon battles and skirmishes of the Great Pilgrimage, later to be known as the First Crusade. The warm up scenarios consisted of last man standing open field battles which represented the advancement to Constantinople and Emperor Alexius’ forces attempting to slow them down. This was then followed by a regicide battle where opposing forces had unlimited resurrections to attack and defend the unarmed “kings.” Later the Siege of Nicea, a dispute over the Orontes River, made for an interesting tower and bridge battle where the fencers attacked and defended bridges full of choke points and kill pockets.

Photo by Zyla of Sebastion’s Place.

After lunch, the fencers reconvened with some capture the flag scenarios. After six hours of rapier battles the fencers dropped with smiles on their faces. The marshal in charge, THLord AElric Ravenshaw, reports, “There were no major issues in calibration and all kingdoms involved celebrated with great camaraderie.”

Many fencers also attended the vigil for Don Orlando di Bene del Vinta, where he “Played the Prize” for his Master of Defense.

Another item of note on the rapier field: Lord Durante de Caravaggio challenged Don Mark le Gabler for the Sylvan Iron Ring and won the fight along with possession of the ring. The Iron Ring passes from fencer to fencer; the current holder may be challenged by another fencer at any time, and if he or she loses, the ring passes to the winner. Don Mark held the ring from July of A.S. 49 until Lord Durante won it from him this past weekend. The Iron Ring Challenge was created in 2006; you can see a list of the holders here.

Youth Fighting

The Kingdom Youth Champion’s tournament drew a dozen enthusiastic and energetic fighters ranging in age from 6 to 14. Thanks to King Timothy, the youth fighters had the honor of fighting within the same list barriers as had been used at Crown Tournament two weeks earlier. The youth fighters were the second group to ever use these new list railings and flags, which were made by members of the Shire of Hartstone as a gift to the Kingdom.

His Majesty addresses the youth fighters before the tourney. Photo by Mistress Arianna.

After round robin tournaments for division 1 and divisions 2 and 3 combined were completed, the finalists were Ian and Henry in the division 1 list and El Tigre and Ulf in the division 2/3 list. The finals were fought best two of three, with Henry and Ulf proving victorious.

Ian vs. Henry in the Division 1 Finals, which were won by Henry. Photo by Arianna.

El Tigre fighting Ulf in the Division 2/3 finals, which were won by Ulf. Photo by Arianna.

After the tournament, Her Majesty Queen Gabrielle gave each fighter a token, and recognized El Tigre for his chivalry with a ring from her finger, while the marshal in charge, Mistress Arianna of Wynthrope, bestowed her token for chivalry on Aodhan. All of the populace observing the tournament marveled at the courtesy and camaraderie of the youth list. Youth fighting was capped with melees that included throwing axes and javelins.

Mistress Arianna wishes to thank all of the marshals and MoLs who assisted with the youth tournament: Sir Thorgrim, Lord Peregrine, Lady Ceindrech, Lord Aodhan, Lord Weasel, Lord Brillo, THLady Zoe, Baroness Elizabeth, and Baron Rodrigo, as well as the list runners, Lady Ida and the young girl whose name was, alas, not recorded.

Thrown Weapons

Photo by Lady Valentina.

Thrown weapons marshal Lord Aidan Gunn reports that the thrown weapons range was pretty laid back this year, with about 20 to 25 throwers over the course of the event, of which 8 were new people who came to the range for the first time. There were 2 spear targets and 7 wood butts available for throwers. One of the wood targets met its demise at the edge of a heavy axe, cracking down the middle with the first throw and finally splitting in half.

Lord Aidan wishes to thank Lord Haldor Bildrr, Lord Robert Bakere, Master Charles of Alden, and Leo and Collin from the East Kingdom for their help on the range.


The Archery range, run by Maistir Brandubh O Donghaile, offered several challenges at which the winners got their choice from the cooler of delicious things. The range was open Thursday afternoon and all day Friday and Saturday.

Photo by Master Alaxandair.

Around 80 archers participated across the weekend. The afternoon rains did scare many archers away, but youth archer Bijon of Sylvan Glen stayed through the rain to complete his challenge for the opportunity to raid the goody box.  The grass was short but still ate up arrows, so many sad archers left the range with quivers much lighter than when they arrived.

Arts & Sciences

The event also featured over 40 classes on topics as diverse as fiber arts, blacksmithing, music, illumination, costuming, and equestrian arts. Some of the more interesting class titles included “Poisons! Assassins!,” “So You Think You’re Japanese in Court,” and “20 Songs That Should Be in Your Bard Book.”

On Saturday afternoon, numerous gentles displayed their creations in the Great Hall, including the entries shown below. Those who could do so stayed to educate the populace on their arts; perhaps the most interesting was THLord Ambros Kyrielle, who taught those stopping by his display how to draw the labyrinths that he famously creates in chalk all over the pavement of Cooper’s Lake at Pennsic.

