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Pennsic 46 Rapier Champions Teams Kick-off & Signups

East Kingdom Gazette - Tue, 2016-12-27 09:00

The Rapier Pennsic Champions Coordinators have announced the tryout and selection process for both the Single’s Team & the Melee Team. Below is the selection committee’s email, originally sent out to the EK Rapier email list.

Greeting unto the East!

Preparations for the rapier champions teams are already underway in order to give everyone plenty of time to plan for next year. Here are the pertinent details.

Selection Process

We will be running tryouts again for both teams. We like how much this allows us to see people in action, how much it makes us travel, and how it gives so many people more excuses to fence.

Don Lupold intends to organize tryout tournaments for the singles team throughout the Kingdom all the way through July. It should be noted that while winning one of these tournaments will certainly put you on the short list of candidates, it is no guarantee that you will be selected.

Don Eldrich intends on running at least half a dozen melee tryouts throughout the Kingdom between January and May so that he can best observe every candidate. His intention is to narrow the list as quickly as possible and produce the final list of team members no later than May so that there is time for the team to prepare together throughout June and July.

In addition to subjective observation of skill, Eldrich will be attempting to harvest more objective data from the tryouts than what was gathered last year. It is our hope that this information will be informative and will reinforce his subjective impressions rather than challenge them. Either way, the data will be used to inform his decisions, but will not be the only deciding factors.

Sign Up

Go sign up! The form is here: Pennsic EK Rapier Champions Signups 2017

In addition to being the starting list from which the champions will eventually be chosen, the sign up list will also guide us when deciding when and where the best places to host tryouts might be.

An Expanded Melee Team

While only ten of us can take the champions melee field at Pennsic, Eldrich believes that the East Kingdom has many more fencers worthy of being called champions and who could contribute to the team’s success. Therefor, there will be a round of cuts around May down to approximately twenty-five semi-finalists. These semi-finalists will be asked to serve as an expanded champions team whose role will be to practice and train in the final months before ten of them will represent the East Kingdom on the field at the champions melee battle at Pennsic. The primary goals are to encourage local training and exercises among the most likely candidates and to provide a dedicated group for the final team to practice with without requiring everyone to travel half-way across the Kingdom on the same weekend.

If you have any questions or wish to volunteer your event or practice to host one of the tryouts, you can email either of us directly at mzurschm@gmail.com or eldrichgaiman@yahoo.com .

General questions or comments for the East Kingdom Rapier command can always be sent to EKRapierArmy@gmail.com .

Yours in service to the East,
Don Lupold Hass, Captain of Rapier Champions & King’s Champion of Fence
Don Eldrich Gaiman, Captain of Rapier Melee Champion

P.S. – Please help share this message with your local fencing communities. Thanks!

Filed under: Pennsic, Rapier Tagged: Pennsic, pennsic 46, pennsic war points, Rapier

Ancient tomb with vibrant frescoes found in Jordan

History Blog - Mon, 2016-12-26 22:55

Workers expanding a waste-water sanitation system in the village of Beit Ras in northern Jordan have unearthed a Roman or Byzantine-era tomb decorated with vibrantly colored frescoes. In rich reds, greens, yellows and pinks, the oil frescoes depict people and their animals in daily life, agricultural workers, grape vines and scenes from mythology. There are Greek inscriptions above the While some areas are eroded, on the whole the art is remarkably well-preserved and provides a unique insight into the funerary rituals of the city of Capitolias in late antiquity.

The tomb includes a cave with two burial chambers. The larger chamber contains a basalt stone rock-cut tomb decorated with raised etchings of two lion heads and with several human bones enclosed. [...]

The inscriptions and some artifacts found in the tomb are being analysed to give a more accurate time-frame of when this tomb was built and who it was built for. [...]

Her Excellency Minister of Tourism and Antiquities Ms. Lina Annab, following a visit to the site, confirmed that the Department of Antiquities will continue to excavate, expand and prepare the site for future visitors. Her Excellency also confirmed that due to the tomb’s archaeological value, the site has been closed off to visitors and on-lookers to protect the archaeological integrity of the tomb as more tests are being run to ascertain more information about its significance.

The ancient city of Capitolias was founded in the 1st century A.D. under the reign of either Nerva or Trajan. The planned city, dedicated to and named after the god Jupiter Capitolinus, prospered. By the 2nd century it was encircled by a defensive wall and continued to grow in regional significance. It was one of the cities of the traditional Decapolis, a group of 10 cities that were centers of Greek and Roman culture in the Levant. Capitolias was populated through the Umayyad period in the 10th century, and there are records of Latin titulars assigned to the city as late as the 14th century.

The site wasn’t thoroughly excavated until the 1980s, and there were limitations on how much of the area could be explored without interfering with the modern village. Very few structures have been found — a smattering of the surface remains of the city walls, a marketplace, a colonnade, an aqueduct — but there’s little left of most of them. The largest single surviving ancient structure is the 2nd century Roman theater.

Other archaeological finds, large numbers of glass fragments from the 3rd-5th century which are evidence of a major secondary glass production industry in Capitolias, indicate Capitolias was economically prominent in the region well into the Byzantine era. The newly discovered tomb may fill in more blanks about this same period.

Categories: Arts and Sciences, History

An Announcement From TRH Regarding Pennsic Rapier

East Kingdom Gazette - Mon, 2016-12-26 10:00

Here is the news we have promised and you have all waited with such grace and patience.

We have searched high and low throughout this vast kingdom for a gentle to lead our fencers into war. We are pleased to announce that we have found what we have sought.

Enemies of the East beware for an army of fencers come before you! Their leader is fierce of blade, strong of hand and one helluva dresser!

The next Rapier General of the East – Don Remy Delamontagne de Gascogne

The rest of his illustrious staff:

East Kingdom XOs: Dona Sorcha Dhocair & Gallant Xavier the Sinister
Aide de Camp: Dona Anastasia da Monte 

Northern Army Commander: Master Ogedei Beccinjab Northern Army XO: Lady Elewys Yun Shi of Anglespur   Southern Commander: Duchess Caoilfhionn inghean Fhaolàin Southern XO: Don Eldrich Gaiman  

Champs Coordinator: Don Lupold Hass
Melee Champs Captain: Don Eldrich Gaiman
Champs Advisory Council: Master Donovan Shinnock, Don Devlin MacPhearson & Don Thomas of Effingham

Yours in service,

Princess Honig and Prince Ioannes

Filed under: Announcements, Pennsic, Rapier Tagged: pennsic 46, Rapier, rapier champions

A little treat

History Blog - Sun, 2016-12-25 21:49

I saved this just for today since I knew I wouldn’t have time for a full post. Remember the wonderful video from last year of the Historic Royal Palaces conservators lovingly cleaning the massive Mortlake February tapestry? Several comments on that article wished to see a picture of the tapestry after it was cleaned. Well, there are no direct before-and-after comparison images that I could find, but there is another great video, this one showing the cleaned tapestry re-hung by textile conservators in the Privy Chamber of Kensington Palace.

They take the same care hanging such a large and delicate tapestry as they do washing it.

Categories: Arts and Sciences, History

Tudor Christmas Cookalong

History Blog - Sat, 2016-12-24 17:25

Looking for last minute holiday feast ideas? Historic Royal Palaces has some suggestions from the Tudors whose feasting prowess was legendary. They’ve posted two Tudor Christmas Cookalong videos hosted by food historian Robin Mitchener who is part of the crack team in the Hampton Court Palace kitchens that recreate period foods for the visitors to the palace.

The first video in the series is for a dish called Sauge made from leftover white meat, so maybe more of a post-Christmas dish unless you still have turkey in the freezer from Thanksgiving. It’s like a combination of chicken and egg salad, only without mayonnaise or oil. The yolks get mashed up in a monster marble mortar and pestle with spices, herbs and vinegar, though, so it does get somewhat creamed. Please note around the 2:40 mark how slickly Robin Mitchener deploys his blade.

