Thutmose III, the 18th Dynasty pharaoh who ruled for 54 years (1479- 1425 B.C., the first 22 years as co-regent with his stepmother Hatchepsut) and whose military conquests greatly expanded Egypt’s empire. Because of his extraordinary successes on the battlefield, he is known as Egypt’s Napoleon. His mortuary temple at Al-Deir Al-Bahari in Luxor on the left bank of the Nile was built above a Middle Kingdom necropolis and there are tombs and structures from multiple periods on the site. As a result, excavations have revealed a fascinating cross-section of architecture, funerary environments, housing and artifacts that provide a unique glimpse into more than a thousand years of life and death in ancient Thebes.
The Temple of Millions of Years of the Pharaoh Thutmose III project is a joint mission of the Egyptian Ministry of Antiquities and the Academy of Fine Arts Santa Isabel of Hungary of Seville, headed by Spanish Egyptologist Dr. Myriam Seco Álvarez. Its ninth field season started this fall and the team excavated a tomb on the exterior of the temple’s southern wall. Inside the tomb archaeologists discovered a cartonnage sarcophagus in pristine condition.
The wooden outer coffin was badly damaged, but the delicate the plaster and linen sarcophagus within is painted in brilliant colors and the decoration is almost entirely intact. Cartonnage is easily destroyed, even in the hot, dry desert environment, often by insects. Other tombs excavated at the temple site had little left of their cartonnage sarcophaguses because termites had feasted upon them. Extensive looting in antiquity also damaged the coffins and mummified human remains in the destructive search for easily saleable artifacts.
Álvarez said out that the cartonnage includes its almost complete polychrome painted decoration and inscriptions with some of the most characteristic symbols and elements of the ancient Egyptian religion.
Among these inscriptions are solar symbols, the protective goddesses Isis and Nephthys with spread wings, hawks and the four sons of Horus, executed in artisanal quality of the highest order.
According to Myriam Seco Álvarez, inscriptions suggest the cartonnage sarcophagus contains the mummy of a royal servant named Amenrenef. It’s not clear what his duties were, just that he was attached to the pharaoh’s household. He must have been a person of high rank and wealth because the painting is the work of the best and most expensive artisans. Preliminary analysis indicates the tomb dates to the Third Intermediate Period (1070-712 BC), so he would not have been a servant of Thutmose III’s. The team hopes to discover what possible connection he made have had with the long-deceased pharaoh that caused him to be buried adjacent to the temple. Since they have his name, they are hoping to find references to him in other documentary or archaeological sources.
The investigation into Amenrenef will begin only after the excavation season closes and the immediate conservation needs of the sarcophagus are met. The coffin will also be scanned to determine the condition of the mummy within, and, fingers crossed, to discover more information about Amenrenf from inscriptions and/or artifacts buried with him. Hopefully they will also find out more about his physical condition — age, health, possible cause of death.
When conservation and the investigation into its owner is complete, the splendid cartonnage sarcophagus will likely go on display at the Luxor Museum.
By Lord Alessandro Devereaux.
I mostly write about kenjutsu, the Japanese sword art, but that’s only one of several arts that I practice. Another is the 16th century Spanish rapier style La Verdadera Destreza (literally “true art and skill,” and the image above is my wife and I practicing this style).
A note about my background here: I was taught Destreza by a man who learned it while serving in the Army and stationed in Panama. He was taught by a Spanish expatriate living in Panama, who was taught the art in Spain. Assuming that all of this is true, I learned this as a living art, and (other than the few others who were taught by my teacher and the folks I’ve taught myself) I don’t know of anyone else who can say that.
Many people (notably the amazing Puck and Mary Curtis, with their Destreza Translation and Research Project) are attempting to reconstruct the art from the period writings. I’ve read their work, and as much of the period writings as have been translated to English (my Spanish is, shall we say, weak…or, more accurately, completely nonexistent). The principles of what they do are very much the same as what I was taught, but many of the specific techniques are different, and there’s a body of technique around my art that isn’t documented in any of the writings.
So, I thought I’d write a series of articles about Destreza as it was taught to me, for the benefit of anyone else who might be trying to learn. This first article in the series will be about the basic philosophy of Destreza, and how it differs from other similar systems; subsequent articles will look more closely at specific techniques and principles.
The central tenet of Destreza is don’t get hit. That probably seems unsurprising, but it’s actually quite different from other contemporary styles, such as the far-more-common Italian and French styles. To illustrate this, picture a simple attack-defense sequence in each style. In the Italian style, a typical version would be: attacker steps straight in and attacks; defender parries (possibly attempting to hit in a single tempo). The thing to note here is that if the defender misses his parry, he’s hit. He has no backstop.
An equivalent Spanish exchange would be: attacker (who we’re assuming to be Italian, since that’s what Destreza was primarily designed to work against) steps straight in and attacks; defender steps off line and interposes his sword, keeping his point in line but not necessarily attempting to hit in a single tempo. The body movement is the critical thing: as long as the defender gets off the line of the attack, it mostly doesn’t matter how badly he screws up his defense, he isn’t going to get hit regardless. Conversely, if he succeeds in interposing his sword, he’s safe even if he didn’t successfully get off the line in time. Of course, he’s sacrificed some time by stepping – his riposte isn’t going to be as fast as it would be if he stood still – but he’s a great deal safer.
The theory here is to build an impenetrable defense, and wait for the enemy to make a mistake. Of course, we (the Spaniards) are going to do everything possible to encourage that mistake. In particular, by moving offline, we force the enemy to turn to address us, which Italian and French fencers aren’t necessarily used to doing; if there’s a fractional hesitation before they can reestablish the line, we have our opening.
Even once the opening is found, however, our attacks are carefully chosen to maintain the exit line. Given a choice, we won’t attack straight down the enemy’s sword, because if he counterattacked simultaneously we’d both get hit. Double kills are not an acceptable outcome. We’ll nearly always move away from the sword, and preferably cover the line as well to prevent it from following us. Alternatively, we can control the sword as we move in, so that we can attack without risk of being hit.
If, at any point, we feel like we’re not completely in control of the situation, we’ll abort the attack and regain our chosen distance. If an opportunity is risky, says the practitioner of Destreza (diestro), it’s not really an opportunity. We have a strong defense, time is on our side, we can wait for the next one.
This philosophy shapes everything in Destreza. Next time, we’ll look at a few specific techniques, and relate them back to the central tenets. Also, in order to describe the techniques properly we’ll have to introduce the famous Spanish fencing circle, so there will be pretty pictures (or, well, pictures, anyway) next time, I promise.
(See more posts on this subject at Lord Alessandro’s blog, The Martial Traveler.)
According to Livy’s account of early Roman history in Ab Urbe Condita, the first iteration of the Circus Maximus was built in the valley between the Palatine and Aventine hills by Lucius Tarquinius Priscus, the legendary fifth king of Rome, in the 6th century B.C.
Then for the first time a space was marked for what is now the “Circus Maximus.” Spots were allotted to the patricians and knights where they could each build for themselves stands – called “ford” – from which to view the Games. These stands were raised on wooden props, branching out at the top, twelve feet high. The contests were horse-racing and boxing, the horses and boxers mostly brought from Etruria. They were at first celebrated on occasions of especial solemnity; subsequently they became an annual fixture, and were called indifferently the “Roman” or the “Great Games.”
There’s no archaeological evidence for this (or for much of an anything else to do with the putative kings of Rome, for that matter). The low-lying area would have been subject to regular flooding and was probably farmland. A drainage system would have made it possible for the field to be used for horse races, but the wooden stands were temporary and rebuilt many times. Permanent wooden seating was built in 329 B.C.; the first stone seating (for senators, of course) was built in the 190s B.C.