Armor by Lord Enzo de Pazzi. Photo by Master Fridrikr Tomasson av Knusslig Hamn.

Loom by Lady Alfrun ketta. Photo by Master Fridrikr.

Lady Edana the Red’s metal casting. Photo by Master Fridrikr.

County scroll for HRH Magnus Tindal by THLady Ismay Ponde. Photo by Master Fridrikr.

Embroidered slippers by Mistress Gillian Llewellyn. Photo by Master Fridrikr.

Ceramic tiles made by Lord Ian Campbell. Photo by Master Fridrikr.

Lord Otto Boese’ leatherworking. Photo by Master Fridrikr.


In a short court Friday evening, King Timothy and Queen Gabrielle sent Baron Robert of Sugargrove on vigil for the Laurel and THLord Arnthor inn Sterki on vigil for Knighthood.

Saturday began with a brief morning court where Don Orlando di Bene del Vinta was sent to “Play the Prize” for his Master of Defense, while Their Majesties bestowed Æthelmearc’s fourth Writ for the Order of Defense upon the Kingdom’s Rapier Marshal, Baron Benedict Fergus atte Mede.

As the final piece of business at morning court, THL Arnthor was knighted on the field to the acclaim of the populace.

King Timothy dubs Sir Arnthor. Photo by Lady Àine.

At Saturday evening court, Their Majesties welcomed Brennan, the newly invested Crown Prince of the East, who presented gifts to the King and Queen. Prince Brennan also warmly greeted Prince Tindal, as they had become friends during their last reigns. Their Majesties bestowed Golden Alces and Sycamores on numerous deserving gentles, and invested Their new Youth Combat Champions, Henry and Ulf, thanking Their outgoing Champions, Stephen and Otto, for their service.

Henry and Ulf are invested as Youth Champions. Photo by Master Alaxandair O’Conchobhair.

Baron Robert of Sugargrove was elevated to the Order of the Laurel for his skill in woodworking, making the Kingdom thrones, and Don Orlando di Bene del Vinta was inducted as Æthelmearc’s second member of the Order of Defense.

Baron Robert of Sugargrove is made a Laurel. Photo by Lady Valentina.

Don Orlando is made Æthelmearc’s second Master of Defense. Photo by THLady Sophie Davenport.

The surprise of the night was when Their Majesties called forward Mistress Cunen Beornhelm and presented her with a Writ of Summons to the Chivalry, which his Majesty remarked that he had wanted to do for many years. Once elevated, Mistress Cunen will become Æthelmearc’s third female knight.

Mistress Cunen Beornhelm receives a Writ for the Chivalry. Photo by Master Alaxandair.

After Kingdom Court, the Baron and Baroness of the Debatable Lands, Liam and Constance, held a brief baronial court where they inducted several deserving gentles into baronial orders, and then announced to their populace’s sadness that they will be stepping down as Baron and Baroness next winter. The baronial election process will begin with nominations in June.

Event Wrap-up

As always, Sunday featured the Pick-a-Prize Raffle run by House Tuatha Fieran with proceeds to benefit the kingdom, and breakfast was served both Saturday and Sunday mornings in the Great Hall by members of the Shire of Gryffyn’s Keep.

Sunday morning’s rain gave way to sun so event-goers were able to pack their tents in reasonable comfort, happy to have experienced a fun event courtesy of the Autocrat, Lady Cionaodh Gunn, and her enormous staff of volunteers.

This report was compiled with assistance from a great many people, including THLord AElric Ravenshaw, Maistir Brandubh O Donnghaile, Master Fridrikr av Knusslig Hamn, Lord Aidan Gunn, and all of the photographers credited above.

Categories: SCA news sites

Bronze Age Egtved Girl was not from Denmark

History Blog - Fri, 2015-05-22 07:02

Egtved Girl, the Bronze Age woman whose exceptionally well-preserved grave was discovered near the village of Egtved on the Jutland peninsula of southeastern Denmark, was not born in Denmark. Researchers from the National Museum of Denmark and the University of Copenhagen studied the remains of her body, clothes and accessories using a combination of biomolecular, biochemical and geochemical techniques to determine not just where she was born and raised, but also to trace her movements in the years before her death and burial. Read the full study here.

The grave of Egtved Girl was excavated from the eastern side of the Storehøj barrow in 1921. She had been put to rest in a hollowed out oak trunk lined with cow hide and grave goods placed inside with her. Next to her head was a box made of bark containing a bronze awl and a hair net. At her feet was a birch bucket with a brown residue composed of ingredients like bog cranberries, wheat and lime tree pollen that were used to make a kind of mead. She wore bronze arm rings on each arm, an earring in one ear and a bronze belt plate of impressive size. A horn comb was attached to her belt. Her clothing was a short woven tunic and a cord skirt 15 inches long wound twice around her waist. both made of wool.