Next is Cormarye, a marinated pork loin dish that looks legitimately delicious. In Tudor times the entire loin was roasted on a spit in one of the ginormous Hampton Court fireplaces, but the food historian has modified it to use readily available and easily pan-cooked loin steaks.

The whole YouTube channel is a treasury of cooking videos. This one from six years ago offers a Tudor-style alternative to the traditional Christmas mince pie. It’s called Ryschewys close and fryez (watch the video to learn how to pronounce it) and is a pasta parcel filled with fruits and nut paste and fried.

This one isn’t Christmas themed per se. It’s a savory cheese pie filled with all the rich dairy you’re not supposed to eat at Lent, hence the name Tartes owt of Lente. I’m sure it’s very tasty and looks relatively simple to prepare, but the key part of the video as far as I’m concerned is the unimpeded view of Robin whipping out his trusty scimitar from his hip holster. Watch out cowboys; we history nerds are coming for you.

Merry Christmahannakwanzika, all!

Categories: Arts and Sciences, History

Texel shipwreck yields another great textile

History Blog - Fri, 2016-12-23 23:59

The 17th century ship that sank in the Wadden Sea near the island of Texel off the coast of North Holland has already yielded a remarkable trove of well-preserved textiles. A beautiful silk damask gown was identified as having belonged to Jean Kerr, Countess of Roxburghe, lady-in-waiting to Queen Henrietta Maria and governess to three of her children with King Charles I. Buried under the sand for centuries, the gown survived in stunning condition, as did some of her other garments — a jacket, several silk bodices embroidered with gold and silver thread, woven silk knee socks — and pieces like a silver-embroidered red velvet pouch that would normally have disintegrated over time.

Now to that record we can add 13 fragments from an extremely rare carpet. Woven from silk and wool, the carpet has intricate flower and animal designs. One fragment features a striking scene of a lion attacking a cow.

Art historians have studied the fragments, examining the weaving and knotting techniques, the colors, patterns and figures. They believe the carpet was likely manufactured in Lahore, then part of the Mughal Empire that ruled over modern-day Pakistan, India, Afghanistan and Bangladesh. It dates to the second quarter of the 17th century, a time when the Dutch East India Company’s exports of Indian textiles to Europe was kicking into high gear.

Since the ship was a baggage ship for Queen Henrietta Maria’s royal retinue, the carpet may or may not have originated from the Dutch East India Company. The company traded all over Europe, and several Mediterranean objects were found on the wreck, so the carpet might have come to Holland via the south as well.

The highly prized carpets with their stylized botanicals and dynamic animal figures were very popular among the wealthy in the Dutch Golden Age. Yet, almost none of them have survived.

“It’s almost like having the fragments of an original Rembrandt in front of you,” textile researchers Ebeltje Hartkamp-Jonxis and Hillie Smit, who examined the carpet, said in an emailed statement from the museum.

The fragments are now on display at the at the Kaap Skil museum, where the damask dress is on display, in Diving into Details, an exhibition about the latest research into the shipwreck. The exhibition runs through mid-February, after which the fragments will be sent to the Hilde House in Castricum, the archaeological museum of the Province Noord-Holland, for further study and conservation.

Categories: Arts and Sciences, History

The Æthelmearc Guild Hall: an Interview with Master John Michael Thorpe

AEthelmearc Gazette - Fri, 2016-12-23 15:35

Mistress Arianna of Wynthrope interviewed Master John Michael Thorpe about his new Guild Hall. Here’s his original announcement, posted on December 15, 2016:

I have been thinking for a while about how best to promote the growth of medieval and renaissance material culture (The tangible items that are part of the daily experience of the people and cultures that we as members of the SCA try to emulate). My personal view is that we can greatly enhance our shared experience as members of the society, as well as make it more authentic if we promote the idea and practice of producing period items using period (or as close as we can approximate) tools and materials and using them as they would have been used. Æthelmearc has guilds both at a Kingdom and local level, as well as artisans, and hobbyists (and just people who are interested in learning how to do something, or saw something cool that they want to try in a book) so after briefly bouncing the concept off of Their Majesties and Their Highnesses, and basing the concept on the Guild Hall in the Medieval City of York (Jorvik) where all of the guilds would meet. I have created the Æthelmearc Guild Hall as an informal organization.

This organization will be dedicated to communication between artisans of all genres, whether it be cooking, ceramics, metals, tailoring whatever. The Guild Hall will be run by and for the artisans, outside of the structure of the formal A&S community, answering as the medieval guilds did directly to the Crown. As we grow more members we can decide as a body how formally or informally we as a group want to do things, but the first step is to set up a forum where we can all communicate. Facebook is the easiest way to do this so I have created a public group.

All who are Æthelmearc subjects and are interested in the material trades are welcome to join. The usual prohibitions on mundane politics and being a jerk apply. Until this is up and running I will retain the right to ban anyone who is acting like a jerk so be nice


Master John Michael Thorpe
Guildmaster, Royal Guild of Æthelmearc Metalsmiths

Master Thorpe at a forge. Photo by his wife, THLady Fionnghuala ingean Diarmada.

Thank you for agreeing to this interview, Master Thorpe. What prompted you to create the Guild Hall, and what do you hope people get out of it?

One of the things that I have been noticing consistently in my 32 years in the SCA is that there is a real dearth of material culture evident. While you see newbies invariably outfitting themselves with various props that to their mind signify that they are in the SCA version of what was called “Theater Space” when I was working as an actor, the cheesy Chinese-made, junk vendor-supplied “dagger” comes to mind… (yes I had one or three as well when I was new) the use of objects that were commonly used in period as part of our daily life while we are at events is lacking. When I see people making things as A&S competition entries, so many times they are using modern tools and modern materials in modern ways to make something that in their interpretation looks like a period item. Additionally, there are people who are working on making things that were done by artisans in the middle ages. Some of them are working together in groups, whether they be Kingdom guilds, local group guilds, or just a weekly “stitch and bitch,” and some are working alone. There is not really a single group where (for instance) the threadworkers, the cooks, and the metalsmiths communicate to organize ways of increasing their visibility, building an event together, or looking for artisans who can help them figure out something outside of their discipline. I initially considered applying to the Æthelmearc Gazette to become a “trades” correspondent after my term as Kingdom Chronicler was over as a means of helping to increase the visibility of the trades, but ultimately decided that a better role would be organizing within the guild structure.

What kinds of things do you consider “material trades?” What was your reason for choosing that particular group of activities? 

The things that I consider “Material Trades” are things like Carpentry, Joinery, Blacksmithing, Leatherworking, Weaving, Goldsmithing, Bookbinding; pretty much anything that produces material goods that was practiced as a profession in our period of study. Technically, even bread baking and sausage making were guild-controlled activities in some medieval cultures (It was illegal in medieval England, for instance, to bake your own bread according to some accounting records if I remember correctly). My focus, both in the SCA and mundanely, has been making things. I am known mostly for my metalwork, but I have experience from an early age working in leather, wood, metal, plastic, and glass. My attraction to the material arts has been the fact that when you make something tangible, it has not just a physical form, but if it is a recreation of a period item and it is made well and used in a period manner, it brings a measure of authenticity to that which it touches. It is easy to assess the tangible merits of an item, (is it well crafted, does it look finished) and the functional merits (if it is a tool, does it perform the task that it was meant for well, and without injuring the hand that wields it?) but there is another dimension (intrinsic?) – using a good reproduction to perform the task that the original would have been used for in the manner that the original would have been applied lends an element of authenticity to what we as a society are trying to do, and as such elevates what we are doing beyond just another “Ren Faire.”

Why was it important to you that the Guild Hall be “outside of the structure of the formal A&S community?”