It was Julius Caesar’s ambitious building program that developed the Circus Maximus into something more akin to our image of it. He built stands on both sides down the full length of the track, with the trackside seating reserved for senators. Equites (knights) got the next rows and the plebs got the nosebleed seats. There were shops under the galleries where sports fans could get a bite or place a bet. It was all still wood, though, and was seriously damaged by fire in 31 B.C. and the great conflagration of 64 A.D. during which Nero so notoriously strummed the lyre. The stone Circus Maximus as we know it now was built by Trajan in the first years of the 2nd century and commemorated on a bronze sestertius minted from 103 to 111 A.D. At its largest, it was 600 yards long and 140 yards wide and could seat a quarter of a million people.
When I lived in Rome in the 80s, the Circus Maximus was open, but there wasn’t much to see. You could picnic on the grassy slopes which once held stone and wood bleachers, go jogging, walk your dog. At night it was something of a shady place frequented by the demimonde, as it were. More recently it’s been a venue for concerts and other public events. It was basically a large oval field with some bits in the middle and at the ends. In 2009, the city initiated a program of excavation and restoration to create an archaeological park worthy of such a great icon of the Eternal City. While excavations will continue, the newly revived Circus Maximus is now open to visitors.
The excavation has uncovered many artifacts and structures long obscured by the overgrowth. Archaeologists have found more than 1,000 bronze coins, fragments of gold jewelry, and perhaps most excitingly, the bottom of a glass goblet with the image and name of a horse engraved in gold. Named after the legendary king of Alba Longa, descendant of Aeneas of Troy and grandfather of Romulus and Remus, Numitor the horse holds a golden palm branch in his mouth, attribute of the goddess Victory. This is the first time any kind of horse-related artifact has been found at the stadium which held chariot races for 1,000 years. The image of Numitor the lucky horse will be the new logo of the Circus Maximus.
A wealth of architectural remains have been revealed on the Palatine end of the track. Visitors will now be able to walk two stories of galleries: the lower one that senators walked to reach their trackside seats and the upper one the plebs used to reach their bleachers. From there, they can walk along the paved road unearthed during the recent excavations which features a large water trough made of travertine slabs. They can see the latrines used by the same ancient audience members, and the shop fronts, brothels, money changers and betting parlors underneath the galleries.
The Torre della Moletta, the 12th century tower built by the powerful Frangipani family as part of a fortification system that extended up the Palatine, has been restored and a new staircase added to the interior so visitors can climb to the top of the tower and enjoy a spectacular view of the Circus Maximus. In the hemicycle behind the tower, large marble fragments of the ancient structure discovered during the excavations have been tidily arranged in the grassy space: steps, cornices, column capitals, thresholds of shops, marble columns and the architectural elements of the triumphal arch of Titus discovered last year. Some of the bronze letters of the inscription dedicating the arch to Titus’ conquest of Judea — previously known only from a 9th century transcription — were found during the excavation, a wonderful surprise given how much ancient bronze was melted down in the Middle Ages.
Archaeologists plan to continue excavations. They are hopeful that something of the ancient spina, the central strip that in its heyday boasted two Egyptian obelisks, an altar to the gods and the lap counters (first egg-shaped, later dolphins) so memorably portrayed on the screen in Ben Hur, might still slumber under the earth. Maybe the remnants of the original track or drainage system are down there 30 feet underground. Any discovery at all from the archaic era would be a massive archaeological bonanza.
The Circus Maximus will be open to tourists (tickets cost three to five euros) every day from now through December 11th. After that it will be open on weekends only, weekdays by appointment.
The SCAtoday.net server will be offline for much of the morning and early afternoon (US Eastern time) on Saturday, 19 November 2016, for operating system upgrades. This will also affect email lists in the scatoday.net domain. (Time window changed)
Unto the Subjects of the Kingdom of Æthelmearc, especially those who are martially inclined, Greetings from Duke Christopher, Seneschal.
The office of Earl Marshal will turn over at Twelfth Night. This office is going to undergo some changes. Traditionally, the Earl Marshal has been a heavy weapons marshal with significant experience marshaling the Lists and Wars. The position is going to be modified somewhat.
The idea is to have the EM be an administrator and less of a marshal. Thus, the primary quality of the successful applicant for this job will be that of an organized, capable administrator. The ideal candidate will have familiarity with a number of the martial disciplines, but, need not necessarily be an expert in any one of them. The EM will supervise the chief marshals of each of the martial disciplines, such as rapier, siege, archery, etc. as happens now.
A heavy weapons marshal will be added who will serve as the senior marshal for rattan combat. This person will be on the same level of the organizational flowchart as the senior marshals of the other martial disciplines. If the EM does not have sufficient rattan combat experience to serve as the marshal in charge of Crown, the heavy weapons marshal will then serve in that capacity. A Pennsic Marshal will also be appointed. This person will serve a three-year term which will culminate with them serving as Marshal 1 at Pennsic. Further details on this position will follow.
A deadline of November 1st was set for applications for Earl Marshal. There are no letters for this position at this time. At this time I would like to call for letters for anyone interest in serving as Earl Marshal. I would also ask for letters for the Heavy Weapons marshal. The successful candidate here will have several years experience as a heavy weapons marshal and be comfortable marshaling everything from local tournaments to Crown Lists.
If you have interest in any of these positions, please submit your letter to me and Duchess Tessa, the KEM. Courtesy copies should go to the Crown and Heirs as well. I would ask that letters be submitted by December 1st.
If you have any questions, please do not hesitate to contact me.
Christopher Seneschal, Æthelmearc
A rare early Christian Anglo-Saxon cemetery has been discovered in an extraordinary state of preservation in Great Ryburgh in Norfolk. Funded by Historic England, Museum of London Archaeology experts excavated the site in advance of the creation of a conservation lake and flood defense system that will leave it fully submerged. The site is already quite soggy, thanks to the high water table of the river valley, which is why the graves in the cemetery have been so incredibly well-preserved. The alkaline water combined with the acidic sand of the area to create a perfect storm for the survival of organic remains.
There are six plank-lined graves, the earliest known examples in Britain, and an unprecedented 81 treetrunk coffins dating to the 7th-9th century A.D. Early Anglo-Saxon coffins and wood-lined graves very rarely survive. Usually all archaeologists have to go on are the stains left in the soil by the long-decayed wood. The plank-lined graves were lined with finely hewn timbers and the body laid within. More planks were then placed on top to create a coffin-like enclosure.
While treetrunk coffins have been discovered before, mainly in the 19th century, this is the first time they have been professionally excavated using modern archaeological methods. The coffins were dug out from oak trees cut in half lengthwise. Bodies were placed in the hollowed out center of one half, then the second half of the oak was placed on top to act as a lid. This was a labour-intensive process that would have taken one man an estimated four days to complete. Treetrunk coffins have been found in pre-Christian Anglo-Saxon graves as well, so their presence in this early Christian cemetery may suggest a syncretic combination of old and new religious traditions.
There is considerable evidence pointing to this being a Christian burial ground. The graves each have wooden markers and are aligned from east to west, both Christian traditions that are not seen in pagan burials. They also lack grave goods which were an important part of pre-Christian Anglo-Saxon funerary practices. Archaeologists discovered the remains of a timber structure on the site that they think may have been a church or chapel, an extremely rare find from this period.
When the cemetery was in use, the site was on a busy river crossing in the kingdom of East Anglia. There is virtually no documentary evidence from this period of Anglo-Saxon East Anglia, so such a rich, well-preserved site is an invaluable source of information to archaeologists and historians.
The discovery is shedding light on a previously unknown religious site and the fascinating lives of this early Christian rural community. Continued research and scientific testing, in the form of ancient DNA, stable isotope and dental calculus analysis, will help to develop biographies for the people buried and paint a picture of the people who lived here. Archaeologists hope to be able to say more about where these people came from, whether they were related, and what their diet and health were like, once research is complete.
The timber will be subjected to dendrochronological analysis to give us a more precise date range. Once the remains have been studied and conserved, they will be kept at the Norwich Castle Museum.