Although so many organic materials survived her long slumber, most of her own tissues decayed. Only her blonde hair, teeth, nails, and a small amount of skin and brain remained. Her bones probably dissolved in the acidic environment inside the coffin. A bundle of cloth was found to containing the cremated remains of a child 5-6 years old. A few charred bone fragments from the child were found in the bark box near her head. Egtved Girl was probably not her mother as her teeth indicate she was just 16-18 at the time of death. Dendrochronological analysis of the coffin dated the burial to 1,370 B.C.

For so young a woman to have such a high status burial is very rare. She must have held an important position in society, possibly a priestess or a ritual dancer. You might think, therefore, that she was local. To pinpoint her origins, the multi-disciplinary study used strontium isotope analysis of her first molar. They also tested the strontium isotope signature of the occipital bone of the child buried with her. The results were statistically indistinguishable, so the girl and the child came from the same place. Comparison to the Danish baseline and the specific strontium isotope values of the Egtved burial site excluded Denmark as their likely place of origin.

Her clothes weren’t local either. Strontium isotope analysis found only a single wool cord in the container with the child’s cremated remains that was of Danish origin. The rest of the wool fibers tested, all of them very high quality, had varied strontium isotope values that indicate the sheep grazed in an area with a widely varied ecology. The possible range for the origin of Egtved Girl, the child she was buried with and her garments stretches from southern Scandinavia to southern Germany, but researchers believe she was from the Black Forest which has a variety of strontium isotope values commensurate with those in the wool fibers.

“In Bronze Age Western Europe, Southern Germany and Denmark were the two dominant centres of power, very similar to kingdoms. We find many direct connections between the two in the archaeological evidence, and my guess is that the Egtved Girl was a Southern German girl who was given in marriage to a man in Jutland so as to forge an alliance between two powerful families,” [University of Gothenburg professor] Kristian Kristiansen says.

According to him, Denmark was rich in amber and traded amber for bronze. In Mycenaean Greece and in the Middle East, Baltic amber was as coveted as gold, and, through middlemen in Southern Germany, large quantities of amber were transported to the Mediterranean, and large quantities of bronze came to Denmark as payment. In the Bronze Age, bronze was as valuable a raw material as oil is today so Denmark became one of the richest areas of Northern Europe.

“Amber was the engine of Bronze Age economy, and in order to keep the trade routes going, powerful families would forge alliances by giving their daughters in marriage to each other and letting their sons be raised by each other as a kind of security,” Kristian Kristiansen says.

To determine her travels in the two years before her death, the research team used her nine-inch-long hair. The strontium signature indicates she that 13-15 months before she died, she was somewhere with very similar strontium values to the place she was born. Then she moved probably to Jutland where she stayed for about 9 or ten months before going back home for four to six months. Her last trip was to Egtved about a month before her death. This is the first time researchers have been able to trace the movements of a prehistoric person with such precision.

Our study provides evidence for long-distance and periodically rapid mobility. Our findings compel us to rethink European Bronze Age mobility as highly dynamic, where individuals moved quickly, over long distances in relatively brief periods of time.

Categories: Arts and Sciences, History

Retainers for Their Highnesses

AEthelmearc Gazette - Thu, 2015-05-21 18:47

photo by Steffan Wolfgang von Ravensburg

Greetings Æthelmearc from Meisterin Felicity.

I am looking to create a list of people interested in retaining for Their Royal Highnesses, Tindal and Etain, over the course of their tenure. I welcome experienced retainers, as well those who would like to learn what this is all about. I am happy to train! Also, if you can’t commit to long term assistance but see that TRH are traveling to an event in your area and can help, please contact me as well.

On behalf of The Heirs to The Sylvan Throne, I thank you.

Felicity, writ in Delftwood.

Categories: SCA news sites

Le Brun’s Jabach Family restored and on display

History Blog - Thu, 2015-05-21 04:31

Charles Le Brun’s monumental portrait Everhard Jabach and His Family purchased last year by the Metropolitan Museum of Art has been restored and is now on display in the museum’s European Paintings Gallery alongside other French works from the 17th century. Feast your eyes upon this pair of very satisfying before and after pictures:

The painting is 7.6 feet by 10.6 feet, so even getting it the Met from London was a task as monumental as the portrait. It couldn’t be padded to the gills because if the crate got too big it wouldn’t fit on the cargo plane. Thankfully there was no damage in transit.

Once it arrived safely, conservator Michael Gallagher’s first task was to remove the varnish applied in the late 19th or early 20th century. It was discolored and darkened, giving the painting a yellowed tint. Using cotton swabs and a solvent custom blended to remove this particular varnish without damaging the paint underneath, Gallagher painstakingly cleaned the whole surface revealing Le Brun’s rich hues and previously invisible details like baby Heinrich’s adorable pink toes. That delicate pink and white skin is even more evident in figure of Jabach’s daughter Anna Maria whose skin, hair and clothes look completely different with the varnish gone.

