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Picturing a World

Thaulow bridge

Websites for auction houses can be great sources for images to help writers as well as art historians or would-be buyers. In my pursuit of aids to visualizing a river bank with a bridge, I came across this one at Bonham's by one of my favorite Scandinavian Impressionists, Frits Thaulow. At the Bonham's link, you can zoom in on details. What interested me most was the ramshackle staircase on the left and the grass-and-flower-covered bank opposite a brick retaining wall.

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View of a bridge

A story I'm working on is set in an imaginary world based loosely on Renaissance France and Tudor England. So why show you a drawing of Florence? Well, because my capital city has three bridges, one of which is built over with shops and houses. Images like this help me to visualize what my characters see, whether they illustrate exactly what I have in mind or not. In this case, I'm pleased by the representation both of buildings and a glimpse of the surrounding countryside. It helps me with scale as I send my characters up the river, over the bridge, and into neighborhoods on either side.
Image via MetMuseum

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Moonwort chest

The Billingford Hutch is an oaken chest in the Parker Library at Corpus Christ College, Cambridge, which was used to store collateral for student loans in the 14th C. It has three locks, each decorated with a motif that was inexplicable to the curators until a chance visitor identified it as moonwort—an herb which according to folklore can unlock locks and unshoe horses and which also figures in alchemy. Isn't all of a rich potential for inspiring stories?

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Hidden garden emerges

Post alert: The drought in England has revealed many features in the landscape, including the bones of a 1699 garden built for the 1st Duke of Devonshire. The BBC story, Chatsworth's hidden 17th Century garden revealed in drone footage shows intricacies that have become visible. Many people are attune to the layers of time in a landscape. How suggestive these haunting emergences may prove!

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Iron age bread stamp

What a find! An early iron age concave clay stamp turned up recently during a highway excavation in Bavaria. It's just the right size for impressing a pattern on bread rolls. What I crave now is a dough stamp with a maze or a labyrinth. In fiction, it could be part of women's magic, or its discovery could figure into an archeological tale. This one was found with a mysterious clay figurine, which could offer further prompts for the story. Any ideas?
 
Via the History Blog.

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Theodora Goss

I don't need to write a blog post about what fantasy I read as a child and how it affected me because Theodora Goss's post, Deep Magic, does it for us both. I discovered her work through a narrative poem, "The Dragons" in The Book of Dragons (2020), in which a lawyer is rescued from a life of tedium by a clutch of baby dragons left on her porch. Now I'm reading Goss's Snow White Learns Witchcraft, twists on traditional fairy tales (love the idea of the princess who herself turns into a frog when she kisses one). Coming next? The Collected Enchantments. My advice? Dive in anywhere.

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Peaceful scene in Ukraine

Blog post alert: Eye Candy for Today: River Gnilitsa by Volodymyr (akaVladimir) Orlovsky offers us a peaceful view of land in what is now the tragically occupied part of eastern Ukraine. The post at Charley Parker's Lines and Colors provides enlarged details and links. Orlovksy was a leading proponent of Ukrainian landscape art.

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Bounded in a nutshell

Hamlet muses, "I could be bounded in a nutshell, and count myself a king of infinite space—were it not that I have bad dreams." But what about good dreams? A History Blog post on a 16th C prayer bead prompts the question, How could a two-inch sphere that opens to an intricately carved interior be used in a story?

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Heinrich Lefler

Blog alert: Heinrich Lefler and Joseph Urban are illustrators who are totally new to me, although their work certainly fits into late19th C, early 20th modes. Worth pursuing!


Image via Nick Louras

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Judith Shakespeare

When I looked up the word bewilderment in the OED to see when it was first used, I was startled by an 1884 citation to a novel by Willian Black called Judith Shakespeare. Yep, there really is one about William Shakespeare's daughter. It was first serialized in Harper's Magazine, vol. LXVIII, with illustrations by Edwin Austin Abbey.  I took a look at the text and decided its Prithee style of historical fiction wasn't for me (nor its likely Victorian attitude toward women). Nevertheless, I'm still amused that it exists and enjoy Abbey's illustrations. For two more pictures from Judith Shakespeare, click here and here. For more of Abbey's work, including paintings, click here.

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