From the Kingdom A&S Minister:
Today is November 16th. As of today, I have received 1 — as in ONE — A&S 4th quarter report. These reports are due by December 1st. (Online report form is here.)
From the Kingdom Webminister:
Tap, tap, tap on little keys,
The online report form is here.
Greetings Local Seneschals:
All groups in Region 5 should forward your reports directly to me. If you reside in Region 5 and would like to be the Regional seneschal, please contact me.
Archaeologists excavating the site of a Roman fort and civilian settlement in the northern Swiss city of Windisch have unearthed an unusual hoard: a cooking pot filled with lamps, each containing a single bronze coin. What is now the Zürcherstrasse, one of Windisch’s busiest streets, in the first century A.D. was the defensive wall of the Roman legionary camp of Vindonissa. It was established in the province of Germania Superior around 15 A.D. and was occupied by various legions until 101 A.D., after which it was integrated into the civilian settlement. The ancient town was inhabited through the 5th century.
The Aargau Canton archaeology department has been excavating the site south of Zürcherstrasse where a multi-use development with underground garage will be constructed, since 2013. They’ve discovered the remains of defensive earthworks, well-preserved stone buildings, fireplaces, a latrine pit and a deep brick shaft.
It was in the brick shaft that archaeologists found the pot, the kind of quotidian vessel the legionaries at Vindonissa would have used to cook their food, entirely intact and in exceptionally good condition. Inside were 22 oil lamps. They too were implements used by regular people in their daily life. They were filled with oil and lit at the spout end. Produced in enormous quantities and sold all over the empire, the lamps were often decorated on the top side with designs which would glow in the light. The lamps collected inside the pot are decorated with a variety of motifs: a flower, the moon goddess Luna, a winged Cupid, a defeated gladiator, a lion, a peacock, even an erotic scene.
An as, a bronze coin that was lowest value currency in the early Roman Empire, was placed inside each lamp. Almost all of the coins date to 66 and 67 A.D., a range that fits the style of the cooking pot and lamps. Because asses were of such low value, their inclusion in this odd assemblage is likely symbolic.
“What astonished us was the quantity and the combination of coins and lamps,” said Aargau cantonal archaeologist Georg Matter.
The pot also contained charred fragments of animal bones, ruling it out as a urn for human remains.
“The intentions behind this burial are puzzling at the moment,” added Matter.
The pot has been fully excavated in the laboratory, the lamps catalogued and photographed. Next on the schedule is examination of the coins by numismatic experts and the analysis of the bone fragments.
– my adventures at the two and a half day Bow Making Workshop at Primitive Pursuits in upstate Arnot Forest during prime fall colors…
The third day started cloudy and quickly turned into drizzle. Even though we worked outdoors for most of the workshop, we fortunately had the luxury of a roofed pavilion, courtesy of Cornell University’s Arnot Teaching & Research Forest, as getting the bow staves wet or even damp should be avoided (I’d brought mine home to stay the night in the car, instead of all alone under the pavilion.). Moisture can swell the wood and make it harder or inconsistent to work with, as one of the students found out the hard way after she got some raindrops on one of the limbs. For our tillering convenience, the instructors had come up with an ingenious clamp system to secure the bow stave out of some rope and 2×4’s, which I duplicated at home the following week. I don’t think it will be used only for bow making!
After we had carefully hacked out the main shape with the hatchet, while staying about 1/8th of an inch away from all pencil marks, the bow was now ready for rasping and scraping. Using one of the clamp stations, I clamped down my bow and with a farrier’s hoof rasp started scraping off all tool marks right up to the pencil marks, leveled the back of the limbs, and shaped the handle. Most important in this stage is to keep checking progress so as to not go too fast, and to check both edges for symmetry (one limb side should not higher or lower than the other). The limbs are only as thick as their thinnest part, and special care needs to be taken in this regard, especially where the handle tapers off into the limb. From there on it’s pretty simple. The widest and thickest part of the limb is right at the taper of the handle, and from there the shape should gradually get narrower and thinner up to about halfway, to then thicken again to compensate for the skinny tapered tip design. Using mostly my fingers I would run them up and down the limb and feel for thickness irregularities, especially around the knots, and carefully rasp and later scrape them down. The thinnest part of the limb is about halfway, which is where most energy is stored, and therefore the most bend should happen when pulled back to fire.
From this time on, the instructors were kept busy and would regularly swing by to check our bows, adding crosses to show where to stay away and squiggles where more wood needed to be removed. This step was quite a challenge as it is hard to see; the differences are minute and were mostly only ‘visible’ by touch. It sure helped that I have experience throwing pottery, as that’s all about seeing with your fingertips too! Interestingly, as our instructors would remind us now and then, we’re still not making a bow – we’re making a bow shaped sculpture! Not until the tillering stage, where the limbs are starting to get flexed, is the bow sculpture slowly transforming into a bow.
When the limbs of the bow finally start to have a little bend, as tested by gently bending, it finally is tillering time! The first tentative bending is done by putting the tip on something solid like a concrete floor, pushing away on the handle with one hand (and that elbow braced on your hip if needed) – nowhere else – and steadying the upper tip with the other: the wood remembers stress and the wrong pressure in the wrong place can permanently alter the flex of the limb! Now the rasp gets put away and the scraping knife is put to good use. We used knives similar to carving knives, fairly long but with a slight burr added to one edge for efficient scraping. And once again, all tool marks, now from the rasp, are carefully removed and the backs of the limbs are smoothed out. Then it is a matter of carefully removing layers of wood from the belly of the limbs until they started bending more and more, and more evenly. Also at this time we made a bowstring using the Flemish twist technique, and added nock points to the bow tips with a small saw (handmade by three hacksaw blades taped together). Carving or filing nock points works as well; just don’t carve into the back of the bow, only the sides and belly. The string would still be fairly long, so the bow bends shallowly and gently gets accustomed to becoming a bow.
With each removal & tillering check, we would string the bow and flex it shallowly about thirty times to exercise the stave so the wood becomes used to the flexing and compression needed for proper bow function. This exercise is also important as the changes just made with scraping take a while for the wood to remember and might not show up in the next tillering if proper exercise is omitted. We tillered both using a tillering stick, and with the help of our instructors and fellow students by putting a foot on the string and pulling the bow stave up while they would squat in front, look & critique. It was very instructive to see many types of trees and bow shapes and strengths and see how the limbs would bend differently from one to the other. The big thing to look for is where does it bend. Where does the limb curve, and where does it not? Ideally, the bow limbs curve most in the middle, with a bit less at the beginning near the handle, and near the end at the nock point. Where it bends too much (it’s thinnest there), wood needs to be removed everywhere else, and where it is too stiff wood should be removed right there. Note that adding wood is not an option! And always check the edges of the bow to make sure they have the same thickness; that it does not slant from one side to the other, as this could introduce weakness and even twist.
Fairly quickly my bow stave was bending well and looking good. Interestingly, the limb with the two knots curved beautifully right from the start. The knot free limb had a reflex which was messing with the tillering, it kept looking flat and stiff. Rather than overcompensate and weakening that spot, the instructor decided it was easier to just heat treat the reflex straight. Which probably looked a whole lot easier than it was. When both limbs had a good bend, and looked even (also check the negative space when strung between stave and string), the bow still was too heavy for me. It drew in the upper forties which I thought is a bit much. But as the tillering was correct, instead of messing with the belly of the bow and making it thinner, which could change the tillering, now the best option is to make it narrower and thus remove from the sides. There is a balance between how thick a bow limb should be and how wide, as a wider bow has more air resistance which needs compensation in strength while thinning makes it weaker. Thus with the lower poundage draw weights it is better to go narrow in width than lose too much thickness. As mentioned before, twice as thick is eight times as strong, so taking off a little belly could quickly be way too much…
Finally, the time had come to completely sand the bow (except for the back of course!), measure the right length for the bowstring (about 6 inches from the top if I remember correctly) and string it! Use a brace height of about a hand width (between string at rest and handle) and do not immediately pull to full length, go little bits at a time. Never leave a bow strung longer than it needs to be, it can develop string follow (stays slightly bend when unstrung) and loose strength. And never dry fire a bow, the energy that would otherwise travel with the arrow does not leave and can blow up the bow instead… And then the most satisfying of sounds: the thock of hitting the target with your first arrow!