That was child’s play compared to the work Gallagher and his team had to do to repair damage to the top of the painting. That big horizontal line you see running across the width 18 inches below the top is a fold mark. It’s not clear when the canvas was folded over, but there’s a picture published in an 1969 issue of Country Life of the painting hanging in Olantigh Towers, the Kent stately home where it lived from 1832 until the 2014 sale, that shows the painting folded. Olantigh Towers burned in 1903 and was rebuilt on a far more modest scale. It’s possible the monumental painting was reducing by folding so it would fit in the smaller space of the new home.

It was a drastic, some might call it insane, choice. The top foot and a half of the canvas was folded over a smaller stretcher and hammered into place with tacks driven through the painted surface. It was finally liberated from its Procrustean prison in 2012 when the painting was flattened out and a temporary strip-lining attached around the perimeter with wax-resin adhesive. This was good enough to show prospective buyers, but it wasn’t conservation. It was up to the Met’s team had to address the fold and the tack holes.

First they had to flip the painting onto its face, remove the stretcher, strip-lining and wax residue. You can see the team in action in a series of videos posted in this blog entry by Michael Gallagher. Then they had to flatten out the fold and bring the surface in plane. Again Gallagher posted a series of short and sweet videos to demonstrate the process. Before they could deal the holes, they had to flip the painting right-side up and work from the surface. That was ingeniously done as well.

Tubes, man. Handy with a giant Picasso curtain; handy with a giant Le Brun canvas.

After reattaching the canvas to its stretcher, conservators added canvas insets and fills to areas of paint and canvas loss. A coating of fresh varnish was next to prepare the filled areas and other faded parts for retouching.

All that was left was putting it in the new frame, custom-made by Parisian framers who have been in business since the 1800s and shipped to New York in four sections. That turned out to be a fortunate coincidence because the painting is so huge it was barely able to squeeze through the gallery doors naked. The elaborate gilded frame was assembled and installed in the gallery where the painting now hangs in all its restored glory.

Categories: Arts and Sciences, History

Presentation of the Mortuary Roll

East Kingdom Gazette - Wed, 2015-05-20 18:59

photo by Lord Calin MacSalny

The following article was graciously written by Lord Gundormr Dengir.

At their decoronation, we presented Edward (III) and Thyra (II) with a scroll, commemorating their reign and bemoaning its end, however timely.  As described in a previous article, this was done in the form of a Mortuary Roll.  These were sent upon the death of an Abbot, Prioress or other high-ranking member of a religious community to other, related foundations. The roll began with an obituary for the deceased and then, upon arrival, each house added a short prayer called a Titulus. When it had completed its travels the roll, perhaps with more than 100 inscribed tituli, returned to its source to be kept in the archives.  Our roll  project was organized by Gun∂ormr Dengir and Eleanor Catlyng, with contributing calligraphers including Andreiko Eferiev, Kayleigh McWhyte, Lada Monguligan, Eowyn Eilonwy of Alewife Brook and Reijnier Verplanck.

The first membrane contains a poetic obituary to each monarch (written by Aildreda de Tamworthe and Steffan ap Cenydd), done in the style of the 10th century Planctus for William Longsword, a memorial poem to a slain Duke.  Each poem consists of six stanzas which end with the plaintive refrain, Heu nobis umbratis — Alas for us in shadow.  The poems are illuminated with 2 panels (painted by Aaradyn Ghyoot and Eva Woodrose) where the end of the reign is foretold with evil signs and portents, including a flaming pineapple streaking across the heavens.  Below, the whole population from the lowly to the mighty hedgehogs and noble flamingos, lament the end of the reign.   These were done in the style of one of the most impressively decorated of the surviving medieval mortuary rolls, BL MS Egerton MS 2849, the mortuary roll of Lucy of Hedingham (✝1230).

The remaining membranes contain all the tituli — titles.  In these brief formulas each local group promises to remember the departed royalty and asks that we recall their members as we remember Edward and Thyra.  The period text, which asked us to pray for the souls of the departed, was rewritten (Latin assistance by Rahel Carolingiæ and Steffan) so that we are implored to remember them for their deeds, wisdom or fame.  Baronies, Shires, Principalities, and Cantons, as well as individuals from across the East, contributed the names of their members, as did Kingdoms as far afield as the West and Drachenwald.

The entire scroll has been digitized and has been annotated with translation and scribal attribution.  Within the tituli, period practice was to simply give the first name of the person with their title following, if any.  We followed that format for the actual scroll, though in the digitized version we’ve also included the full names of all those commemorated in the text.

Duchess Thyra intends to display the Roll at upcoming events.  While it may be some time before we are ready to undertake another similar project, we hope that others might be inspired to take part in it in the future.   If you would like to learn more about the project or become involved in a future effort, please feel free to contact us: Eleanor, Gun∂ormr, or Thyra.  While many deserving subjects were honored through this project, we know that there are many more who could have been so recognized.  We would also be happy to begin collecting additional names towards that end as well.  