I really want the Guild Hall to be something run by and for the tradespeople, and something that is dedicated to promoting the material arts. The Ministry of Arts and Sciences is a very well-meaning group, but their focus is providing a reporting structure for verifying that people do arts as part of their local culture, and organizing specific activities. I want to take a more encompassing approach. As the type of people who are most likely to drive what I am looking for (myself included) are not the type given to rigid deadlines and quarterly reports, I want to have the freedom to let the Guild Hall grow in whatever direction fits the community.

You say that material culture is “often lacking” in the SCA. What do you feel we need but don’t have? How would you like to fix that lack?

I see a lot of people who are wearing their garb like a costume, often without the accessories that would complete an outfit in period (myself included), and using modern substitutions for items that would have been in daily use in period. This can be because they are not aware of what the item would have been, or there is not a proper period piece available that they are aware of, or there is not sufficient awareness of the role that a given item played. Also, and I am guilty of this as well, camping events have very modern items and furnishings scattered pretty much everywhere, unless you are in an authenticity-high setting like Enchanted Ground. One thing that helps to establish the illusion is replacing modern items and processes with the proper period equivalents, and the easiest way to make that happen is to provide encouragement and education for people to make the pieces. Not just a one-off A&S competition entry, but individually or as groups people producing all sorts of goods.

I am all for people learning their craft well enough to do it professionally if that appeals to them. I [have] an unattainable goal [of] events like Ice Dragon having all of the merchant spaces filled with people making all or most the merchandise that they sell,and all of that merchandise being reasonably documentable. But on a practical level, I want to help spread the knowledge of how material goods were produced and used, and encourage people to do that as a regular part of what we all do.

One of the things I have noticed is that awareness of the methods and tools used to craft common items, and the aesthetics common to period items, is often missing. I see people using power tools to knock huge chunks of material down into something that loosely approximates the shape of something they have seen photographed face on in a book. I have found that it is often easier to create a proper period form of something if you recreate the tools that would have been used and try to use the materials that the original was made with. Many times if you approach a task as you think a period tradesman would have, the tools and material guide you to a period form as that is the path of least resistance. For instance, if you try to bull a gothic arched window frame out of plywood with power tools it will look clumsy and unfinished no mater what you do, and will not be strong. On the other hand if you rive green oak splints and steam them into form with pins and tenons to hold them top and bottom you end up with a marvelously light and graceful yet extremely strong form with all of the right geometry. You can take that insight to almost all of the trades.

What do you mean when you say the Guild Hall would “answer directly to the Crown?” 

When I started the Royal Guild of Æthelmearc Metalsmiths, I read a lot about the medieval guilds, particularly the Worshipful Company of Goldsmiths. Virtually all guilds were established by Royal charter and were charged by the King to maintain the standards of quality of goods and services, but also to collect or provide a tax or a tithe to the Crown. When I established the Royal Guild of Æthelmearc Metalsmiths, our charter was signed by Malcolm I and Tessa I. It pledged to serve and advise the Crown and populace of the Kingdom of Æthelmearc . I have included His Majesty and Their Highnesses in the initial Guild Hall Facebook group (I couldn’t directly include Her Majesty, I assume due to privacy settings, but I tried) so that they would have direct access to the members both to observe what level of activity the Guild Hall members were engaged in, and to have a direct link to suggesting ideas or projects that would enrich the Kingdom as a whole.

Do you envision the group expanding beyond Facebook to in-person meetings, or even hosting events?

Absolutely! When the ideas that this grew out of initially formed, I was talking with Master Angus (OL East, housewright work), Master Simon de Okewode (OL Æthelmearc, pottery and metalcrafts) Master Erwilliom MacFergus (OL Æthelmearc, metal crafts) and a few others about starting a “Trades Company.” It would be sort of like the Tournament Companies, doing event space inside of events that had workshops set up, with only documentable tools and processes being used, starting out at a 25-foot authenticity level, and evolving over a period of time to “sight and feel” authenticity of tools, processes, and materials. Life intervened and we all got extremely busy, so that never came into being, but the Metalsmiths guild efforts to hold events within the events of local groups have a good track record, so I would like in the future to find groups that have events with enough room that we could add a Guild Hall meeting and trades demonstration as an additional attendance draw.

Do you expect the Guild Hall to end up with a formal structure – perhaps the “apprentice/journeyman/master” structure of medieval guilds?

At some point that will likely happen. I want to avoid the term “Master” for anything involved in a ranking system as that term is already formally linked to Bestowed Peerages, and the term “Apprentice” is already in use to describe the pledged vassal of a Laurel, so at some point I am sure that the Guilds will sort out some sort of universally acknowledged means of addressing who is an experienced mentor, who is a novice, and who is well on their journey, but I have no strong desire to push it. If people are merely looking to add a new title to their alphabet soup, they are probably looking in the wrong place

For those who don’t already know you, could you provide a brief SCA resumé?

I initially joined the SCA in Myrkfaelinn in 1982, and fought heavy until a motorcycle accident wiped out my left knee. After that I was kind of fringy until, as an RIT student in 1986, I stumbled on a Thescorre fencing practice at RIT. I made myself a fencing sword hilt because what was available at the time commercially was junk. After I moved back to Ithaca, I continued fencing, and made my second rapier hilt under the careful tutelage of Master Roberto di Milano (Mac the Armorer).

I started making swept-hilt fencing rapiers in 1991 back before schlager was an experimental weapons form, and as they got more accepted and eventually became the main fencing weapon of the SCA, my business making them kind of grew. At that point I was still focused on the rapier world. I became a rapier marshal, then group rapier marshalI, and eventually Seneschal of Myrkfaelinn. At one point early on, I entered an A&S competition at Sergeants and Yeomen’s, had a bad judge, and swore off any and all A&S involvement in the SCA. Mundanely I had been working as a bench goldsmith on and off since I had worked up from being the polisher at a wholesale jewelry repair trade shop.

Around the time I became Seneschal of Myrkfaelinn, I approached Don Ivan ap Myrddin about becoming a cadet. He told me that, because of politics, I would never become a White Scarf, and took me as a protegé instead. He told me that to become a candidate for Pelican, I would have to broaden my service beyond Rapier. Since I was already mundanely a goldsmith and bladesmith, the metal arts seemed like a good fit, so I started teaching and demonstrating metalsmithing in the SCA as well as researching period practices. Part of that service was setting up the Royal Guild of Æthelmearc Metalsmiths and organizing multi-Kingdom metal symposiums. Long story short, I got a Laurel for metalsmithing, metallurgy, and jewelry manufacturing, and abandoned the Pelican path. Oh, and for a couple of years I was heavily involved as a musician in trying to bring back European dancing to events, and helped organize a couple of dance events.

Master John Michael Thorpe currently lives in the Barony of Delftwood. Despite his claim to have “abandoned” a service path, he has served as a rapier marshal at the local and deputy Kingdom levels, as a local chatelain, and as seneschal for both Myrkfaelinn and Delftwood. He just stepped down as Kingdom Chronicler this fall.

Categories: SCA news sites

King’s & Queen’s Bardic Champions Has New Website

East Kingdom Gazette - Fri, 2016-12-23 08:07

King and Queen’s A&S and Bardic Champions will take place on February 11th in the Barony of Concordia of the Snows.

There is a wonderful new website for the event: www.kqchamps.org. Details about the formats and requirements of both competitions can be found on this site. Please read all of the information carefully if you intend to compete. Questions about each competition can be directed to its respective champions.

Please remember that entrants for both competitions must register their intention to compete before the event. Registration information and deadlines can be found on the website. Please note that A&S research papers also have an advanced submission deadline.

Judges are still needed for the A&S competition! If you are willing to volunteer your time, please e-mail here .

Remember, there will also be a Youth A&S Display at the event! Please see the website for more details.

