With a horrible political year ahead, let's go out of December 2023 in style. Happy New Year's EVE everybody!
Picturing a World
At first glance, I thought this image depicted a slightly surreal, imaginary place. Scrolling down through additional images at the Lines and Colors post on Alesandro Tofanelli increased that impression until I caught on, no!, they are probably real! Tiny places like the Thimble Islands off the Connecticut coast. Each one might prompt a story about a small isolated place and the peculiar outlook of either the artist who depicted it or the person who chose to inhabit it. Or, of course, indeed a story about an imaginary tiny floating world.
Two titles on a bookstore's web page for 2023 Christmas murder mysteries sent me to the public library. I had read S. J. Bennett's Windsor Knot, the first in her series about Queen Elizabeth II as a detective and enjoyed it enough to borrow Murder Most Royal as light Christmastime reading. My conclusion: not enough Corgis, but thumbs up to a mildly amusing visit to Sandringham for the holidays. For an interview with the author, click here.
Imagine a group of internationally known, avant-garde artists building an amusement park together in 1987—attractions by Salvador Dali, David Hockney, Michael Basquiat, Roy Lichtenstein (with music by Philip Glass, no less). An over the Big Top extravaganza. So delicious! So Tom Stoppard! So It-couldn't-happen now! Only wait: it can happen now, at least Luna Luna is being revived; and one day next year, you may be able to visit it in a city near you.
More hands from Renaissance Painting & Drawing Techniques. A story I am working on now involves a printer and bookseller in an imaginary Renaissance world. The company prints textbooks on cheap paper if a print run will make a profit. For less-used titles, students borrow fascicles of approved exemplars to copy by hand. I'm always interested in concrete, material details of life in my fictional settings, whether they make it into the story or not.
This is a detail from a 16th C copy of Rogier van der Weyden's Saint Luke drawing the Madonna. For the religiously literal-minded today, it must seem silly to imagine that one of Jesus's disciples was around as an adult to sketch His mother when He was a baby; but to the more mythically minded Middle Ages and Renaissance, what mattered was not chronology, but devotion. Luke the Evangelist and presumed author of the third Gospel was also believed to be an artist, ergo … a lot of symbolism packed into one painting. Well, leaving aside all the whole, huge topic of belief, resonance, and levels of interpretation, I come down to loving this detail for its exactitude in portraying an artist at work. Even better for the historical novelist is a splendid website post, History and Usage of Metalpoint Drawing.
Website alert: For historical fiction writers, a new website called After the Plague provides a wealth of information on life, health, and death in Cambridge, England, in the period ca. A.D. 1000–1500. It takes findings derived from scientific investigations of a thousand skeletons of people who lived in and around Cambridge and uses them, not only to generalize, but to reconstruct individual lives. Sixteen essay-length profiles are included.