Filed under: Arts and Sciences, Court Tagged: a&s

A Knight on Vigil

AEthelmearc Gazette - Wed, 2015-05-20 11:48

Sir Finnvarr de Taahe has published a new e-book on Amazon titled “A Knight on Vigil”.

From the Amazon blurb: “What does it mean to style oneself a knight in these modern times? Why do so many organizations bestow this warrior’s title on their best members? Why is the symbolism of knighthood so attractive? Finnvarr de Taahe, who has borne the rank of knight among medieval re-creationists for over four decades, has pondered long and hard on these questions. In this volume he offers his thoughts on why people want to be knights, on chivalry and the virtues, and on courtly love. This volume will be of interest to anyone who wishes to understand the mindset of the medieval knight and use it as a guide to excellence.”

The Gazette asked Sir Finnvarr why he wrote the book.

“At the last Pennsic war, I was standing in front of my camp talking to another Knight about the vigil that was being held elsewhere on the site. He said to me ‘it’s too bad there is no book you could give to the Knight on vigil’.

“The struck me as a very good idea. And I felt I had some qualifications to write such a book. I have been a Knight for over 40 years, and the scholar of chivalry in my academic role for about 20. (I am a Professor of medieval history.) And like most members of the SCA chivalry, I have thought long and hard about why and how I can call myself a Knight.

“One of the most interesting medieval books about chivalry is a series of questions without answers about what constitutes chivalric behavior. I took this as my inspiration. I thought that the Knight on vigil needed more than answers provided by somebody else: he or she needed some provocative questions to wrestle with before taking on his or her new role.

“I think I succeeded in asking some good questions and providing a certain amount of background on medieval chivalry to help the candidates come up with their own answers. Some of the issues I featured in the book were the different kinds of historical Knights, the relationship between prowess and courtliness, and between chivalry and love.

“This is not the first time I have written about chivalry in the SCA. Twenty years ago I wrote a book of chivalry, which I hope to reissue in the near future with a beautiful cover. Like the new book, it’s not just me talking about my ideas. The book of chivalry was the product of an online discussion on the Middle Kingdom email list of the time. I hope that some of the readers of the Knight on vigil will read the other one when it’s available, even if the recent creation of a new martial peerage means that it is now a historical document. It has the advantage of reflecting a large number of different points of view of society members at that time about chivalry and peerage at large.”

The book can be ordered here.

Categories: SCA news sites

5th c. skeleton may have brought leprosy to Britain

History Blog - Wed, 2015-05-20 10:12

The skeleton of an adult male unearthed on the outskirts of Great Chesterford, Essex, is one of the earliest leprosy victims in Britain and a A new study has found that he may even have been the person who introduced the disease to Britain. The skeletal remains were unearthed between October 1953 and April 1954 in an Anglo-Saxon cemetery exposed in 1952 by a commercial gravel digging operation. The subsequent rescue excavations discovered 161 inhumation graves, 33 cremation graves, 2 horse and 2 dog burials. This man was in Burial GC96 which included grave goods: the remnants of a spear (the head and a conical ferrule), a buckle loop, a knife and a bronze shoelace tag.

While his grave goods were decayed and most of his facial bones, ribs, some vertebrae and hands were missing, the bones that remained, including all the major long bones, were in good to excellent condition. The features of leprosy — narrowing of the toe bones, joint damage — were recognized on the skeletal remains in the 1950s, but other diseases can have similar effects. The well-preserved the bones allowed an international team of researchers led by the University of Leiden to apply the latest scientific analyses to confirm the diagnosis and reveal much more about the man’s life. Read the full study on PLOS ONE here.

DNA extraction was so successful that researchers were able not just to find Mycobacterium tuberculosis complex DNA, but to identify the specific strain of leprosy. It’s from lineage 3I, a strain that has been identified before in human remains found in Scandinavia and Britain but those date to the 7th century at the earliest. This is an ancestral strain from around the 5th and 6th centuries A.D. Lipid biomarker analysis (study of the fatty molecules from the leprosy bacteria) confirmed the ancient DNA results and found on class of biomarkers distinct from the later instances of 3I found in medieval burials. Strontium isotope analysis of the teeth found that he was not local to Great Chesterford. Oxygen isotope analysis narrowed down his likely origin to Denmark, although eastern France and central Germany could not be ruled out.

The strain type has little bearing on the pathogenesis or severity of disease, as this is dictated by the immune response to M. leprae, but rather it may be helpful in understanding the origin of disease in the Anglo-Saxon period. Other type 3I cases have been reported from medieval Britain (Winchester and Ipswich), Denmark and Sweden. A Scandinavian origin for this lineage is therefore one possibility, given the proximity of the Anglo-Saxon tribal homelands in Northern Germany with Denmark.

Radiocarbon testing found the skeleton dates to 415–545 A.D.

Project leader Dr Sarah Inskip of Leiden University concludes: “The radiocarbon date confirms this is one of the earliest cases in the UK to have been successfully studied with modern biomolecular methods. This is exciting both for archaeologists and for microbiologists. It helps us understand the spread of disease in the past, and also the evolution of different strains of disease, which might help us fight them in the future. We plan to carry out similar studies on skeletons from different locations to build up a more complete picture of the origins and early spread of this disease.”