Filed under: Announcements, Arts and Sciences, Youth Activities

Secrets of 16th c. boxwood miniatures revealed

History Blog - Thu, 2016-12-22 23:38

The Art Gallery of Ontario (AGO), in collaboration with the Metropolitan Museum of Art and the Rijksmuseum, is hosting a groundbreaking exhibition that explores the mysterious beauty of 16th century miniature boxwood carvings. The AGO is home to the Thomson Collection of European Art which includes 12 boxwood carvings (10 prayer beads and two altarpieces), the largest collection in one place. There are only 135 known miniature boxwood carvings known to survive, so the AGO has almost 10 percent of the world’s total. Small Wonders: Gothic Boxwood Miniatures brings together the Thomson Collection pieces with another 50 loaned by other museums and private collections.

The miniature boxwood carvings were made during a very brief window, between 1500 and 1530, in Flanders or the Netherlands. It’s possible that only a single workshop, perhaps two, carved them all. The rise of a new moneyed merchant class with money to spend on expensive and showy objects created a market for high-end, portable religious carvings. Come the Reformation, rosaries, altarpieces and beads would go most decidedly out of fashion in Northern Europe and the window shut.

The prayer beads, also known as prayer nuts because their exteriors resemble a very symmetrical walnut shell, were devotional objects worn on a belt or on the end of rosary. About the size of golf balls, the beads open to reveal intricate, deeply layered Biblical scenes and inscriptions from the Vulgate. Their rich imagery and detail were meant to inspire contemplation and prayer. They had the ancillary benefit of being a religiously correct way to show off one’s wealth. A dense wood like boxwood holds its shape well and gives carvers the opportunity to create tiny details, but it also takes a huge amount of work and time. That makes it expensive. Features like copper or silver cases, often themselves engraved with elaborate scenes, added to the display of riches.

The space the carvers had to work in was so small and the wood so hard, that it seems almost impossible they were able to achieve such complex scenes, many with dozens of figures, human, heavenly and demonic, architectural elements, trees, symbols, all in the space of a single inch. They used specialized tools two inches long to dig deep into the wood, creating tiers of characters and landscape.

How exactly the craftsmen were able to create these elaborate compositions has been a mystery for 500 years. They must have used magnification because you can’t see how they’re put together with the naked eye. The curators and conservators of the AGO, Met and Rijksmuseum sought to break new ground in the study of the miniature marvels. X-rays weren’t enough to show how the sausage was made because the parts were too tiny. The AGO experts turned to micro-CT scanning to find the answers. The beads were carved from one piece of boxwood. The layers of the scene were carved in sections and then the discs set into the sphere with boxwood pins smaller than a seed of grass. The overlapping discs added depth and complexity to the miniatures.

Some of the carvings in the exhibition have never been seen before in North America. One of the ones making its North American debut in Toronto is the Chatsworth Rosary (ca. 1509–1526), an astounding masterwork of miniature carving which was originally owned by King Henry VIII and his devout Catholic wife Catherine of Aragon. The eleven beads are each carved on all sides with prompts for prayers, and the largest bead features Henry and Catherine at mass barely visible behind a pillar. It may have been a wedding present, and it seems Catherine kept it in the divorce. All for the best given that Henry outlawed rosaries in 1534.

The exhibition runs at the AGO through January 22nd, 2017. It opens at the Met Cloisters on February 21st, 2017, and moves to its last stop, the Rijksmuseum on June 15th, 2017. If you can’t make it to the shows, or even if you can but want to have your mind blown by the details in these pieces, the AGO has created a dedicated page with the whole collection available to peruse in extreme closeup. The zoom tool gives you an amazing view of every last nook and cranny. If that isn’t enough to slake your thirst, check out the wonderful videos below from the AGO.

Deciphering how the miniatures were made:

Micro CT scan of prayer bead:

3D Animation compiled from the Micro CT scans of the St. Jerome Boxwood Prayer Bead:

3D Animation of the Last Judgement Prayer Bead:

3D Animation of the Adoration of the Magi Altarpiece:

Categories: Arts and Sciences, History

Celtic harness fitting converted into Viking brooch

History Blog - Wed, 2016-12-21 23:12

This summer, a metal detectorist scanning a field at Agdenes farm on Norway’s Trondheim Fjord unearthed a piece of bronze jewelry. The well preserved object is a bird-like figure with intricate designs representing fish or dolphins on each wing. The decoration identifies it as being of Celtic origin, probably Irish, made in the 8th or 9th century. The Irish craftsmen made it as a fitting for a horse harness, but at some point it was converted into a brooch, as attested by a hole at the bottom and rust from where the pin was attached to the back. This second stage was the work of Vikings who often converted loot from their raids into jewelry for their loved ones.

It was almost certainly buried with a woman. Similar pieces have been found before, almost all of them in women’s graves from the first half of the 800s, the early years of the Viking incursions on the British Isles. Unfortunately the grave itself was not found. The object was ploughed up and scattered in the 1200 years since it was buried, and the grave in all likelihood has been destroyed.

Experts at the Norwegian University of Science and Technology (NTNU) University Museum analyzed the brooch and found traces of gilding, so the green bronze was once shiny gold, a coveted prize for a raider, and a very fine present for any raider’s lover or family member.

Being part of the early Viking raids brought status and prestige to the individuals who participated, but also to their families. The men who returned alive from the dangerous journeys gave the objects they had stolen as gifts to female family members who waited for them at home. The fittings were then turned into jewellery, and were worn on traditional Norse clothing as brooches, pendants or belt fittings.

“As a result, it became clear to everyone that those women had family members who had taken part in successful expeditions far away. There are traces of gold on the surface of the jewellery, so it was originally covered in gold. That made it appear more valuable than it actually was. In addition, each piece of jewellery was unique, so the owner did not risk having the housewife next door turn up with the same piece of jewellery,” [NTNU doctoral student Aina Margrethe] Heen Pettersen says.

Jewellery of this kind has typically been found in women’s graves with relatively few other burial gifts. This suggests that many of the Vikings who took part in raids far away did not represent the top layer of the social hierarchy. Instead, they were “nouveau riche” farmers and fishermen who got the opportunity to climb the social ladder by taking part in Viking raids.

The area where the brooch was found is mentioned in some of the sagas as a rallying point for ships and raiders setting out from the south end of the mouth of the Trondheim Fjord for the British Isles. The remains of a 12th century harbour built by King Øystein have been found next to Agdenes farm, so the location was of signficant strategic importance by then. The discovery of the brooch confirms that the site was populated and benefitted from raiding wealth centuries before Øystein’s harbour was built in the dawn of Viking engagement with the British Isles.

Categories: Arts and Sciences, History

Duchess Siobhán Visits a Medieval Textile Dig in Finland

AEthelmearc Gazette - Wed, 2016-12-21 12:25

Duchess Siobhán inghean uí Liatháin recounts her trip to a textile seminar in Finland, including a visit to an archaeological dig!

Back in October, I found myself truly emerging myself in history. I had flown to Finland to participate in a weekend-long seminar that focused on ancient textiles, techniques, and materials from the coasts of the Baltic Sea. I was surrounded by archaeologists and history enthusiasts like myself, all there to learn from those who have had their hands on the “real deal” and learn ways to create the items ourselves. And even though this seminar was amazing, it did not hold a torch to what happened to me 2 days prior.

One of my hostesses in Finland was the amazing Mistress Joutsenjärven Sahra. Lovers of Tablet weaving may know her as one of the co-authors of Applesies and Fox Noses – Finnish Tabletwoven Bands. One morning she asked me if I would like to visit an actual archaeological site where Iron Age items had been newly discovered. I just about fell out of my seat with excitement and a resounding YES PLEASE came quickly from my lips.