The bow is still ‘young’ and needs ‘training’; exercise it regularly, shoot with it regularly, and not until it is a couple months old and you feel there is no more tweaking to be done is it time to finish. Oil, varnish or a stain – it does not really matter as long as you like it and it weatherproofs. Smooth the edges if you have not done so already. Carve pretty knock points. Add a leather wrapped handle. But most of all – take your bow and enjoy the great outdoors together!
One last thing: be patient while crafting your bow. Take your time, put it away, come back to it; have a conversation. Read books, talk to bowyers: there are many different styles and techniques, and another way might work better for you. I found this course to be such fun, that I am already scouting our woods for logs to harvest, and with the experience I had enough information to make a quick bow with my son (and the band saw) from a stick harvested a couple days prior. We made it together and you should have seen him, he was so proud to shoot an arrow with a bow he’d made himself…
Simon (at right) with his self bow made from a 2” diameter green stick. Using a bandsaw for general shaping and tillering greatly shortened the time needed to make a bow, this one took about two hours, but also gave much more room for error as it is very quick and easy to take too much off. To save time (and limbs) a blend of modern and traditional techniques seems to work best: rough shaping with the bandsaw, and fine tuning with rasp and knife.
Want to read more?
Traditional Bowyers Bible’s Vol 1-4, Allely et al.; The Lyons Press, 2000
For more information on the Bow Making Workshop. click here.
All photography and drawings by Susan Verberg, 2016.
In the summer of 2013, the administration of St. Petersburg’s Primary School No. 206 called in the experts at the Stieglitz Art and Industry Academy to restore a portrait of Lenin that had a substantial damage to the canvas. In the larger than life-sized portrait (nine by six feet), Lenin looks pensively off to the side. Behind him is the Peter and Paul Fortress, the citadel and prison built by Peter the Great which became a symbol of Tsarist oppression akin to the Bastille, and the domes and golden spire of the Peter and Paul Cathedral, the church where all the Russian Tsars from Peter the Great on were buried.
There were multiple holes in the bottom left of the portrait. Restorers noticed a piece of boot on the other side of the canvas showing through the tears. When they removed the frame to examine the back, they found a painted over portrait of Tsar Nicholas II by Ilya Galkin Savich, a painter who was a favorite at the Imperial court. He painted Nicholas the year before he ascended the throne, at least twice immediately after he became Tsar Nicholas II, plus his wife the Empress Alexandra Feodorovna and his mother the Dowager Empress Maria Feodorovna. The newly rediscovered portrait was commissioned the year of Nicholas’ coronation to hang in the assembly hall of the Merchant Society’s Petrovsky Trade and Commercial School. Portraits of Peter the Great and Tsar Paul I, later destroyed by the Soviets, also hung in the assembly hall.
After the 1917 Revolution, the Trade School was turned into an elementary school. In 1924, artist Vladislav Izmailovich was commissioned to paint over the portrait of the last Tsar with a new portrait of Lenin. Izmailovich was a classically trained artist who studied at fine arts in St. Petersburg, Rome, Paris and Berlin. He lived in St. Petersburg at the turn of the century where he painted landscapes, genre scenes and was in demand as a portraitist. Izmailovich also painted decorative interiors at private homes of the wealthy and was hired to restore paintings at St. Michael’s Castle, a former royal palace converted into the army’s engineering school, and at the sumptuous Catherine Palace in Tsarskoye Selo.
His work for the moneyed elites, up to and including the royal family, did not harm his artistic career after the October Revolution. Prominent Marxist figures became subjects of his portraits. He made one of the first portraits of Lenin, a pastel in 1918. Other portrait subjects were founder of the German Communist Party Karl Liebknecht in 1918, a year before he became a socialist martyr in the failed Spartacist uprising, Anatoly Lunacharsky, the first Soviet People’s Commissar of Education, in 1920, and national heroes like chemist Dmitri Mendeleev and Leonid Govorov, defender of Leningrad during World War II. Izmailovich also painted historic scenes and landscapes, managing to survive many a purge and vanishing commissar to work until just before his death in 1959 a few months shy of his 87th birthday.
It’s fascinating to think that this survivor secretly saved a portrait of the Tsar, disguising it instead of destroying it. He painted the portrait of Lenin on the reverse side, painted over the Tsar until the portrait of Nicholas was thoroughly hidden. Izmailovich used layers of greyish-white water-soluble paint that not only allowed future restorers to remove it without damaging the original painting, but actually preserved the original work.
The decision to go through with the restoration process was kicked off by an initial X-ray result, in which “we were shocked, almost to the point of humor, to discover Czar Nicholas II’s head nearly exactly the same size and placement as Lenin’s,” confirming their suspicions that there was a completed full-size portrait beneath the water-soluble paint. The restoration experts used baby soap and water to wash the paint off and reveal a “remarkably intact and preserved” portrait of Czar Nicholas II, signed by the Russian artist Ilya Galkin Savich.
Ms. Pozeluyeva and other experts at Stieglitz believe that in 1924, Izmailovich painted over the Czar Nicholas II work — still in its frame — as an urgent act of “protection” and “sympathy for the Imperial era.”
Izmailovich’s secret tsarist leanings created a unique art work: a massive double-sided formal portrait of two leaders of diametrically opposed regimes painted by two different artists at different times.
After three years of restoration, the double portrait is going on display at the end of the month at the Stieglitz Art and Industry Academy. It will be displayed on a stand with no glass case impeding visitors’ full experience of this remarkable canvas.
– my adventures at the two and a half day Bow Making Workshop at Primitive Pursuits in upstate Arnot Forest during prime fall colors…
Fast forward a year, and the log is peeled, dried and ready to be worked. If you know what you’re doing, it is possible to start with a live log and end with a dry bow in a couple of weeks. Luckily, at the workshop the logs were harvested the year before and dried to perfection. Now it is time to measure. We cut our log to the length of each person from floor to eye; this biometric length seems to work out for most people, and is one reason why a self bow is so personal. Then we established the back of the bow as reference. Do we include that knothole, or go around? We looked for the grain of the wood and marked the center length of our log and with pencil, dot the center width from top to bottom, while following the grain. With a straight grained log this will look like a mostly straight line from top to bottom. With knot holes (from a branch) and curves, this line will curve around & with them, and for optimal strength our bow would have to as well! With the types of trees available a flat belly bow, which is wide & thin, is a good design: the shape helps spread out compression as it is much stronger in depth than in width. The density of the wood and the poundage required give an indication as to how wide the bow should be. Twice as wide is twice as strong, twice as thick is eight times as strong!
The log’s length is measured and the exact center marked in pencil. From the center point, measure and mark a line 2” & 4” above and below. The middle 4 inches makes up the handle, and the 2” above and below will flare towards the outer edge of the bow limbs, and flare down from the handle to the belly of the limbs. Then on either side of the center line we add another line to mark the outside of our bow, about ¾ inch for a 30-40# and 1” for a 40-50# draw weight. Halfway up the bow limb we make another mark, and draw a line from there to the edge of the tip or knock point (which is about a half inch wide). This will make for a tapering shape to the top part of the bow limb, which helps reduce air drag and results in a faster, quieter and/or stronger release.
Then it’s time for some refined whacking of log with a hatchet! Day two started with this quote from the instructor: “all you have to do is cut away the wood that is not part of the bow inside”. Right! To help with coordination, the hatchet is held right below the axe head and only short quick chops are made. To help remove the excess in short chips and not long strips (which could run off right into your bow measurements by mistake) small nicks are chopped first along the path of where you intend to remove wood to cut up the wood fibers and then, layer by layer, wood chips are removed to about 1/8th to 1/4th of an inch around your pencil drawing and about three quarters of an inch for the bow limb depth. The bow is only as big as the deepest tool mark, so the first day of chopping was rather tentative with lots of checking and rechecking of pencil marks. By the end of the day I had the backs of the limbs, the handle and the edges roughly chopped out and was surprised at the level of precision possible with a sharp hatchet and some practice!
