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Picturing a World

Maria Yakunchikova

Blog post alert: James Gurney's technical comments on Vasily Polenov's watercolor of a 19th C woman artist at work are interesting. But a correction: the subject is not N. Yakunchikova. Rather she is Maria Yakunchikova whose sister Elena (also an artist) married Polenov in the year this portrait was painted.  Maria studied for a year at the Académie Julian with under William-Adolphe Bouguereau and Tony Robert-Fleury (as does my fictional Jeanette). For more of Maria's work, click here. And for an article about her at Musings on Art, A Platform for Women Artists, click here.

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Medieval mice take the castle!

The solid black silhouette startled me first when I saw a stick figure in a 14th C bas-de-page illustration. I can't remember ever seeing anything like it in a medieval manuscript. Then I realized it was a mouse. A mouse with a catapult! A mouse attacking a castle! A castle held by a cat? Turn the page and there's more. It's really like a cartoon strip running along the bottom of eight pages of this 14th Book of Hours. The sense of humor is recognizable from the period; so is a narrative sequence in these decorations. But those black mice! Something for fantasy or historical fiction, for doggerel verse or a children's book (provided, I suppose, that you brought the cat back to life), or, for that matter, a little serious historical research.

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Queen Elizabeth I and a book

Blog post alert: Isn't this a great portrait of the princess who would become Queen Elizabeth? I love the jewelry, the damask, the gold braid, her natural coloring (no white lead paint!), and especially her holding her place in a book with a finger. Of course, it's posed; but in a story, that last touch could be such a good hint in characterizing a particular kind of person when she is interrupted. The image comes from a British Library post, Portraits of Elizabeth I, about a current exhibition.

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Sleeping with a dog

My husband drew my attention to an article, How our ancestors used to sleep, which included an image of this window. I already knew that people went to bed at sundown and generally slept in two nightly stages (I've come across the phrases "first sleep" and "second sleep" as early as Chaucer and as late as Emily Brontë). What interested me here were a dog sleeping on the beds with its people and stained glass.

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Wildness and wonder

Michael Garrick's photograph of exuberant, overflowing, flowering, abundant life taking over an abandoned greenhouse (used here under a Creative Commons License) was just the tonic I needed on a very cold morning in New England . Sure, there's the pandemic, worrying political news, and the terrifying prospect of all that climate change will bring. And still, wildness breaks through our structures, constrictions, and failures to bring subversive glee and wonder.

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Margaret Rope's stained glass

Blog post alert: Margaret Rope's East End Saints at Spitalfield's Life calls attention to the work of stained-glass artist Margaret Rope, especially a series of windows she made for St. Augustine's Church off the Hackney Road in London in the 1930's. They depict miracles within settings of everyday life in the parish. Doesn't the world of stained-glass artistry beckon as a topic of exploration—and the possible setting for, what, a series of historical mystery stories?

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