The drive to the site was not long but it was long enough for her to tell me that the place where we were going had been discovered in 2013. It is known as Ristimäki Hill in Ravattula village near Turku. The small hill was on private farm land and it was the farmer who noticed that there might be something in the ground that was not put there naturally. An archaeological team was called in and they were shocked at what they had found. What was discovered on this small hill was the remains of a late 12th century-early 13th century church. The church is, so far, the oldest in Finland and also the only one dating from the period before the creation of a Finnish parish system.

As we parked our car and started to walk the dirt road to the hill, I questioned whether we would get in trouble for walking on the private farm land. She told me that the site was protected by the Antiquities Act. This meant that visiting the site is possible within the framework of the Act and the Finnish “everyman’s right” (or in Finnish: jokamiehenoikeus). As long as we stuck to the road and did not disturb the site or surrounding area, we were allowed to visit. 200 meters down the road we turned left and there I was, standing in the middle of history.

Looking around, I saw taped off areas and tarps covering the ground. There was a team digging in few of the sites as well. I asked Sahra if they work all through the winter, as I pulled my wool jacket tighter because it had started to drizzle cold rain. She said no, they will soon stop digging and cover all open areas with tarps. I asked if security then comes and looks after the sites and I was shocked to learn that there was no security. The digging is donation-based and there was not enough money to pay for security. The archaeologists have to hope that no one comes and disturbs the sites. I also learned that publication is also donation-based and that even if they find amazing things in the ground, if there isn’t enough money to research it and publish, then it can sit in storage for months or even years.

Taking all that in, I walked over to where most of the people were and watched them carefully scrape and dig in the ground. Sahra also said that most of the people at this site were volunteers, probably from the local collages. There is one archaeologist in charge of the whole site, but everyone else is a volunteer. Just as I was thinking about how cool it would be if I could volunteer, there was a commotion in the digging area I was standing by. Sahra came over and asked a volunteer, in Finnish, what was happening, and she was told that they had just found a female bronze spiral apron. I just about fell over!

Here I was…in Finland because I love to recreate Finnish Iron Age aprons, and one was being discovered before my eyes. There are no words to properly describe my feelings but I can say I cried from being overjoyed. Sahra explained to the volunteers that I have made reproductions of aprons and because she said that to them, they brought up some of the spirals for me to look at. I was blown away at this opportunity I was given. I stood there staring at history and the source of my passion. It was magical.

I could not thank Mistress Sahra enough for taking me to this place and letting me experience this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. The memories will stay with me for a lifetime.

If you want to read more about the excavation (sorry, it’s mostly in Finnish) you can go to www.ravattula.fi

All photos by Duchess Siobhán.

Categories: SCA news sites

Getty acquires beautiful, storied intaglio

History Blog - Tue, 2016-12-20 23:42

I sometimes daydream about what it would be like to be the Getty with its wondrously Midas-like resources. Imagine going to an auction looking to buy an object estimated to sell for $10,000-15,000 and being able to walk out with it even though the final hammer price with buyer’s premium is $508,765. The J. Paul Getty Museum did just that with an exquisite 1st century A.D. Roman intaglio gemstone sold earlier this month at Sotheby’s London.

The gem—made of sard, a reddish-brown translucent quartz—is exquisitely engraved. The identity of the artist is uncertain, although the scholar Marie-Louis Vollenweider has suggested it is the work of Aulos, one of the finest engravers working in the circle of the imperial court of Emperor Augustus in the late first century B.C., who signed several other gems of related style. The beautiful gilt mount dates from the eighteenth century.

“The gem’s superb quality, impressive size, and excellent condition will enhance our holdings of engraved gems, one of the strengths of the Museum’s antiquities collection,” said Timothy Potts, director of the Getty Museum. “It will go on view in the Villa’s reinstalled galleries alongside other engraved gems, including our amethyst Apollo attributed to the engraver Solon and the engraved gem of the head of Demosthenes signed by Apelles.”

The figures have been identified as pretty much every couple in Greco-Roman mythology at various times — Paris and Oenone, Phaon and Sappho, a muse and comic poet. The Getty is leaning towards Aphrodite and her handsome lover Adonis. Sotheby’s stayed on the safe side describing it simply as a “Standing youth conversing with a seated maiden.”

This piece has an illustrious and adventurous history, which at least in part explains the crazy price. Its first documented owner was Pierre-Jean Mariette, an 18th century Parisian art dealer who wrote the first modern sale catalogue. From Mariette it passed into the fabled collection of cameos and intaglios assembled by Charles Spencer, 3rd Duke of Marlborough, and his son, also named Charles, who enlarged the collection. One of the George Spencers, it’s not known which one, bought this particular intaglio. The collection of engraved gems and cameos was so important that the 4th Duke of Marlborough gave them pride of place in a monumental family portrait by Joshua Reynolds on display in the Red Drawing Room of Blenheim Palace. The Duke holds a large cameo in his hand, while his son, standing to his left, carries a red morocco leather case under his arm, one of ten such cases that held the gem collection.

The Marlborough Gems remained in the Spencer-Churchill family until 1875 when money troubles compelled the 7th Duke to sell the entire collection, more than 800 pieces, to wealthy colliery owner David Bromilow. After his death, Bromilow’s daughter Julia Harriet Mary Jary sold the collection piecemeal at a Christie’s auction in 1899. The great collection was dispersed so widely that scholars are still trying to track down more than 500 of the pieces.

This one could so easily have disappeared too, but its ownership history is remarkably well preserved. It was acquired by Frankfurt industrialist and art collector Friedrich von Gans. He died in 1920 and by that time the intaglio was in The Hague in the newly established art gallery of Kurt Walter Bachstitz, a Jewish German-Austrian dealer. Bachstitz’s business was very successful, with offices in New York and Berlin. He and his wife moved from Germany to The Hague in 1938 fleeing Nazi persecution.

It wasn’t a long reprieve. Come the Nazi occupation of the Netherlands, Bachstitz was quickly targeted by Hans Posse, director of the Sondernauftrag Linz, the organization in charge of stealing/coercing art and antiquities for Hitler’s Barbie Dreamhouse museum in Linz. Posse bought the intaglio in 1941 for far less than its market value. It was stashed in the salt mines of Altaussee, Austria, along with thousands of other priceless pieces including Jan van Eyck’s Ghent Altarpiece. The intaglio was found there by the Monuments Men who, in accordance with Allied policy, returned it to the Netherlands Art Property Collection even though it was privately owned when the Nazis snatched it.

Kurt Walter Bachsitz petitioned the Dutch government for restitution of his property, but except for one painting Jan Steen, the government kept everything. Their position was that Bachsitz was well-connected (his Protestant wife’s brother was Hermann Göring’s art buyer) and was not subject to Nazi coercion in 1940-1, so all the stuff Posse bought at bargain-basement prices was just normal business. Bachsitz’s heirs are still fighting to find and reclaim his lost artworks today. The intaglio was restituted to his heirs this year and they put it on the auction block. The hammer price must have been a pleasant surprise for them.

Categories: Arts and Sciences, History

Crappy original of epic botched restoration found

History Blog - Mon, 2016-12-19 23:42

It feels like an eternity has passed since the halcyon days when octogenarian Cecilia Giménez took a poorly executed, flaking wall painting of Christ with the crown of thorns and transformed it into the global phenomenon that is Ecce Mono, aka Monkey Jesus. It was August 2012 when the painting by Elias García Martinez in the Sanctuary of Mercy in the town of Borja, outside Zaragoza in northeastern Spain, was found altered beyond all recognition. At first it was thought to be the work of vandals. The Martinez family lodged a complaint and conservators bemoaned the terrible fate of the 1895 work. There was even talk that the 81-year-old church volunteer and amateur painter might be criminally charged.

