Two Black Amazons from 1400s

Arts & Crafts, Bits in Spaaace!, Thumbs Up

Oh, goodness! An illumination from a 15th-century French manuscript shows two black Amazons. Have a look:

Le secret de l'histoire naturelle, France, ca. 1480-1485, BnF, Français 22971, fol. 2R; via discarding images on Tumblr.

Le secret de l’histoire naturelle, France, ca. 1480-1485, BnF, Français 22971, fol. 2r; via discarding images on Tumblr.

This image has clearly been cropped and edited. My source, discarding images on Tumblr, says the two women are Amazons but gives no more details.

Being an early history nerd, I did some additional digging. Below is the whole page via Gallica, the digital library for the national library of France (Bibliothèque nationale de France, or BnF).

Le secret de l'histoire naturelle fol 2r Full Page

Le secret de l’histoire naturelle, France, ca. 1480-1485, BnF, Français 22971, fol. 2r.

The full title of the manuscript is Le secret de l’histoire naturelle contenant les merveilles et choses mémorables du monde. It was created between 1401-1500, and is currently stored at BnF. The illumination comes from the first part of the book, which presents the great countries and the great provinces of the old world.

Unfortunately, my French isn’t good enough anymore to be confident in my reading; I can understand a word here and there, but not the whole. However, it does look like the first word below the illumination is Amazon.

I’ve cropped into a separate image the bottom left corner of the illumination with the text following immediately after it:

Le secret de l'histoire naturelle fol 2r Amazons

Le secret de l’histoire naturelle, France, ca. 1480-1485, BnF, Français 22971, fol. 2r; cropped.

I just cannot make out the full spelling of the first word due to the ligatures that squish up the last two or three letters. It definitely looks like it’s inflected, though. The sequence ma definitely follows the capital A, with most likely a z and o further along.

It also looks there’s a sigil marking an abbreviation on top of the o, which was very common in handwritten Medieval documents to mark inflectional endings, among others. (Unless it’s a diacritic like in modern French – were they even used in Medieval French? If so, maybe Amazonye? Amazònye? Amazónye?? Amazônye???)

Anyway, it seems that Amazons are indeed talked about on the same page. The larger block of text above the illumination mentions the word affricà, too. (Again, not sure whether that’s a sigil or diacritic on the final a.)

In any case, if the two women aren’t Amazons, at the very least they are heralds of some sort leading a column of warriors. The image details, like the mi-parti dresses, are really neat, too.

Found via MedievalPOC on Tumblr.

And speaking of MedievalPOC, I’ve found it a truly valuable source for types of art imagery that’s not usually included in the canon from the Middle Ages onwards. The site is sometimes a little too interesting: on several occasions, I’ve spent much longer than intended there, happily chasing intriguing details down the rabbit hole. If you’ve got the time to spare, I wholeheartedly recommend it. 🙂

P.S. You can also follow MedievalPOC on Twitter. Happy browsing!

Note: I wasn’t paid or perked to mention this; just passing along a good thing.

New Kaurismäki Film: The Girl King

Movies & TV, My Spaces
The Girl King poster

The Girl King. Via Lark Theater.

I’ve been vaguely aware of the Swedish-Finnish movie production The Girl King (Finnish title Tyttökuningas), which is remarkable for having been largely (according to some sources, almost entirely) filmed in Turku, Finland, including the local castle. It’s one week from opening night now, and reviews and interviews are starting to roll out. Yay!

The movie is about Queen Kristina of Sweden (1626-1689), of the Vasa lineage, directed by Finland’s famous Mika Kaurismäki. In the main roles we’ll see Malin Buska, Sarah Gadon (whom I liked in Belle), and Michael Nyqvist (familiar from the Swedish version of The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo series). A description from Kaurismäki’s website says:

“Mika Kaurismäki is currently developing a feature film project about the Swedish Queen Kristina, starring Swedish actress Malin Buska. Set in the 17th century, the film paints a portrait of an extravagant and atypical queen, who was the ruler of her country from the age of seven until her startling abdication at 28.

“The film is scripted by Canadian award-winning screenwriter Michel Marc Bouchard and the cinematography will be by renowned Christopher Doyle (In the Mood for Love, Hero).”

frock-flicks-girlking-kristina-decartes

The Girl King: Queen Kristina and René Descartes. Via Frock Flicks.