A few things to keep in mind:
– Always chop away from the center or mass. As the bow is widest at the beginning of a limb, a chop towards the ends which has a split that runs too far, will most likely miss anything important as the outer limbs taper into the nock.
And whatever you do, do not touch the back (the part facing away when shooting: visualize a bending person and you’ll “see” where the terminology came from) – once the surface of the back is established either by peeling or scraping the bark it is off limits!
Wood grain is like fiber rope within a tree: just as a large cable made up of lots of small wires is strong enough to moor a ship, the same is true for plant fiber; enough of them together can withstand thunderstorms! But if there is fraying or some sort of damage, then one wind gust can fell a mature tree… and one scrape, nick or dent can do enough damage to make a bow unstable and set a precedence for a fatal crack!
We finished the second day with lunch around the campfire – it was hard to put down the stave and take a break!
To be continued tomorrow….
The remains of the Curtain Theatre, the Elizabethan playhouse in Shoreditch, north London, where Shakespeare’s Henry V and Romeo and Juliet were first staged, were first discovered by Museum of London Archaeology (MOLA) in October 2011 during an exploratory excavation in advance of developement. Built in 1577, the Curtain was the second purpose-built public playhouse in London (The Theatre was the first), and the main staging venue for the plays of Shakespeare between 1597 and 1599. After that it was supplanted by the famous Globe Theatre, and the last recorded play at the Curtain was performed in 1622. Over time the exact location was lost until the MOLA team found it on (or rather under) Hewett Street.
The Curtain was believed to have been dismantled during the Commonwealth — Puritans weren’t keen on the rowdy entertainments of the public theater — but a much wider open-area excavation this year has found that in fact the theater was likely repurposed into a tenement. That has proven a great archaeological boon, because while all that remains today of the Globe and the Rose, two theaters on the South Bank famed for having staged Shakespeare’s plays, are bits and bobs of stonework from the foundations, there’s enough the Curtain left to paint a rich picture of the Elizabeth playhouse, and much of what they’ve found has entirely upended expectations.
Historians previously thought the Curtain was a polygonal structure with a thrust stage, like the more famous theaters that followed it. Archaeologists discovered that in fact it was rectangular building with a rectangular stage. The stage was 14 meters (46 feet) long and five meters (16 feet) deep, a very unusual proportion that may have made it possible to field larger numbers of players for Shakespeare’s busy battle scenes. That means that the prologue of Henry V, which alludes to the theater as a “wooden O,” must have been written after the play’s premier at the Curtain, perhaps for later performances at the Globe. Under the stage archaeologists found the remains of a tunnel that was accessed by doors on either side of the stage. Actors would have used it to exit from one side of the stage and enter from the other side out of view of the audience.
There are remains of brick walls, 1.5 meters (4’9″) at the highest, and even part of the sloping yard made of compacted gravel where the people with the cheapest tickets, known as groundlings, stood in front of the stage. Between the standing room and the more expensive seats in three sides of timber galleries, the theater could accomodate 1,200 people.
Archaeologists have found artifacts like clay pipes, wine bottles, glass beads, a comb, and one tiny broken piece of clay that looks like an egg cup but is the bottom of a bird call, perhaps used for sound effects in plays like Romeo and Juliet where the song a bird interrupts the lovers in their marriage bed. They’ve also found a group of green glazed knobs and a few sherds from money boxes.
Throughout findings, we’ve also been able to tell that The Curtain Theatre is one of earliest Elizabethan playhouses where people actually paid money to see performances and be entertained. We know this because fragments of ceramic money boxes have been found. These fragments are a really exciting find because the pots would have been used to collect the entry fees from theatregoers and then been taken to an office to be smashed and the money counted. This office was known as the ‘box office’, which is actually the origin of the term we still use today!
The Curtain Theatre has been covered now with sand and a protective membrane to keep it secure while the mixed-use development of retail, office space, homes, a park and a performance area is built around it. The new development will be called The Stage, appropriately enough, and has been redesigned in light of the discovery to display the archaeological remains of the Curtain in the new cultural and visitors center.
– my adventures at the two and a half day Bow Making Workshop at Primitive Pursuits in upstate Arnot Forest during prime fall colors…
When my hubbie decided he needed a better bow, he teamed up with Edward of Delftwood to make a longbow from a premade bowstave. It took him about six trips to Syracuse to get her done, and the bow he made is an absolutely gorgeous contrasting color triple layer laminate with a narrow “D” profile, made with plausible period materials and techniques. And while laminating is a period technique (one only has to think of the short, curved horse bow of the Mongol hordes) it’s not what came to my mind when he talked about making a longbow. I’d thought of stone age bows… Norse longbows… the incredible English longbows…
Reading up on the subject I quickly realized that what I like are self bows made from one piece of wood, especially ones with character (also called flaws). I could not find anyone to help learn about making self bows, but fortunately, we live in an area with an active primitive skills group of people (or Ithaca hippies, and do they look the part…). As part of the Primitive Pursuits outdoor classroom, which specializes in kid’s summer camps and after school programs but also has occasional adult weekend workshops, once a year a Bow Making Workshop is offered right here in town! And this year I decided to take the plunge…
With just a couple of common tools like a rasp, a knife and an axe, and the abundance of his surroundings any person could, and can, make a bow strong enough to take a deer. Actually, a metal rasp, knife and axe is not even necessary, as one of our teachers demonstrated: he’d made a bow with a stone axe and a flint scraper he’d made himself, as well as creek sand as both file and sanding paper and it was completely indistinguishable from the bows made using modern tools! Like Europe, the American northeast has abundant hardwood forests with many suitable trees, and making a bow suitable to hunt from locally harvested materials is not out of our reach at all, even for us modern people!
First things first. We started the workshop with a sing-along to honor the trees and say thanks. Not something I am used to, but nice in a graceful kind of way. Then our two instructors introduced themselves: Justin, barefooted and wearing an inside out sheepskin vest and Sean, also barefooted and pledged to eat and work from and with local materials only (he had a smoked squirrel for lunch). And while normally feeling a bit out of norm as homesteaders etc, here I was likely one of the more normal ones of the dozen and a half students! I felt right at home…
Then we got right into bow making. As the bones of a bow is the wood, good care needs to be taken to find a suitable log. As a general rule, dense hardwoods like hickory, maple, oak, ash, and elm make good bows. Conifers like pine do not, and softwoods like willow and basswood do not either. Of course, the exception to this rule is yew, which is a low density conifer and makes awesome bows. But it also needs fairly specific strategies to work well with and is therefore not recommended for the beginner.
Next up is the quality of the wood. Of course, ideal would be a perfectly straight 6 to 7 foot, knot free trunk to be split into log staves. But who’s got one of those… Making a bow is much more forgiving that I expected and if reasonable care is taken in having a mostly straight, mostly knot free log, apparently it will be fine. What is to be avoided are twist and bends, especially for the beginner. A little twist could be worked around, and a reflex or deflex bend could be removed with heat, but these are more advanced techniques. Know your limitations and keep looking to find a log to go with your comfort level.
Our logs were cut between 6-7 feet (to fit the instructor’s truck bed). A 4-6” diameter log could be split in half for two staves, using a wedge, a mallet and some splitting wedges to keep the split going. When it is split wood glue is put on the ends. Paint and beeswax works as well, the advantage of wood glue being that it also works under tension (it’s stretchy) and can sometimes prevent cracks that might otherwise have happened anyway. The logs are dried in a cool dry place, like a garage or basement. Whatever you do, stay away from the hot woodstove!
