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Picturing a World

Easter Sunday 2024

From Jesse Hurlburt: Out of the Darkness, Into the Light. May we make the journey. For the full manuscript page, click here.

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Laura Theresa Alma-Tadema

Blog post alert: Another female artist new to me! Laura Theresa Alma-Tadema was trained in London by her husband, the artist Lawrence Alma-Tadema. She had work exhibited at the Exposition Universelle in Paris in 1878. (Had I known in time, I might have had Jeanette see it!). Many of her paintings could illustrate or inspire stories. This one of her stepdaughter Laurense's tea party? Maybe not, but I think it's sweet and the touch of Japonisme fits with things I've been looking at lately.  You can see more of her work at Wikipedia Commons and read more about her marriage to a fellow artist here.

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Biba viva!

A collection of drawings in the GuardianUnseen illustrations show the genius of Biba's Barbara Hulanicki —said to me, Wow! the Sixties! Fashion! The look was familiar, though I admit neither Biba nor Barbara Hulanicki was. Anyone who wants to set a story in the glamorous side of the Sixties or Seventies should make a montage of her drawings as a mood prompt. See also the Victoria and Albert's Biba for actual clothes photographs of the store and 'From A to Biba' by Barbara Hulanicki for an excerpt from Hulanicki's autobiography.

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British Library exhibition on medieval women

Exhibition alert: An upcoming exhibition at the British Library—Medieval Women: In Their Own Words—has been announced by the British Library for October 2024. It will cover the lives of aristocrats and peasants and the craftwomen in between. Even one picture supplies information. Just look at the tether on the hen's leg, the little water trough with a chick perched on it, the distaff tucked under the farm woman's arm, and her bare feet. Looks like a great show for historians and historical fiction writers alike—if you have the good luck to be in London.

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Fidelma Massey

Website alert: In my current fantasy novella, I have reached a point where I need to describe a votive figurine, so I went on line to look at images for inspiration. What did I find? Fidelma Massey! Her Shrine for the Mother of Birds doesn't fit my narrative; but, wow! do I admire her sculptures. If you like this sort of thing, do explore her website.

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Starry mantle

During an interesting and very convincing recent lecture on the symbolic imagery of curtains in Byzantine liturgical practice, Professor Warren Woodfin discussed this image of Night, the prophet Isaiah, and the little boy Dawn. He connected Nyt's starry shawl in the Paris Psalter to iconographical traditions including the parochet that covered the Ark of the Covenant and altar veils of the Byzantine Christian church. I have to admit though that when he put up a detail of Nyt, my thoughts jumped immediately to Mara's cloak of pocket universes in The Dark Lord of Dernholm and then to all the lovely strands of Greer Gilman's imagery of weaving, scarves, and the Pleiades in Cloud and Ashes. I was trained as a medievalist, but you know what? I'm keeping my fingers crossed Nyt inspires me to something wonderfully fantastic.

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Mont-Saint-Michel model

Website alert: We missed the exhibition, but Mont-Saint-Michel: Digital Perspectives on the Model from the Museum of History and Industry in Seattle provides pictures and information about this miniature version of the island. Imagine—a scale model built around 1691!
Image via a French website, Mont-Saint-Michel Abbey: Exploring the Wonder of the West, which has lots of additional information about the island itself.

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The Sverresborg Trøndelag Folkemuseum website has several items that could be helpful in conjuring up the setting for a fantasy or historical novel, including this visualization by K. P. Keller (about whom I could find nothing else on line).
I adore the way artists can translate archeological remains from holes in the ground into fully imagined places. Just look at the sweep of the bay in the background of this one, the texture of tiled roofs, the plowed field under the bluff on the right, the rockiness of the mound on which the castle is set. All these and more could supply either touches of realism or odd hinges for a plot point. For a good article on how it's done, click here.

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Japonisme corset ads

As a follow-up to my previous post on a Corset sculptor, how about a Japonisme corset ad? In an e-mail, scholar Christine Guth immediately recognized these "Three Little Maids from School" from the Gilbert and Sullivan opera, The Mikado, first performed in 1885. The Digital Commonwealth site where I found it has three other corset ads of the same period with Japonisme motifs. Which leads me to think the commercial artist I proposed as a fictional heroine might be a serious fine artist who has been influenced by Japanese art. As she struggles to find a footing in the world of galleries, she supports herself by supplying pictures to a printer who turns out calendars and advertising cards. If I decide to go with that idea, there's lots to explore!

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