Categories: Arts and Sciences, History

Pennsic: Scheduling Activities on the Battlefield

SCAtoday.net - Tue, 2015-05-19 13:12

From the Midrealm Gazette: Countess Joleicia of Litchfield, Pennsic 44 Battlefield Scheduler, reports that requests are now being taken for activities on the Pennsic 44 battlefield.

read more

Categories: SCA news sites

In Search of Fall Æcademy Hosts

AEthelmearc Gazette - Tue, 2015-05-19 13:10

Greetings unto the most talented and erudite Kingdom of Æthelmearc from Mistress Alicia Langland, Chancellor of the Æcademy!

Good Gentles,

Though spring has only just arrived, it is time to start thinking ahead to the fall.

 Fall Æthelmearc Æcademy is scheduled to be held in Region 2, which includes the following groups: Barony-Marche of Debatable Lands, Gryffyns Keep, Hunter’s Home, King’s Crossing, Riversedge, Silva Vulcani, Steltonwald, Stormsport, and Sunderoak.

The preferred date is November 14, 2015. Bids are due June 1, 2015. If you reside in Region 2, I hope your group will consider submitting a bid.

Please contact me (ae.aecademy@aethelmearc.org) if you would consider submitting a bid. If you have questions or need help with putting together your bid, please let me know; I will be delighted to assist!

Yours, in Service,

Categories: SCA news sites

Swords clash in AEthelmearc

SCAtoday.net - Tue, 2015-05-19 09:00

The sounds of sword on metal armor and the twang of bowstrings were heard recently at a fighter practice at Highland Park along Washington Boulevard in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Photographer Justin Merriman, of the Tribune-Review, caught some of the action. (photos)

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Categories: SCA news sites

TCM’s summer film noir festival and online course

History Blog - Tue, 2015-05-19 00:12

Clear off your DVRs because they’re going to need all the space they can get this summer. Turner Classic Movies is running a film noir festival every Friday of June and July called, appropriately, Summer of Darkness. A full 24 hours of films noir will air starting at 6:00 AM each Friday. It begins on June 5th with Fritz Lang’s chilling 1931 masterpiece M and ends on August 1st at 3:00 AM with Hitchcock’s 1956 based-on-a-true-story mistaken identity picture The Wrong Man. In between are iconic films you’ve probably seen many times — The Maltese Falcon, Murder, My Sweet, The Big Sleep, The Third Man, Blue Dahlia, Strangers on a Train — others you’ve heard of but not seen, ones you’ve never heard of and a smattering of modern classics like LA Confidential and Blue Velvet. Browse the full schedule here (pdf). The grand total by my count is a pantagruelian 121 movies.

But wait, there’s more! TCM is leaning into the fact that it’s already to all intents and purposes a film school that runs 24 hours a day, seven days a week, 365 days of the year, 366 on leap years, and will be airing this treasure trove of film noir in conjunction with a massive open online course The Case of Film Noir.

In this nine-week course, we’ll go back in film history to investigate the “The Case of Film Noir” — the means, motives, and opportunities that led Hollywood studios to make these hard-boiled crime dramas, arguably their greatest contribution to American culture.

This course will run concurrently with the Turner Classic Movies “Summer of Darkness” programming event, airing 24 hours of films noir every Friday in June and July 2015. This is the deepest catalog of film noir ever presented by the network (and perhaps any network), and provides an unprecedented opportunity for those interested in learning more to watch over 100 classic movies as they investigate “The Case of Film Noir.”

Both the course and the associated films will enrich your understanding of the film noir phenomenon — from the earliest noir precursors to recent experiments in neo-noir. You will be able to share thoughts online and test your movie knowledge with a worldwide community of film noir students and fans.

Taught by Ball State University film noir and online education expert Dr. Richard L. Edwards, the course will provide links to public domain films noir so if you don’t have Turner Classic Movies, you can still participate. (Seriously though, get TCM if you can. In terms of sheer consistency and density of material, it’s the greatest channel on cable, bar none.) There will be live discussions on social media, but if you can’t attend you’ll be able to view recordings of them.

This is an amazing opportunity to explore a genre of film in the kind of depth that even college film classes can only dream of. Click here to enroll in the course.

Categories: Arts and Sciences, History

Something’s Brewing in the Vayle…

AEthelmearc Gazette - Mon, 2015-05-18 20:15


Oh yes indeed, something is brewing in Sterlynge Vayle, something that will prove to be an intoxicating combination of alcohol, mayhem, and edged weapons. Do not fear for anyone’s life, though. It’s just the annual event, Axes, Ales and Arrows! Plus, a bonus Sunday Regional Muster at the very same site!

Baroness Marianna Maria Pietrosanti supervises archery. Photo credit Michele Broton.

