I came across Around the Christmas Tree when it turned up as a jigsaw puzzle among the activities in Jacquie Lawson's deliciously sentimental Advent Calendar. It's from the French fashion magazine, Art, Goût, Beauté, which was published in Paris from 1920 to 1933. In handsome, hand-colored, stencil images, the magazine illustrated designs by such couturiers as Jean Patou and Paul Poiret. I couldn't find the 1923 issue on line, but you can see the December 1922 issue in full here.
Picturing a World
Last night President Zelenksy said that Ukrainians would be celebrating Christmas by candlelight, not because it's romantic, but because they lack electricity. Too true. This gentler scene from Ukrainian-born Ilya Elfimovich Repin can be a reminder of the hardships of winter as well as, perhaps, a hope for peace in the bleak midwinter.
Image via Brooklyn Museum
I'm miffed with the USPS. For my Christmas present to myself, I ordered the new illustrated edition of The Amber Spyglass from Blackwell's in England in mid November to go with my copy of Northern Lights. It arrived in York, PA, two days later, then got stuck in Washington D.C., where it has been "delayed" for nearly a month—and the USPS website says it is not eligible for further inquiry until December 3rd! Well, at least Catching up with Chris Wormell on the release of The Amber Spyglass gives a glimpse of some of the illustrations.
I said in my last post that Jane Peterson would be worth exploring. Her painting of Brittany from my magic year of 1908 is more in the style of Gauguin and later artists than those of Jeanette's friends and points to a potential topic. But first, the quick way to connect you to the artist: Rediscovering Jane Peterson.
Blog alert: All of you who love imaginative responses to paintings must, must, must visit recent posts at Theodora Goss: Poems. I love In the Vitrine as much as I did To Be a Woman, and we all need to be a Thief, her poem to go with this painting by Jane Peterson. Hmm, and Peterson seems worth exploring, too!
Over the years I've enjoyed collecting images to illustrate terms and allusions in Greer Gilman's Moonwise. For this year's reading, it was "Who'll dig his grave? I said, the owl," which comes from The Death and Burial of Cock Robin. What specially tickled me was discovering the Cock Robin Card Game published by Mcloughlin Brothers in the latter part of the 19th C. In brief, players first have to correctly identify the verse that goes with a picture or vice versa. Then when all the cards have been identified, the rules turn it into a sociable party game of forfeits. Right there historical fiction writers have a use for the tidbit.
As autumn wanes, I have been pondering this photograph of a Farm track and footpath in Bradfield Dale. The "dishevelled dryad loveliness" of the banked track is rudely interrupted by those straight, metallic lines in the gate. The gate bars mystery. Or does it? Visually, it has the odd effect of heightening the rich intricacy and organic fullness of nature that encroaches on the older manmade wall and track. It teases the mind with its incongruity; it makes what lies beyond more tantalizing. Visualize the picture without it: the proportions and recession become less interesting. Restore it and what do you get? Contrast, delayed gratification, ambiguity, the barb that pricks at complacency …. I'm still pondering.
Image © Copyright Bill Boaden and licensed for reuse under a Creative Commons Licence.
I came across Polly Redford's Christmas Bower last year in The Illustrated Dust Jacket. The Gorey jacket illustration alone would make it a treasure. In addition, three other reasons made it seem written just for me: My father worked for Rich's department store in Atlanta, where Christmas was a big deal. My brother is an avid birder. And, of course, I'm a fan of children's literature.
Our library system had a copy. I read it. I wanted it. I located a copy of my own to buy. Now I'll kick off December by rereading it. Recommendation: see if you can find a copy!
In a family letter dated November 29th, 1887, I found this recipe for "Sweet Mangoes." What fun, thought I, mangoes! Who knew they would be familiar in 19th C Farmville, Virginia? The more I read, however, the more puzzling it became. Three gallons of mangoes? And cabbage? At this point I did the obvious: I Googled. It didn't take long to learn that a mango is "a green pepper stuffed with cabbage and mixed, minced picket, highly spiced and whole pickled together." Now if someone can just tell me what a picket is …
As the year wanes and fireside reading appeals, I take pleasure in some of my favorite fantasy novels, Tolkien's Lord of the Rings among them. A notice that the engraved medieval ring pictured here will be auctioned on November 29th tipped me off to the whole category of love rings or poesy rings—rings with inscriptions meant to be enhanced by being worn against the skin. This one, for instance, has a French inscription that can be translated, "As I hold your faith, hold mine." Rather different from Sauron's ring! Yet I suspect Tolkien had seen such things and bent them to imaginative use. For another example, click here. For a goldsmith's history of "posy rings," click here. And for a collection of medieval rings at the Victoria and Albert Museum in London, click here.