About half of the split logs the students could choose from had the bark already removed as they were harvested in the summer, which was very convenient. Removing the bark facilitates drying and also prevents bark beetles from taking up home and destroying the potential stave. Some people advise getting winter wood as the wood is driest that time of year, others advise getting summer wood as the bark peels off easily. The grain of the wood gives a bow its strength and flexibility, but only if the back is one continuous growth ring from top to bottom. With the types of trees mentioned, the wood right below the bark is the wood used for making a bow, and baring the growth ring is easy if the bark is loose and can be peeled right off. The exceptions are locust and osage orange, where the outer sapwood needs to be removed and only the inner core is used. If the bark is not loose, it can also be carefully peeled first with a drawknife and finished with a scraping knife. Using a drawknife is an acquired skill, so practice first on some scrap wood until you get a feel for what’s happening. Whichever way you choose, always make sure to peel away from knots so as not to violate the grain curving around imperfections. Grain does not tend to go straight, so keep a close eye on what’s going on and always, always follow the ‘yellow brick’ grain.
To be continued tomorrow…..
On the 5th of November, in the 51st year of the Society, on chilly morning in the Province of Malagentia, those who sought to be Heirs to Brion III and Anna III, as determined by a Crown Tournament, and those others who had gathered to watch and serve, came together before Their Majesties. The combatants and consorts lined up in a great Procession to each speak with the Crown, each couple presenting themselves in turn. However, when Ameria Browne and her Champion presented themselves, the Crown announced that Ameria’s station was not found suitable. Their Majesties opened Their Court and presented the words of Their forebearers, Brennan II and Caoilfhionn II, and named her a Lady of the Court and Awarded her Arms, dated to November 7th, A.S. 50, and presented her a scroll to commemorate this with calligraphy and words by Mistress Rhonwen glyn Conwy and illumination by Miriam bat Pessah. At the end of the Procession, Their Majesties called together Their populace. They then called for Doña Camille Desjardins and spoke of the exceptional artwork she produced as a scribe and said that such surpassing skill should be recognised. They then called for Their Order of the Laurel and set Doña Camille on vigil to consider whether she would accept the accolade of Peerage in that Order. Their Majesties felt that the Order was still be incomplete and so His Majesty, with a look of consideration, strode into the gathered crowd and took by the elbow Sir Michael of York, to that one’s look of great shock. Sir Michael knelt before the thrones and he, too, for his great skill and research into storytelling, was offered to opportunity to consider whether he would join that ancient and noble Order in Court that evening. Their being no further business of the moment, the Crown spoke to the assembled combatants and then the tourney began. As the dust of combat settled, Master Ioannes Aurelius Serpentius stood alone. Their Majesties brought forward the Coronets of the Prince and Princess of the East. At Master Ionness’ request, his consort and inspiration, Mistress Ro Honig von Sommerfeldt, was crowned first, making her Princess of the East. King Brion, Queen Anna, and Princess Honig then crowned Ionness the new Prince of the East. There was a pause then, so that the Heirs could prepare themselves for Court. Court then resumed, but found much solemnity in the first piece of business. Their Majesties asked for a moment of silence for Lord Wulfgang Gruenwald, who had passed away suddenly and unexpectedly. “To absent friends.” The moment over, His Highness Ionness was invested as the Crown Prince of Tir Mara in accordance with Kingdom tradition. Her Highness Honig was invested as the Crown Princess of Tir Mara. Both were given capelets with the arms of the Crown Principality. Their Majesties called for Master Ávaldr Valbjarnarson, who fought Prince Ionness in the finals, and named him Admiral of the Armies. The Ladies of the Rose then came forward and offered tokens to those who had impressed them during the day. Duchess Ethedreda’s token went to Baroness Mari Clock van Hoorne. Countess Elsepth’s token was given to Baron Sigurthr VigurHafn. Countess Mara’s token went to Lady Vasia Von Königsburg. Duchess Thyra gave her token to Sir Matthew des Arden. Master Ávaldr Valbjarnarson received Duchess Avelina’s token. Duchess Katherine gave two tokens, one to Baron Rory MacLellan and another to Lord Richard Crowe. Jarl Valgard Stonecleaver accepted Duchess Brenwen’s token. Countess Svava gave her token to Sir Edward MacGyver dos Scorpus. Countess Violante gave her token to Prince Ionness. Princess Honig’s token went to Lady Solveig Bjarnardottir. Queen Anna then called for the Shield of Chivalry from its current bearer, Sir Wilhelm von Ostenbrucke. Sir Wilhelm was, sadly, called away for the day but the shield was brought forward by his wife and inspiration, Mistress Vienna de la Mer. Her Majesty then called for Sir Hrafn Bonesetter and named him the newest bearer of the Shield of Chivalry. The Crown called for Mistress Mercedes de Calafia and accepted her to another term as Kingdom Seneschal. The King and Queen then called for the children of the East to attend them. As has become Their custom, they set before the children a quest to learn more about the SCA while receiving a toy. Their Majesties called for their Earl Marshal, Sir Jibril al Dakhil, who may have denied he was there before skipping up the aisle, and asked that he speak to the children of the ways of chivalry and combat. Those new to the Society, attending their first events, were called forward and given tokens that they might remember the day with fondness in the future. Next, the event stewards – Lord Nicolas de Wyntere and Baroness Molly Schofield – were called forward and thanked for the wonderful event they put together. Lord Nicolas and Baroness Molly then thanked Talia of Malagentia for her work with the dayboard. Their Majesties summoned Murtagh O’Kelly and spoke of his fighting, garbmaking, runecraft, and boat-making, and felt these things all very worthy. They Awarded him Arms and gave Lord Murtagh a scroll to remember the day, a woodblock print by Mistress Renye Wurm, with words and calligraphy by Mistress Nest verch Tangwistel. Lijsbet von Catwick was called forward. The King and Queen spoke of her work as an herbalist and preparer of fine foods and shaped sugar. They then asked the Order of the Silver Brooch to stand and made Lijsbet and member of that Order and also Awarded her Arms. She was given a scroll to commemorate this, illuminated by Mistress Agatha Wanderer, calligraphed by His Lordship Gwilliam Kynith, with words by Mistress Aneleda Falconbridge and Anna Bijns. The Order of the Silver Brooch not complete, Their Majesties requested the presence of Lady Elgiva Wilhelm. For her work as a tailor and cook, They named her a Companion of that Order, giving her a scroll crafted by Baroness Marieta Charay. Next, the Crown called for Aesa Ormstunga. For her skill in rapier and service to that community as a marshal for Malagentia and at Great Northeastern War, she was inducted into the Order of the Silver Rapier. She received a scroll penned by Lady Aesa feilinn Jossursdottir. Their Majesties then had read a scroll for Conner MacSeamus O’Neal awarding him the Order of the Maunche. Lord Conner was not present, but he had been inducted into the said Order at K&Q Rapier Champions on October 22nd, A.S. 51. The scroll was made by Lord Vettorio Antonello. Titus Claudius Silvanus was called before the Crown, who spoke of his skill fighting in both the Birka bear pit and on the Unbelted Champions team, and named him a Companion of the Order of the Silver Tyger. To remember the day, he was given a scroll prepared by Lady Myrun Leifsdottir, with words by Mistress Alys Mackyntoich. King Brion and Queen Anna then requested the attendance of Lord Brenden Crane. For his work documenting the events of the East Kingdom for all to see, and teaching those skills, he was named a Companion of the Silver Wheel and received a scroll crafted by Lady Svea the Short-Sighted. Her Majesty then called for Jarl Thorvald Halversson called Thorson and thanked him for his friendship and “being you”. She took a ring from Her finger and presented this token to him. Their Majesties then called for Lord Samuel Peter DeBump called Speedbump. They spoke of his skill as a combat archer, his dedication, skill, and teaching, and his time as a regional marshal and found all these things worthy. They asked the Order of the Golden Mantle to stand, named him a Companion of the same, and gave to him a scroll crafted by Boyer Aleksei