The possibility that there might be some attempt to restore the painting was bandied about, but there was so much paint loss before Ms. Giménez brought her simian vision to life that any restoration would have been more like a recreation. The root of the problem Elias García Martinez didn’t make a fresco. He just applied oil paints directly on the wall of the church instead of using water-soluble pigments on a layer of wet plaster. The oil paint doesn’t adhere and the moisture problems of the old church exacerbated the paint loss.

Then the news, and most importantly the picture, of the reconceived Ecce Homo hit the Internet. The story went viral; Monkey Jesus became a beloved meme; petitions were started demanding that Cecilia Giménez’s version remain untouched. The painting quickly became so popular, that sleepy, economically depressed Borja boomed into an overnight tourist attraction. Since then, hundreds of thousands of people have visited the Sanctuary of Mercy to pay their respects to the glorious botched restoration. It has graced t-shirts, mousepads and local wine labels. The story was made into an opera that debuted in the town this August, four years after Giménez picked up her paintbrush and had a date with destiny. Instead of getting arrested, Giménez got a cut of the merchandising revenue.

The town’s good fortune doubtless blunted the sting of the loss of the wall painting for the locals. Perhaps the Martinez family may find some solace now because an oil-on-canvas Ecce Homo painted by Elias García Martinez the year before he made the mural has been discovered. Zaragozan antique dealers Ostalé and David Ricardo Maturén found it in an Aragonese private collection.

It’s the same size as the church painting — 55 by 45 centimeters — and is believed to be the same in all other aspects as well. Since Martinez is known to have spent a mere two hours painting the one in Borja, perhaps he copied from his own canvas. Or maybe he didn’t even need it with him. The subject was a common one, a clothed version of Baroque master Guido Reni’s 1630 copper panel painting Head of Christ Crowned with Thorns. By the late 19th century it was so widely used an image, mass-produced on every medium from souvenir plates to postcards, that most any artist would have known how to crank it out given a couple of spare hours.

For now the canvas is being kept in an art gallery out of public view. The plan is to have a grand opening where the painting can be viewed alongside its more evolved primate cousin. Naturally the guest of honor will be Cecilia Giménez.

The art dealers insist the painting is not for sale but has already attracted interest from art collectors around the world.

“The painting should stay in Borja,” explained Ostalé. “It could be exhibited in the sanctuary next to that of Cecilia Giménez. At the moment, Borja’s Ecce Homo is one of the most visited paintings in the world and, in that sense, it is one of the most genuinely popular works we have in Spain.”

Categories: Arts and Sciences, History

Oldest copy of Silent Night found in Vienna

History Blog - Sun, 2016-12-18 23:37

The oldest known copy of the Austrian Christmas carol Stille Nacht (Silent Night in English) has been discovered in an antique shop in Vienna. The pamphlet entitled Four Beautiful New Christmas Songs was printed by one Joseph Greis in the small Upper Austrian town of Steyr in the early 19th century. The full lyrics of Silent Night, the six original verses, are printed on pages seven and eight of the pamphlet. It was found by an antiquities dealer in June of 2015. Experts from the University of Vienna and the Silent Night Society in Salzburg examined it and confirmed it was the oldest known printed edition of the blockbuster.

The song began as a poem written by Josephus Franciscus Mohr in 1816. Mohr was born in Salzburg the illegitimate son of an embroiderer and an army deserter who abandoned his pregnant girlfriend before Joseph was born. The poverty of his early childhood was given a reprieve when Johann Nepomuk Hiernle, the vicar and musical director at Salzburg Cathedral, recognized the boy’s talent and sponsored his education. Mohr entered the seminary (he had to secure a special dispensation because of his illegitimate birth) and was ordained a priest in 1815.

These were turbulent times. With the end of the Napoleonic wars and the new boundaries established by the Congress of Vienna, the former ecclesiastical Principality of Salzburg was divided into two sections, one given to Bavaria, the other Austria. Trade was disrupted and the associated industries — transportation, ship building, heavy lifting — suffered. Mohr witnessed this widespread economic uncertainty, political upheaval, troop withdrawals and the fallout from years of war in his first job as assistant priest at Mariapfarr in the Lungau region of Salzburg where he wrote Silent Night.

It didn’t become a song until two years later. Mohr was then assistant priest at St. Nicholas Church in Oberndorf. Legend has it mice had eaten through the church organ making it impossible to play, so on Christmas Eve, 1818, Mohr gave choirmaster, organist and schoolteacher Franz Xaver Gruber his two-year-old poem and has him to write a melody suitable for two solo voices, a choir and a guitar. A few hours later, Gruber was finished and Stille Nacht was performed for the first time. Mohr played the guitar and sang the tenor role; Gruber sang bass.

The parishioners loved the simple song, and very soon the rest of the world would too. Just a year later it was already being performed in Tyrol by the popular Rainer Family Singers. In 1822 they performed it in front of Emperor Franz I of Austria and Tzar Alexander I of Russia. The Rainer Singers brought the song Stateside in 1839 and performed it for the first time on American soil in front of the Alexander Hamilton Memorial in the cemetery of Trinity Church in New York City. An English translation was written in 1859 and by the turn of the century there were translations on every inhabited continent.

Today Silent Night is sung in more than 300 languages and dialects all over the world. It is by far the most popular Christmas carol ever, with 733 copyrighted recordings since 1978. Bing Crosby’s 1935 version of the song is the third best-selling single of all-time. (His White Christmas is number one).

Despite its almost immediate local and regional prominence, there is no original manuscript of the poem or of the composition. The printed version previously believed to be the oldest extant was published by A. R. Friese in Dresden in 1833, part of pamphlet entitled Four genuine Tyrolean songs. The recently discovered pamphlet is not dated, but Silent Night Society researchers believe it significantly predates the Friese publication because Joseph Greis, the publisher, ran a printing business in the early 1800s. He opened a bookstore in 1827 and died in 1835. There are no Greis printings after 1832, so even if Four Beautiful New Christmas Songs was one of the last things he did, it still beats the Dresden edition.

Categories: Arts and Sciences, History

Tycho Brahe was gilded

History Blog - Sat, 2016-12-17 23:04

In 2010, the astronomer’s coffin was exhumed from his tomb in Our Lady Before Tyn Church in Prague. Several samples of hair, teeth, bone and textile were taken and the remains were reburied four days later. Researchers from Aarhus University, the University of Southern Denmark and the Nuclear Physics Institute in Prague have been analyzing the samples ever since. In 2012 they confirmed that Brahe did not die from Mercury poisoning, an idea that had been floating about since a 1901 exhumation found elevated levels of mercury in his remains. It turns out, they weren’t particularly elevated at all right before his death or in the years leading up to it.

But it was another element that was found in surprising abundance: gold. The latest analyses have found that Tycho Brahe had gold in hair and lots of it. Tests of three different hair samples had gold content 20 to 100 times higher than the norm today.

There are no natural sources that could explain this high level of exposure to gold, such as soil or water, which means that Brahe must have been regularly exposed to gold in his everyday life.

“It may have been the cutlery and plates of gold, or maybe the wine he drank contained gold leaf. It’s also possible that he concocted and consumed elixirs containing gold, or that he worked with alchemy,” [University of Southern Denmark professor Kaare Lund] Rasmussen said.

Diane de Poitier, mistress of King Henry II of France, took a daily dose of gold for years. The theory was that gold’s purity and incorruptibility would be conveyed to Diane, keeping her young and beautiful. Instead it made her bones and hair brittle. When she died in 1566, 35 years before Tycho Brahe, the concentration of gold in her remains was 500 times greater than in a lock of her hair cut when she was a young woman. It may well be what killed her.

Brahe probably wasn’t taking gold to capture eternal youth. His exposure was more likely scientific. Samples from his hair, beard, eyebrows and bones were tested for another 14 elements and the results also showed higher-than-average concentrations of iron, cobalt, arsenic and silver. All of those would have been commonly used in alchemical experiments and in the preparation of medicines.