Axes, Ales, and Arrows

May 22-24, 2015

The Shire of Sterlynge Vayle has been home to many people over it’s decades of existence, and many wonderful events have been held in her borders. A Long Time Ago – or not as long as some might wish – they hosted an event called “Axes and Ales”. A member of their populace, Lady Briant Huntington, served as head organizer for this popular event, until one day, she left on a pilgrimage. Over a decade has come and gone since her departure, and the remaining members have become restless to find out what has happened to their shire-mate. A Quest has set before them and any who would dare to join them as they again hold Axes, Ales, and Arrows! (Hey, you didn’t think we were only going to have axes to protect us did you? We aren’t completely crazy!)

Who is this mysterious Nest person, and what fate has she forced upon the sweet, biddable Lady Briant?

The weekend’s tournaments in Thrown Weapons and Archery will all be on the theme with a goal of helping us find out just what happened to Lady Briant. Baroness Anastasie deLamoure will be organizing the weekends Thrown Weapons activities, and Baroness Mariana Maria Pietrosanti is planning some awesome Archery activities. There will be a brew tasting, as well as an evening Bardic circle. There are no plans for heavy or rapier activities but if marshals are available those so inclined may fight to their hearts content.

The event site is Evenmarch – 233 Doolittle Rd, Harpursville NY 13787, 4 miles north of Windsor (which is Exit 79 on NY Route 17/I-86) and 6 miles south of Harpursville (Exit 6 on I-88 – to 79 “East”). The Entrance for camping will be on Doolittle Road.

A tasty dayboard will be served that all may be refreshed during the day. Before departing join us for a grand feast showcasing the journey of Laird Perote Campbell and his staff as they recount their adventures heading to the Holy Land in search of Lady Briant and her search for the sacred thigh bone of Saint Ignacio .

For more excellent information on the event AND for the address, which is the location of Sunday’s Muster, please see the event announcement in full at the Hey! Event! page:

Axes, Ales, and Arrows!

Or, see the muster page at

Regional Fight Practice Facebook page

Categories: SCA news sites

Duke Brannos! So this one is out there already, but sharing it out again

PainBank - Mon, 2015-05-18 17:05

Duke Brannos

So this one is shared already via Archive.org, but we are adding it here to get it in the rss feed.  Enjoy the flashback to 9 years ago.  Before he was a Duke and easy pickings.

Categories: SCA news sites

East Kingdom Curia Set for May 31; Agenda Now Available

East Kingdom Gazette - Mon, 2015-05-18 15:07

En français

East Kingdom Curia will be held on Sunday, May 31st at Southern Region War Camp in the Barony of Carillion.

Curia is an opportunity for the Crown to solicit and listen to the opinions of citizens of the East prior to amending East Kingdom Law. Curia meets at least once per reign. The following is a list of those positions who are entitled to a ‘seat’ at Curia. They are also entitled to send representatives should the position-holder be unable to attend:

– The Crown and Heirs of the East Kingdom
– Kingdom Officers
– Local Seneschals

East Kingdom Royal Peers and Territorial Barons and Baronesses are also invited to attend, and have the right to be heard by The Crown. Any other gentle who wishes to attend is welcome, but may speak only if recognized by The Crown.

The agenda for the upcoming Curia can be found on-line here: http://seneschal.eastkingdom.org/docs/CuriaAgendaMay2015.pdf

— En français —

La Curie du Royaume de l’Est aura lieu le dimanche 31 mai durant le Camp de Guerre de la Région Sud (Southern Region War Camp) and la Baronni de Carillion.

La Curie offre la chance à la Couronne de demander et d’écouter les opinions du peuple de notre Royaume avant d’amender la Loi du Royaume de l’Est. La Curie se rencontre au moins une fois par Règne. Voici la liste des postes qui donnent un siège à la Curie. Les détenteurs de ces postes peuvent aussi choisir d’envoyer un représentant s’ils sont dans l’impossibilité de se déplacer pour cette rencontre :

– Leurs Majestés et leurs Héritiers du Royaume de l’Est
– Officiers du Royame
– Sénéchaux locaux

Les Pairs du Royaume ainsi que les Barons et Baronnes térritoriaux sont également invités et ont le droit d’être entendus par la Couronne. Tout autre sujet désirant se présenter le peuvent mais n’auront droit de parole que s’ils sont reconnus par Leurs Majestés.

Le procès-verbal de la prochaine Curie peut être consulté ici : (en anglais seulement) http://seneschal.eastkingdom.org/docs/CuriaAgendaMay2015.pdf

En français par Ekaterina Solov’eva Pevtsova

Filed under: Announcements, Law and Policy Tagged: curia, East Kingdom Law

Their Sylvan Majesties Invite You to Help Paint Pennsic Red (and to Fight, Fence, Feast, Craft and yes, Screen-Paint, while doing it!)

AEthelmearc Gazette - Mon, 2015-05-18 13:27

Unto the glorious kingdom of Aethelmearc do TRM Timothy and Gabrielle send greetings.