Dmitriev. The Crown then requested the answer to the question set before Sir Michael of York. He agreed that he would accept a place in the Order of the Laurel. The Order was called forward, and words from the worthies of the peerage were read. Duke Kenric aet Essex read the words of Duke Brennan mac Fearghus for the Chivalry. Duchess Thyra Eiriksdottir spoke for the Roses. Master Frasier MacLeod brought the words of Master Nataliia Anastasiia Evgenova Sviatoslavina vnuchka for the Order of Defense. (There may be rumours that he kneeled so he could properly convey her words.) Countess Svava Þorgeirsdóttir spoke for the Pelican. Lastly, Mistress Anne of Framlingham spoke for the Order of the Laurel. Sir Michael was then outfitted in the regalia of the Order. He was given a cloak, a hood, and a pin. That finished, he renewed his oath of fealty to the Crown. Lastly, he was given a scroll with calligraphy and illumination by Mistress Eleanor Catlyng, words by Mistress Aildreda de Tamwurthe, and seals by Mistress Nest verch Tangwistel. That business completed, Their Majesties called for the answer to the question set before Doña Camille Desjardins. She agreed to accept a place in the Order of the Laurel but first needed to be released from her apprenticeship. Mistress Bryn de Luna, Camille’s grand-Laurel, released her in the absence of her own Laurel, Mistress Carolyne de la Pointe. That finished, words were spoken of Camille’s character. Sir Edward MacGyver dos Scorpus spoke for the Chivalry. Duchess Katherine Stanhope read the words of Countess Marguerite ingen Lachlainn, speaking for the Order of the Rose. Master Frasier MacLeod spoke for the Order of Defense. Colonel Christian Woolfe spoke for the Pelican. Finally, Mistress Bryn de Luna spoke for the Laurel. Camille was then bedecked in the regalia of her Order. She was given a set of garters, a medallion, a cloak, and a wreath that had belonged to her Laurel, Mistress Carolyne. Mistress Camille then offered her fealty to the Crown and was then given a scroll illuminated by Mistress Ro Honig von Somerfeldt with words and calligraphy by Lady Christiana Crane. Their Majesties then asked the people of Malagentia to stand and thanked them and offered Their gratitude for the wonderful event they put together. Princess Honig then stood and, tears in her eyes, thanked her family and the people of Malagentia for the day. There being no further business, Court was concluded and Their Majesties and Their Highnesses processed from the hall. These are the events of the day as I recall them. My thanks to the people of Malagentia, the guards and retainers, the heralds and scribes, the combatants and consorts, and all those who made the day the event it was. For Crown and College, Pray know I remain, Master Rowen Cloteworthy
Filed under: Court Tagged: court report, Crown Tourney
The depiction of the death of the Buddha surrounded by the inconsolable grief of beings, human and animal, who have yet to achieve enlightenment and the detachment from earthly desires, has a long, rich tradition in Asian art. Hanabusa Itchō’s version, painted in 1713 during the Edo period, is done in the animated, dynamic style characteristic of his work. He was known for his keen observation of daily life and for biting parodies, one of which got him exiled for 12 years when he chose the mistress of the shogun as a subject for satire. He returned to Edo in 1710 after the death of shogun he’d offended, and quickly picked up where he’d left off.
His The Death of Buddha was hugely famous during the Edo period. It belonged to a Zen temple in Tokyo which is believed to have displayed it once a year during Nehan-e (Nirvana Day), the Buddhist holiday celebrating the death of the Buddha and his passing into Mahaparinirvana, for more than 150 years. Pilgrims traveled to the temple just to see the painted scroll as viewing it was believed to be good karma.
The ownership history has a gap between 1850 and 1886. At some point before the latter date, it was acquired by Ernest Fenollosa, an American professor at Tokyo Imperial University who was an avid art historian and collector of Japanese art. In 1886, he sold his entire collection to Boston doctor Charles Goddard Weld (former Massachusetts governor William Weld is a scion of the family) conditional on its eventually going to the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston where Fenollosa had attended art school. Weld bequeathed it to the MFA Boston after his death in 1911.
The scroll hasn’t been on view since 1990 for its own protection. A massive piece at six feet wide and 10 feet tall, it’s the largest scroll in the museum collection and conservation for such a large, delicate piece is extremely challenging. Adding to the logistically difficulties, the scroll hasn’t been remounted since 1850 when it was still at the Zen temple in Tokyo. Because scrolls have unique pressures — they’re rolled, mounts regularly fail or being to tug, tear and pull at the painting — they’re usually remounted every century or so.
The museum began planning the complex conservation of The Death of Buddha three years ago. Active conservation began in the spring of this year in the MFA Boston laboratory. Four conservators, two from the MFA Boston and two from the Smithsonian’s Freer Gallery which has an exceptional collection of Asian art and is currently being renovated allowing East Asian painting experts Andrew Hare and Jiro Ueda to join in the conservation of one the great scroll paintings of the Edo period. It is truly a conservation dream team. Three of the four, lead conservator Philip Meredith and both of the Freer experts, did the traditional ten-year apprenticeships at registered conservation studios required by Japanese government regulation for the conservation of Japan’s cultural patrimony. Meredith was only the second westerner to complete the decade-long apprenticeship.
In August, the scroll and conservation team moved to the Asian Painting Gallery to give the public the rare opportunity to watch the painstaking work in progress in an exhibition called Conservation in Action: Preserving Nirvana. The scroll had to be dismantled from mount screws to linings to silk borders. After cleaning, consolidation, crease flattening, removal of old linings, replacement with new linings and the reassembling of every part, the scroll must be stretch dried on a custom karibari drying board 18 feet long.
It’s in the home stretch now, but conservation still proceeds apace. Visitors to the MFA Boston galleries can view the team at work until January 16th, 2017. The rest of us can get a glimpse into this extraordinary labor of love and expertise in the following videos.
A fascinating overview of the conservation process:
Timelapse video of the conservation team applied temporary facing to the painting:
Here the team applies layers of protective paper, humidifying the work and removing the temporary facing. Then they turn it face down and remove old linings from the creases so that they can brush out the creases and re-flatten the painting.
In this last timelapse video, the conservators remove all the old lining paper from the back of the painting, lifting it with bamboo sticks and tweezing off the fibers that remain. They replace the old lining with fresh Mino washi, a traditional Japanese mulberry paper that is on UNESCO’s list of Intangible Cultural Heritage, adhered with wheat starch paste.
Conservators at the Queen Victoria Museum and Art Gallery in Launceston, Tasmania, Australia’s largest regional museum, have used samples of what is believed to be the world’s oldest surviving beer to create a modern brew from 18th century microorganisms.
The bottles were discovered in the shipwreck of the Sydney Cove, a small merchant vessel carrying alcohol, food, textiles and livestock from Calcutta to Port Jackson (modern-day Sydney) in 1797. On February 9th, the ship was caught in a storm and began to take on water. The captain decided to deliberately ground the Sydney Cove on the shore of Preservation Island, Tasmania. The full crew survived and after stashing all the cargo they could salvage, 17 of them set out for Port Jackson in the ship’s longboat, becoming the first Europeans to cross the Bass Strait between Tasmania and mainland Australia. Their bad luck held, however, and they got into another wreck off Ninety Mile Beach, Victoria, a full 400 miles from their destination. They had to walk the coast all that way to finally reach Port Jackson. By the time they got there in May, only three of the 17 were still alive.
The eighth oldest shipwreck in Australian waters, the Sydney Cove was rediscovered in 1977 and excavated by marine archaeologists from the Tasmanian Parks and Wildlife Service from 1991 to 1994. They recovered 26 glass bottles of beer from the ship’s hold, as well as bottles of wine, brandy and gin. The artifacts were sent to the Queen Victoria Museum and Art Gallery where two samples were drawn from one of the beer bottles and kept in storage.