The concentration of metals is lower in the younger parts of the hairs, which allows the researchers to conclude that he was not exposed to these metals approximately the last 2 months before his death. The reason for that may be that he was too weak to work in his laboratory in his final weeks and months.

“What this tells us is that he did not suffer from an acute and fatal poisoning. This is not a particularly unusual cause of death in a period where the toxicity of metals was still unknown. Sir Isaac Newton, for instance, was subjected to mercury and lead poisoning,” Rasmussen explained.

So we still don’t know Tycho Brahe’s cause of death, but we can cross poisoning off the list. Researchers also found no evidence of metabolic diseases. The study has been published in the journal Archaeometry and can be read in its entirety here.

Categories: Arts and Sciences, History

Academy of St. Clare of Assisi Next Spring

AEthelmearc Gazette - Sat, 2016-12-17 17:38

If you love embroidery, please save the weekend of March 31-April 2, 2017, because you won’t want to miss the Academy of St. Clare of Assisi: MORE Stitches in Time!

This weekend-long, embroidery-only event drew stitchers from five Kingdoms the first time it was held, and we are anticipating even more in 2017.

Activities will begin Friday night (March 31) and run through Sunday morning (April 2).  This year’s event offers:

  • all-new class topics
  • an additional hour of classes Saturday morning
  • FIVE “kit” classes to choose from (instead of four)
  • a Beginning Embroidery Track
  • an Embroidery Display Show & Tell
  • an Embroidered Fashions Show

Saturday morning classes will include these topics:

  • Some Basics on Gold and How It Relates to Embroidery by THL Jaqueline de Molieres
  • 14th century embroidered purses by Lady Vika Grigina z Prahy
  • Would You Know a Saint If You Met One? by Lady Johanna Lemercer 
  • How to Teach Fiber Arts by Lady Shirin of Susa

MORE morning classes are in the works!  (Details will be posted to the event website soon!)

On Saturday afternoon, attendees may choose to attend one of these intensive “kit” classes:

  • Assisi work by Maestro Filipia Capriotti (Good for beginners)
  • Bead embroidery by Mistress Jeanmaire Ilaria Beatrice du Domrémy
  • Embroidered book covers by Cristina inghean Ghriogair
  • Viking bag and embellishment by Lady Elska á Fjárfelli
  • Opus Anglicanum by Mistress Elspeth nic Cormac

Please note that “kit” classes require pre-registration and pre-payment. This enables the instructor to know how many kits to prepare in advance. Instructions for preregistering for “kit” classes will be emailed to you when we receive your event registration.
On Sunday morning, Mistress Elspeth nic Cormac, a left-handed embroideress, will offer a class on “Teaching Embroidery to Left-Handed Stitchers.”

Want more info?

Visit http://www.eg.bucknell.edu/~acg/Events/SiT.html  for details!

P.S. — If you are planning to attend, mail your event reservation by the end of December and save $5.00.  The event registration price increases by $5.00 after January 1.

Categories: SCA news sites

Art historian donates unpublished Velázquez to Prado

History Blog - Fri, 2016-12-16 23:45

A previously unpublished painting by Diego Velázques has been donated to the American Friends of the Prado Museum by art historian William B. Jordan and is now going on display at the Prado Museum in Madrid as a renewable long-term deposit. Jordan bought it in 1988 but only recently submitted it to the Prado experts for extensive testing and authentication.

Mr. Jordan acquired the painting in London at an auction of Phillips, where it was mistakenly labeled, both in terms of its subject matter and author. While the work ostensibly represented Don Rodrigo Calderón, “it was very obvious to me that it was” King Philip III, Mr. Jordan said. The work was also wrongly auctioned as painted by somebody from the circle of Justus Sustermans, a Flemish painter. Mr. Jordan also initially made a wrong assumption that the portrait was a fragment of a larger painting rather than a preparatory oil sketch.

The portrait is a preparatory painting for The Expulsion of the Moriscos, a large-scale historical work Velázquez made for a contest in 1627. According to Jusepe Martínez, a painter and friend of Velázquez’s, when some artists dismissed Velázquez as someone who can “do nothing but paint heads,” King Philip IV proposed a pictorial competition to settle the matter. His four court painters, Carducho, Caxesi, Nardi, and Velázquez, would create a monumental work on a historical theme. As a subject Philip IV chose the Expulsion of the Moriscos.

On April 9th, 1609, King Philip III decreed the expulsion of the Moriscos, the descendants of Muslims who had been forced to convert to Christianity in the early 16th century, from Spain. Five years and one entirely predictable financial collapse later, hundreds of thousands of Moriscos had been expelled, mainly to North Africa. The Church and nobility saw it as a heroic act of Christian kingship, and it became a popular subject for painters.

The theme did give Velázquez the opportunity to paint some heads, most notably that of Philip III, but unlike the portraiture that he was already famous for, this portrait was of someone he had never seen who was dressed in period clothing. The sea-side setting was also unfamiliar to the Madrid-based painter. He overcame all obstacles of theme, setting and format. The judges, Dominican friar Maino of Toledo and Italian painter Giovanni Battista Crescenzi, ruled that Velázquez was the winner. His winning painting was found a place on the walls of the Royal Alcázar palace in Madrid.

References to it appear in the palace Inventory of 1686, in the will of Charles II (1701), and in the third volume of Antonio Palomino’s compendium of Spanish artists in 1724. There is no extant record that mentions the work. It was destroyed in the fire that reduced the palace to rubble in 1734. Velázquez’s groundbreaking and endlessly influential Las Meninas came close to sharing The Expulsion of the Moriscos‘ fate. It was saved only by being taken out of its frame and thrown out the window.

In the century between its creation and destruction, no copies of it were made that have survived. There aren’t even any sketches or drawings known. All we know about the painting is from written descriptions. The preparatory painting does seem to fit with the descriptions, which is one of the reasons Jordan became convinced of its identity and attribution. There are other reasons as well.

Philip III appears to be aged around 40 in the painting, his age in 1609 when the moriscos were expelled from Spain.

Stylistically, the work necessarily dates from later than 1609. It must have been produced between 1623, when Velázquez arrived at court and introduced a new style of royal portrait that corresponds to that of this work, and 1631, when he returned from Italy and adopted a notably different portrait style.

The fact that Philip III is in profile and looking up indicates that this is not a portrait (in which the sitter normally looks straight ahead) but an image to be included in a narrative scene.

The fact that the work’s characteristics are not comparable to the styles of the other portraitists working at the court in the 1620s, such as Van der Hamen, Maíno, Diricksen, etc.

A study of written descriptions of The Expulsion of the Moriscos suggest that the portrait of Philip III in that scene had a similar expression to this one and was looking in the same direction.

The Prado’s technical study of the work confirmed that the canvas, preparation and construction are all comparable to the those used by Velázquez in paintings from around 1627 and before his first trip to Italy in 1629. The modelling of the faces and is also similar in method and style to royal portraits Velázquez made in the late 1620s.

The addition of this work to the Museum’s collections as a long-term deposit will contribute to completing its representation of Velázquez as a royal portraitist, given that it is a work of outstanding quality and previously unpublished in the scholarly literature. As such, it will help to cast light on one of the key works of the artist’s early period at court.

Categories: Arts and Sciences, History

Æthelmearc Herbal and Apothecary Guild

AEthelmearc Gazette - Fri, 2016-12-16 21:42

The Æthelmearc Herbal and Apothecary Guild would like to announce that they have a Facebook page and a quarterly newsletter!

The newsletters are posted on the group’s Facebook page. Volume 2 was posted at the beginning of December and includes articles on the history of gardening, the use of flowers in food, and a list of herbals ranging from early Chinese and Eqyptians to renaissance Italians and Spaniards.

