Blog post alert: Friends, Romans, historical fiction writers, and history buffs, lend me your ears—and eyes and noses! VR bus drives back in time through ancient Rome gives you a taste of technology put to the task of immersing tourists in a real bus ride that takes passengers through an opt-in virtual reality that includes narrative, GPS-guided imagery, and wafts of smell. Screenshot via YouTube.
Picturing a World
I'm reading The Universal History of Numbers by Georges Ifrah a few pages at a time. If you were like me, you had an elementary school teacher who reprimanded students who used fingers to count; but really it's a good way to reinforce understanding. Moreover, finger-counting has been used in remarkably complicated systems for calculations by many cultures over millennia. Ifrah illustrates one discussion with an image based on this early Renaissance painting of the 6th C philosopher and mathematician, Boethius, which is part of a fresco on the north wall of the Ducal Palace in Urbino. The portrait set me thinking that it would be worthwhile to pay attention to Finger Counting and Hand Diagrams in medieval illuminations in order to read them correctly.
Marie-Victoire Jacquetot, the artist who was commissioned by Napoleon to paint a Sèvres tea service for Empress Josephine Bonaparte, came to my attention recently when that very tea service was acquired by the Clark Art Institute in Williamstown, Mass. Much of what I could find about the artist comes in Marie-Victoire Jaquotot (1772-1855), « premier peintre sur porcelaine du roi » Louis XVIII, a post (in French). Luckily for those who don't read the language, the post has many illustrations, including enlarged details of this self-portrait and a picture of the set acquired by the Clark.
Blog post alert: A post on James Leman, Silk Designer at Spitalfields Life recounts the career of an 18th C silk designer and reproduces several double-page spreads from his album of samples. The album is now at the Victoria and Albert and is obviously a great straightforward historical resource. It can also prompt suggestions for stories.
Blog post alert: I have always adored scale models; and as technology improves, virtual reconstructions get better and better. The History Blog just sent me to a fabulous one of a Bavarian Celtic village and fort. What better way to learn about construction details or imagine a character arriving at a new town (or home)?
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.
Website alert: Attention art lovers and historical novelists: Essential Vermeer has links to all sorts of illustrated articles about topics such as Vermeer's palette, his paintings in their frames, music during his time, sources on the web of high-resolution images of his works, and much, much more. If you want to learn about the artist, his family, and his society, start here!
Image via Wikipedia.
Blog post alert: Alert, alert! Ancient ghost discovered on Assyrian exorcist's cuneiform tablet! That it was found it at all is marvellous. That there were magicians and exorcists with libraries 3,500 years ago –well, how's that for inspiring historical fantasy?
I admit I've been reading more than writing in the last few weeks, so here's another recommendation. Last night I finished Pat Barker's new novel, The Women of Troy, a sequel to The Silence of the Girls (2019). I read each compulsively in big gulps. Troy ends full of possibilities for another installment. I hope she writes it!