Museum conservator David Thurrowgood found a forgotten sealed bottle of beer from the shipwreck two years ago. As a chemist, he was intrigued at the prospect of investigating microorganisms that might still be living in the beer. He extracted a sample with a syringe but found no critters alive. The two samples drawn in the 1990s, on the other hand, were more productive. Thurrowgood and a team of experts from Australia, France, Germany and Belgium were able to revive five strains of yeast from the samples, and several different species of bacteria.
DNA testing of the yeast strains found they are related to yeast found in beers brewed in Trappist monasteries. Researchers also plan to analyse the DNA of the other microbes discovered in the samples to discover more about pre-Industrial diets.
“People talk about autoimmune diseases and other issues [relating to] the fact that we have quite a clean diet today, whereas in the past we had a diet full of microbes,” Thurrowgood said. “This is one of the few chances we’ve got to actually test those microbes, and actually see what they were.”
Meanwhile, one of the yeast cultures drawn from the Sydney Cove beer has been used to create a new batch named Preservation Ale after the island where the ship ran ground. They used an English beer recipe from the late 18th century to recreate a brew as close as possible to the original.
The researchers also uncovered a historical account of a celebrated English beer from the time that was known for its sweet, cider-like flavor, similar to the beer brewed from the reanimated yeast.
“That was quite a surprise, but having found that reference, and to have that particular taste come out in the beer … it showed that the beer did actually have a distinctive taste at the time that we’re only rediscovering now,” Thurrowgood told Live Science.
Only a few bottles have been brewed for research purposes, so for now there’s no chance of the public getting a sip of this cider-like beer. Several companies have expressed interest in making a brew for wider public consumption, however. Meanwhile, researchers plan to study the wine and other alcohol found on the shipwreck. They will examine the red wine to compare it to modern red wine and to study any microorganisms within.
The Qianlong Emperor was an avid collector of art and had a great interest in Western technology. Western firearms captured his fancy not for waging war, but for hunting. Their great length required a tripod for shooting, which is not the most convenient weaponry for battle. Its firepower was far more effective than a bow and arrow for hunting, however, and the stationary position was fine once the target was acquired.
The Qianlong Emperor, one of the most powerful Sons of Heaven and the longest-lived and de-facto longest-reigning emperor in Chinese history, deeply admired his grandfather, the Kangxi Emperor (r. 1662-1722), and like him, was proud of his Manchu ancestry and at the same time keenly interested in Western technology. Both were intent on keeping in touch with a Manchu life style, organized large-scale training hunts at Rehe (Jehol), Chengde, northeast of Beijing, with soldiers from the Eight Banners, to keep their troops well trained for military campaigns, and prided themselves on their own hunting, riding and shooting skills. Organized hunting trips were also a way of building closer relations with Mongolian princes who usually participated in these hunts. While traditionally, hunting would have been done with bow and arrow, or with spears, the advent of Western firearm technology sparked off the production of muskets also in the imperial workshops.
The emperor’s love of hunting was well known and represented in art. Giuseppe Castiglione, the Italian Jesuit missionary who became a court artist who famously sculpted the 12 animals of the Chinese zodiac for a water clock at the Old Summer Palace that were looted by the British in 1860 and wound up in European collections, depicted the Qianlong Emperor calling deer with a large party in a hilly terrain. One anonymous court painter captures the emperor shooting deer with a musket on a tripod much like the one that sold at auction. There’s an even a poem written by the emperor himself when he was 88 years old about how he could still shoot a deer with perfect aim.
The Supreme Number One matchlock musket was one of very few made by the Manufacture Department of the Imperial Household for the Qianlong Emperor using the most expensive materials. The stock is elm wood. The barrel is cast iron inlaid with gold, silver and copper foliage decoration. The muzzle is also cast iron and is inlaid with the gold mark of the Qianlong Emperor. Behind the breech, visible only if the musket is taken apart, is the inscription “te deng di yi” (Supreme Grade Number One). It comes with its original tripod of rare zitan wood (red sandalwood native to India) with pointy horn-shaped feet made of cast iron.
The Supreme Grade Number One designation is unique among the imperial muskets that have survived. It is likely connected to six imperial muskets now in the collection of Beijing’s Palace Museum. They have individual names that appear on a list of seven in the Qing-era record Collected Statutes of the Qing Dynasty with Illustrations. They were likely given graded as well, although the inscriptions are not extant.
Chinese Actor Wang Gang recites the Qianlong Emperor’s poem on hunting deer with one of his prized muskets:
The Autocrats Colloquium will be held this Saturday in Arlington, MA. Attendees should wear regular clothes, not garb, to listen to SCA experts offer their insights on what an autocrat needs to know. A dayboard is not being served – although coffee and tea will be available.
There will be an hour lunch break. The map posted below shows restaurants in easy walking distance and includes their websites. It also contains directions on parking.
The topics being covered and their presenters are:
For more information, see the event listing on the East Kingdom website.
Filed under: Events
by The Honorable Fool, Dagonell the Juggler
It was a very blustery day. Winnie the Pooh and Piglet left their homes in the Hundred Acre Wood and… Oops, wrong story. It was a very blustery day. My wife and I left our home at dawn to drive to the State University of NY at Fredonia to start setting up our demo for the first Fredonia Maker Faire.
It was originally planned that we would be outside the new science building so fighters and fencers could fight on the lawn. A couple of the officials decided it was too cold and windy and rainy and just too darn blustery. So they got a couple of volunteers to help us re-pack our stuff and transport it all to the Williams Center and help us re-set up. The volunteers all wore bright yellow t-shirts to identify themselves. Naturally, the exhibitors promptly renamed them Makers’ Minions. With their aid, we were fully set-up before the faire opened.
The faire was originally supposed to be just the Science Building, but they got so many exhibitor responses that they extended the faire into the next building and there were exhibits in both the Science Building and the Williams Center. Nearly 100 exhibits in all. We got the second floor of the Williams Center all to ourselves. The main hall in the Williams Center is two stories tall. The second floor wraps around it like a ring with pillars forming niches all along the balcony side. The organizers put up an extra sign announcing “The Shire” was upstairs.Click to view slideshow.
A&S display at the Maker Faire.
We draped banners off the balconies to hang down into the central hall. We set up an armor display in the first niche along with a chainmail making demo. In the second niche, we set up miscellaneous display objects including embroidery, garb, heraldry and a medieval cookbook. In the third niche, we set up a calligraphy and illumination display with a illumination demo. When the fencers arrived, they took over the fourth niche for their weapons and gear.
Master Otfrid Ammerthaler and m’lady Artemisa da Manarola arrived from the Rhydderich Hael just before the official opening. Lord Coinneich Mac an Leigh and THL Clarissa da Svizzera from Thescorre came shortly afterward. The doors opened and we had a slow but steady stream of fair-goers. We announced the teaching of a few simple country dances, and Artemisia, the Hael’s dance mistress, led the audience through them.
When our fencers, Lord Bjorn Einarsson and Baron Jacob of Dunmoore arrived and armored up, I announced from the balcony that there had been a falling out amongst the king’s musketeers and matters were to be settled by the sword. This was not choreographed, nor rehearsed nor pre-determined. Skill alone would decide the winner. Within two minutes nearly everyone from the hall below was now upstairs packed solidly from wall to wall awaiting the combat. Jacob and Bjorn gave a wonderful display of skill. When they stopped, we had dozens of people by our tables, trying on jackets, helms, coifs, surcoats, gauntlets, swords and bucklers while we talked about the SCA.
At 4PM, the fair closed and we started packing up. We had brought 40 flyers. We had 8 left. We had been interviewed by the Chautauqua Star, who had come to write an article on the fair itself. The issue came out Nov. 4th and is still available. Check your local grocery store for a copy if you live in Western NY. A tired few headed for home with our deepest thanks. The majority of us headed up to Dimitri’s in Dunkirk for Greek cuisine for a meal before going home to plan for next year’s Maker Faire.
All photos and video by m’lady Artemisa da Manarola.