Interested parties are invited to join the discussion on the guild’s Facebook page, which is managed by Lady Maggie Rue (mka Jen Sadler).


Categories: SCA news sites

Poland in talks to buy The Lady with Ermine

History Blog - Thu, 2016-12-15 23:24

Things were looking up for the Polish–Lithuanian Commonwealth in 1790. After having been reduced to little more than a Russian protectorate in the late 17th century and less than two decades after the First Partition of Poland had divvied up much of it territory between Austria, Prussia and Russia, the Commonwealth was headed towards more independence than it had been in centuries. King Stanislaus II August supported liberal reforms and with Austria and Russia busy fighting the Ottomans, the Constitution of 3 May, 1791, was passed, creating in Poland a constitutional monarchy along the same lines as the British system.

A great patron and lover of the arts and well aware of how effectively culture can stimulate national pride, King Stanislaus commissioned English art dealers Sir Francis Bourgeois and Noël Desenfans to buy high-end artworks and create a royal collection of fine art worthy of a new Polish national gallery. The partners worked for five years towards that lofty goal, and then it all fell apart. Polish nobles opposed to the new constitution asked Queen Catherine the Great of Russia to send troops, which she was all too glad to do.

A war (lost), the Second Partition of Poland (Russia and Prussia took almost everything, leaving only a feeble rump state) and a reformist revolt led by Tadeusz Kościuszko ensued. The revolt failed due to the overwhelmingly superior numbers of Russian and Prussian forces and in 1795, the Third Partition destroyed the last sad vestige of the Polish state. Stanislaus abdicated and the Polish–Lithuanian Commonwealth died. The dream of a Polish national gallery to rival those of the great European powers died with it. The works collected by Desenfans and Bourgeois became the core of the Dulwich Picture Gallery, the first public art gallery in the UK.

Into the devastating breach stepped one Princess Izabela Czartoryska. A writer and collector who hobnobbed with the cream of Enlightenment society — Benjamin Franklin, Jean-Jacques Rousseau, Voltaire — and advocated progressive reformist politics, Princess Izabela together with her husband Prince Adam Kazimierz Czartoryski made the Czartoryski Palace Pulawy a center of Polish art, philosophy and politics in the 1780s. Pulawy earned the moniker the Polish Athens thanks to the flouring of intellectual life at the Czartoryski Palace.

After the Third Partition annihilated what was left of Polish independence, Izabela had the palace, burned and looted by Russian troops in retaliation for the Czartoryskis support of the Kościuszko Uprising in 1794, rebuilt by architect Chrystian Piotr Aigner and installed a museum of Polish royal and national memorabilia. The nascent collection included Turkish trophies captured by King Jan III Sobieski at the Battle of Vienna in 1683, heirlooms purchased from and donated by Poland’s greatest noble families.

In 1801, Izabela opened the Temple of the Sibyl, also known as the Temple of Memory, on the Czartoryski Palace estate. The Temple, designed by Chrystian Piotr Aigner after the Temple of Vesta in Tivoli, Italy, held the collection of Polish historical and cultural artifacts salvaged from royal castles, a growing collection of books, historic archives (including King Stanislaus II’s) and art. It was the first museum in Poland. Izabela’s son Adam Jerzy Czartoryski expanded the art historical significance of the collection geometrically during a 1798 trip to Italy when he purchased The Lady with an Ermine by Leonardo da Vinci and Portrait of A Young Man by Raphael.

The collection was endangered by the November Uprising of 1830. The Russian army suppressed the uprising and the Czartoryski Palace holdings. Princess Izabela successfully hustled many of the museum’s treasures, including the Leonardo, out of danger before the Russians came. The family was forced into exile in Paris and Izabela’s son Adam installed the collection at the Hôtel Lambert. The Czartoryski collection returned to Poland in 1878 where it reopened in a new Czartoryski Museum in Kraków.

The Nazi depredations of World War II did a number on the Czartoryski museum. The Lady with an Ermine and Portrait of A Young Man were stolen practically the minute Germany invaded Poland. The Leonardo was brought back to Poland in 1940 because the Governor General Hans Frank wanted to hang it in his office. Allied troops found it at the end of the war and returned it to Poland. Many other works stolen by the Nazis from the Czartoryski collection were eventually rediscovered and returned. The Raphael is still missing to this day.

The Czartoryski Museum was nationalized after the war and administered by the Communist government. The museum and library collections were officially returned to Prince Adam Karol Czartoryski as the rightful owner in 1991. Since then, the Czartoryski Museum has been one of the most visited institutions in Poland, thanks largely to the enduring charm of Leonardo’s beautiful Lady and her muscular ermine.

It’s still privately owned, however, which means in theory The Lady with Ermine and everything else in the collection could leave the country. Poland most assuredly does not want that to happen. The Polish Culture Ministry announced Wednesday that they are in talks to buy the Czartoryski collection for the state.

“The Polish state and thus the Polish nation will own one of the world’s most valuable art collections, including this work, which many art historians deem superior to the ‘Mona Lisa’,” Selin said, quoted by the PAP agency. [...]

The ministry told AFP on Wednesday that Minister Piotr Glinski had “announced steps to finally set the status of the collection,” which requires a deal with the president of the foundation, Prince Adam Karol Czartoryski, who lives in Madrid.

This would bring together King Stanislaus II August’s long-thwarted vision and Princess Izabela’s dogged determination to keep Poland’s history and cultural prominence alive. Whether it can actually happen remains to be seen. The deal would be in the billions of dollars — the Leonardo alone is insured for $350 million — and there is a question whether the terms of the Czartoryski Foundation allow it to be sold in whole or in part.

Categories: Arts and Sciences, History

Tasty Sharing at Æcademy Brewers Round Table

AEthelmearc Gazette - Thu, 2016-12-15 17:36

By Lady Elska á Fjárfella, round table host.

At the Æthelmearc Fall Æcademy, the Brewer’s Guild was invited to host a Brewer’s Round Table as it was blessed with a wet site. Initially scheduled in the main class room, we quickly packed up and invaded the quiet, out-of-the-way Troll table as it was a wee bit noisy (had nothing to do with us…).

With about a dozen brewers ranging from novice to Laurel and from all parts of our kingdom, we proceeded to have an informative and tasty round table on the topic of Fall fruit, in any shape or form.

 Many had brought tasty samples of fruit-flavored beverages. Madoc Arundel graced us with a Belgian Tripel, and he later confessed he thoroughly enjoyed the citrus melomel brought by novice brewer Cristina Inghean Ghriogair, who supplied us with several choices, ranging from blackberry wine made with baking yeast (from a traditional family heirloom recipe) and dandelion wine to  plum wine, apple citrus, and a raspberry cordial sampled together with dark chocolate. Her favorite was the mixed fruit rum someone had contributed. Leioolfr Grimr shared a blueberry cordial sweetened with beet sugar, or cherry, he did not quite remember…

My contribution was an example of how using fruit can throw a learning curve. I brought two bottles of red currant mead, based on a red raspberry mead recipe. Substituting one-to-one currants for raspberries made for a rather tart mead, which I personally did not quite like. Back sweetening with a little honey made all the difference, I thought. It was interesting to find that some people liked the tart original, some preferred the sweetened, and most wondered if downscaling the currants to lower the tartness might also lessen the currant flavor, which nobody wanted to mess with… so, surprising to me, the consensus was to not mess with the recipe , and make those dry wine lovers happy!

We traded some secrets, such as where to get grape juice in bulk (many local vineyards growing their own grapes sell plain grape juice, ready to ferment), shared some tips (freezing whole fruit helps free up the fruity goodness, and using a masticating juicer is not ideal as it is difficult to ferment apple sauce), and, as always, we had a great time.

 Thank you Æthelmearc Æcademy for inviting us, and thank you all for coming!

Categories: SCA news sites