This Saturday, May 23rd, the Shire of ACG is holding a fighter practice and Aethelmearc workshop. We will be working on Champions baldrics for Pennsic, put some of the finishing touches on the glorious new list field as well as a few other projects that We have in mind for the kingdom.
The workshop and practice will run all day in New Berlin PA.
I (Timothy), intend to put my helmet on for the duration of the day. providing competition and instruction to any who desire it. If I can hold my sword, and someone wishes to learn, I will instruct. If I can stand, and someone wishes to spar, I will give it my all.
I invite any and all of my brother Knights to join me.

It is our fondest desire that some of our kingdom’s many elite fencers can make the journey and work with those who desire to better themselves.
Plus, we have the workshop. Come help us take the known world’s breath away. It is our desire for everyone who journeys to Pennsic to know full well that they stand on our Kingdom’s lands, and her colors are Red and White. Bring your consort and any friends who can help with these tasks, make a day of it.
We promise you won’t be disappointed.

For more information, please see the Aethelmearc Gazette’s previous post on May 11th concerning this workshop at Æthelmearc Kingdom Work Day & Martial Practice.

Their Royal Majesties of Aethemearc, Timothy and Gabrielle. Photo courtesy of Jim Bubb.

Categories: SCA news sites

Picasso curtain unfurled at NY Historical Society

History Blog - Mon, 2015-05-18 04:06

On Sunday, May 17th, Le Tricorne, the 19-by-20-foot theatrical curtain painted by Pablo Picasso in 1919 was unfurled at its new permanent home, the New-York Historical Society. It’s the culmination of a long battle between the New York Landmarks Conservancy which has owned of the curtain since 2005 but does not own the landmark Mies van der Rohe Seagram Building where the curtain has hung since 1959. The building is the property of RFR Holding and its art collecting co-founder Aby Rosen. He wanted the largest Picasso in the United States gone and would have had it spirited it out in the middle of night if the Conservancy hadn’t gotten an injunction in the nick of time. The dispute was resolved last summer when the Conservancy agreed to take down the curtain and loan it permanently to the New-York Historical Society for public display.

The curtain was taken down from its home of nearly 60 years during the weekend of September 7th, 2014. It took a team of technicians from Art Installation Design 12 hours to remove the curtain from the travertine wall and roll it from bottom to top around a 23-foot-long tube using a hand crank. They had to start rolling it before they even knew the exact mechanism that was keeping the curtain on the wall. That turned out to be hundreds of staples attaching to the curtain to two pieces of wood that were screwed to the wall with 19 stainless steel screws. The New York Landmarks Conservancy experts were concerned that the paint or canvas might crack or, in a catastrophic scenario, that the top of the curtain — the most brittle section — would tear from the weight of the rolled up bottom before the process was complete. You can get a glimpse what a nail-biter of a long night it was in this video from the New York Times:

Thankfully the curtain was entirely cooperative and once it was rolled all the way up, the tube was lowered to a steel rig to keep it stable for transport. Wrapped in bubble wrap, the tube was loaded onto a truck by a team from Auer’s Rigging & Moving and moved to the Williamstown Art Conservation Center in Williamstown, Massachusetts, where it was cleaned and conserved. Conservators found that the curtain is still “in excellent structural condition.” Other than repairs to a few small surface tears and removing some 1970s-era overpainting, all the curtain needed was a thorough cleaning. The front was cleaned by Conservancy exports when Vivendi deeded it to them in 2005, but the back was a different story. The last time it was cleaned was during the 1970s conservation, and a lot of grime had accumulated in the four decades since.

Once cleaned and conserved, the mighty curtain was again rolled up around its tube and trucked to the New-York Historical Society building on West 77th St. It was lifted to the second floor with a crane and then slipped in through the window.

With the curtain inside on Sunday morning, the installation got underway even as visitors came and went elsewhere in the museum. The riggers and art handlers climbed in and out of the shell of scaffolding surrounding the spot on the wall, painted pale blue, where the curtain would hang.

When the wall was ready, Tom Zoufaly, the lead technician for the art handling company, Art Installation Design, took over.

“It’s got to be slow,” he said. “I don’t want it to go slap against the wall. It will crack.”

The tube was rolled up to the wall. Some riggers pulled, hand over hand, on a chain-link pulley, and the tube began to creep up the wall with a sound like an ascending roller coaster. When it reached the top, others were waiting to slide the wooden slat at the top of the curtain into mounted brackets on the wall.

Once it was secured, they all shouted “Down! Down! Down!” and as some men cranked at either end of the tube, and others gently pulled it down, the curtain unfurled. A painted face peeked out, a woman in a black veil. Then the entire scene appeared: spectators at a bullfight.

When the curtain was freed from the roll, and hung flush against the wall, the crowd applauded.

Le Tricorne goes on display in second floor gallery of the New-York Historical Society starting May 29th.

Categories: Arts and Sciences, History