At the time of Kristina’s life, Finland was a part of Sweden, and Turku (Åbo in Swedish) was the oldest and largest city in Finland. The Turku Castle dates from late 13th century, but it was still inhabited and garrisoned at the time; in the modern period, it’s been restored to its Renaissance state, so it’s an appropriate location even though Kristina didn’t actually live there. (Tidbit gleaned from a news article in Yle uutiset: Kristina’s parents visited Turku early in 1626, and it’s said that she was conceived at the Turku Castle.) Also, kuningatar Kristiina has a special place in the Finnish memory because of her efforts to end the 30 years’ war which was hard on Finland, and because she at the suggestion of one of her statesmen (and twice Governor General of Finland), Per Brahe, founded the first Finnish university in 1640.

The official trailer (with Finnish subtitles) is out, and looking gorgeous:

Tyttökuningas (The Girl King) -elokuvan virallinen traileri from LeffatByFSFilm

Frock Flicks has a interview with the costume designer, Marjatta Nissinen, and a review that includes insights into the costuming. There’s also a documentary on the costuming, with background information from Kaurismäki and closeups of some of the outfits in the latter half (Finnish with English subtitles):

Dressing The Girl King -documentary by Film City Turku and Länsi-Suomen elokuvakomissio

As an early history geek who lived in Turku for a number of years, I’m very curious to see The Girl King – for freaking once I get the native advantage in location spotting! 😀

Historical Turku Mashup

Turku historical mashup, clockwise from top: 1700s-1800s houses at Luostarinmäki; bell tower of the cathedral seen from the river Aura; Vanha Suurtori with empire style and neoclassical houses; closeup of the cathedral bell tower. Center: Turku Castle.

But seriously, what I can see of the sets and locations, especially the Renaissance floor of the castle, looks fantastic. Here’s hoping that The Girl King will have a reasonably wide release in the U.S.!

Images: poster via Lark Theater; Queen Kristina & René Decartes via Frock Flicks; Turku historical mashup by Eppu Jensen.

Cross-posted from Co-Geeking.

Note: I wasn’t paid or perked to mention this; just passing along a good thing.

Discoveries: Frock Flicks

Arts & Crafts, Design & Designers, Fabrics & Materials, Movies & TV

As a dabbler in historical wear and as a Jane Austen fan, I’m excited share with you a delightful, new-to-me resource: Frock Flicks. It’s a blog and podcast venue that critiques movies and tv shows with historical settings primarily from the costume point of view.

Frock Flicks Header

Frock Flicks.

From their About page:

“Tune in to our podcasts where we rip into Hollywood’s attempt at historical costuming and talk about exactly why they’re not accurate to the eras. But we’re not just dissers — we’ll also look at costume movies we love and tell you why they’re fabulous, beautiful, fascinating films.”

You can read blog style, from newest to oldest, but you can also browse the various thematic categories. Erawise, the Ancient and Medieval categories deal with earlier garb styles, and from the 15th they proceed to 20th by century; there’s also a category for scifi and fantasy.

So far I’ve only browsed a little, but I especially enjoyed their series of posts from this fall celebrating the 20th anniversary of the 1995 Pride and Prejudice miniseries (check out the posts: first, second, third, fourth and fifth).

This is so going to become a staple in my Internet diet!

Note: I wasn’t paid or perked to mention this; just passing along a good thing.

Wool on Wool with Medieval Motif

Arts & Crafts, Leveling Up

While pawing through my fabric bins in search of wool for another project, I came across an old embroidery that I’d forgotten about. I originally had a purpose for it, but my plans changed, and so the finished embroidery sat around for years.

The pattern is from 9th century metalwork, with an animal – dog, if I’d had to guess – framed by a triangle. I got it from Eva Wilson’s book Early Medieval Designs (in the British Museum Pattern Books series). I used blue wool yarn on mustard-y orange wool blend.

This embroidery project was a textile history nerdery win for me, because it was my first attempt at a historical design without a counted pattern (such as cross-stitch) or a pattern drawn on the fabric. I did measure and mark the corners for the triangular frame but eyeballed the rest.

In the spirit of celebrating your successes, I decided to frame the embroidery to hang somewhere in the house rather than keep it hidden.

I don’t remember why I chose complementary colors for the work; I guess that’s what I had available at the time. The effect is a little jarring, though, which is why I chose a neutral, naturally light-colored wood frame. The two-layered mat has a narrow navy accent on the inside, which goes with the blue yarn very well.

Looking good. 🙂 I still need to decide where exactly I want it.

