Seeking diversion from the sorrows of war, I clicked on a British Library blog post on Medieval and Renaissance Women. What did it include? a medieval woman artist whose name is known! Sybilla von Bondorf. The post has a link to a manuscript she illustrated, and the British Library holds another from which this image of St. John composing the Book of Revelation comes.
Picturing a World
Blog post alert and website links: Yea! Women continue to make gorgeous stained glass. Spitalfield Life's post on windows depicting champions made for an Oxford Street pub led me to artist Ann Southeran's website. A Google search then quickly turned up Stained Glass Ceilings: 5 Women Artists Working In Glass That You Should Know.
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.
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.
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?
A look at Christmas ghost stories this year somehow sent me to Tales of Moonlight and Rain by the 18th C Japanese master, Ueda Akinari. In his introduction, the translator, Anthony H. Chambers draws on an analysis of Chinese stories about anomalies—the weird, the uncanny, the ghostly—to derive a typical structure for Akinari's tales (see pp. 22–24). Following it step by step can turn into a dandy writing exercise.
With snow on the ground out my window on this first Sunday in Advent and first day of Hanukkah, I'm ready to consider today the onset of winter—even if the Solstice is still more than three weeks away. Besides, it gives me a chance to celebrate the illustrations of Danielle Barlow. Let's be grateful for whatever sustains us in these troubled times!
Image via Myth and Moor
Blog post alert: In the midst of my annual rereading of Greer Gilman's Moonwise and while I'm writing a short story about an artists' collective, along comes Bloomsbury Jamboree 2021 at Spitalsfield Life. Wonderful! It will certainly make you wish you could go to London and may give you ideas for your own holiday crafts or artistic ambitions. (And if you read Moonwise, you will know why I call Matilda Moreton's bowls Cloud Bowls.)
The Dawn of Everything: A New History of Humanity by David Graeber and David Wengrow is full of interesting discoveries and arguments. One idea grabbed my attention. Neuroscience, they say, seems to show that self-aware thoughts on a problem generally last about seven seconds. "[T]he great exception to this is when we're talking to someone else. In conversation, we can hold thoughts and reflect on problems for hours on end" (p. 94). Graeber and Wengrow point out that many ancient philosophers framed their writings as dialogue. I would add, think how often writers have written as though there were a devil and an angel or two sides of personality arguing with each other when they want to depict a mental struggle. The device can seem contrived, but maybe it arises out of more than convention.
A while back, Jackie Morris's otters on luggage tags gave me an idea for a story about a group of women artists working in a small city after a second pandemic. A time-travel story knocked it aside. Now, here comes Grace Ponder's deck of Yarn Tarot for Crocheters, Knitters, Spinners, and Weavers with the just the clue to jumpstart the neglected luggage-tag story again.