Textile History Geekery: Historical Inspiration for Amidala

Arts & Crafts, Design & Designers, Fabrics & Materials, Movies & TV

The new Star Wars Episode VII trailer got me thinking back to the prequels and their costuming. I remember being initially impressed by Queen/Senator Amidala’s garb. Especially after Leia’s rather Spartan wardrobe, the lavish fabrics and colors on Padmé were a joy to watch.

Several Amidala’s outfits have historical inspiration, but two such forebears stand out. Other people have made the connection between Mongolian Khalkha people’s traditional wear and Queen Amidala’s Episode I Senate gown before me, but finding a gorgeous museum-preserved historical exemplar reminded me of it. In the comparison below, on the left is the museum piece and on the right Amidala’s gown, complete with headdress.

Khalkh Amidala Collage

Left: Khalkha (or Halh) garb from Mongolia; National Museum of Mongolia. Right: Queen Amidala’s Senate dress, Star Wars Episode I; Scott Shingler Photography. Collage by Eppu Jensen.

These outfits are very similar indeed. Details vary, but the general shape is the same, as is the hairdo, the braid sheaths, the chains hanging from the skull cap flanking the face, even down to the two makeup dots on the cheeks under Amidala’s eyes (not visible on the doll), and the concept of wide robe sleeve cuffs. (Rebels Haven has a side-by-side comparison of a historical photo and concept art that makes the similarities even clearer.)

The Wikipedia article on Padmé lists another historical model, this one from Episode II. A costume ball dress for Russian Grand Duchess Xenia Alexandrovna with a kokoshnik headdress is said to have inspired Padmé’s refugee dress.

Alexandrovna Amidala Collage

Left: Grand Duchess Xenia Alexandrovna of Russia in a 1903 costume ball outfit; Wikimedia. Right: Queen Amidala’s refugee dress, Star Wars Episode II; via Rebels Haven. Collage by Eppu Jensen.

I thought I also noticed that, in The Phantom Menace, Amidala’s costumes predicted reasonably accurately what kind of a scene she was to be in: complicated and layered meant talk, relatively pared-down and pragmatic meant action. It turned out I was wrong, but not entirely. While the two most comfortable-looking costumes – the blue and grey Tatooine outfit and the maroon battle uniform – get the most screen time and the most vigorous activity (and most pants), Padmé does do a lot of static activities (standing around and talking) in both. The elaborate, courtly dresses are reserved exclusively for scenes with discussion, or, at most, stately walk. There are fewer outfits that dominate in terms of screen time in both Attack of the Clones and Revenge of the Sith; the closest match is the Geonosis arena suit.

Other Amidala outfits from Episodes II and III that make my historical-dress-Spidey-sense tingle include the blue embroidered Tatooine dress plus several of her Senatorial dresses with their corset-like bodices and wide hems and sleeves. My favorite is probably this:

Rebels Haven Amidala loyalist

Senator Amidala’s loyalist committee dress, Star Wars Episode II; via Rebels Haven.

The deep purplish-blue loyalist committee dress is seriously gorgeous. The streamlined Tudor profile is elegant, the robe sleeves nod to medieval sleeves (perhaps there’s even a hint of kimono sleeve design?) and the embellishments add to, not overwhelm, the whole.

Any favorites you’d like to mention?

Collected source info:

Close Quarters: Medieval House in Modern Belgium

Colors, House Tours

Rooigem is a Belgian interior decoration and antiques company headed by Jean-Philippe Demeyer. Rooigem House was built in the Early Middle Ages as a moated courtyard house just outside Bruges. After being restored, it’s now both a home and place of business for Mr. Demeyer.

There is an abundance of incredible spaces. While the past is unquestionably there, it’s not overwhelming. Neither is the present, which asserts itself in the strong colors and bold motifs.

Tudor front door:

Rooigem tudorpoort

Tudor door. Jean-Philippe Demeyer.

Entrance porch:

Rooigem entrance porch

Jean-Philippe Demeyer.

The north room:

Rooigem Chinese room

Jean-Philippe Demeyer.

The orangerie:

Rooigem orangerie

Jean-Philippe Demeyer.

The hall:

Rooigem The_hall

Jean-Philippe Demeyer.

What makes these rooms stand out is the care with which Mr. Demeyer fills – or, strictly speaking, doesn’t fill – the areas: there is a pleasing amount of unclaimed space, rather like an art gallery. Additional oomph comes from the consistent use of massive historical and modern furnishings, fearless combination of old and new and, of course, the colors.

Note: I wasn’t paid or perked to mention this; just passing along a good thing.