Illumination for a Venetian Lady.

Before Raglan I was charged with the task of creating a scroll for Signora Cassandra della Corona.    Creating an award scroll for someone you know is a wonderful thing.  First you get the thrill of a really good secret –  Cassandra has long deserved this particular award – Second, you know things about the person and their tastes, so you can plan accordingly.   In the case of Lady Cassandra I lucked out, she’s in the House of Green with me and I had in the past asked everyone in the house about their preferences and I know her well enough to know she really appreciates when people work with her Italian persona.  Creating an award scroll for someone you know is a terrifying thing – what if they don’t like it?

My checklist for a suitable scroll exemplar to work from included the following:

1) Italian, preferably Venetian style
2) the colour purple –  I wasn’t quite up to purple parchment dyeing so I improvised.
3) And emphasis on sumptuous things – pearls, cloth, gold
4) Peacocks

My initial searches for Venetian Illumination were disappointing, it was difficult to find a something suitable as a scroll and most tended towards fine art minatures.  I initially settled on a piece that was pretty but didn’t have any of the necessary Cassandra-ness I was looking for.   It was bugging me and maybe because of this my sketches were not turning out as I was hoping.  I decided to have an other trawl on the internet and finally came upon an article on, entitled A PRONOUNCEMENT OF ALLIANCE: AN ANONYMOUS ILLUMINATED VENETIAN MANUSCRIPT FOR SULTAN SÜLEYMAN by Ana Pulido-Rull.  It begins

This article introduces an anonymous illuminated manuscript created in Venice for Sultan Süleyman the Magnicent (r. 1520–66), prior to his third military campaign against the Habsburgs in Hungary and Austria in 1532.  The manuscript is a panegyric in honor of the Ottoman sovereign (henceforth referred to as Panegyric for Sultan Süleyman), written in Italian and imbued with strong political connotations……..Its linear sequence of events begins with an assertion of the alleged semi-divine origin of the House of Osman from the Greek god Apollo and Cassandra (daughter of King Priam and Queen Hecuba of Troy).

 I was hooked – it specifically used the name Cassandra?  Had to be a sign, right?  Then there were different pages with purple scrolled edges motifs and *gasp* a tiny picture of Cassandra and Apollo on one page and a peacock on the next!  And pearls, jewels, flowers, gold writing, gold edging.. yep, this was the one.  

The shells I need to write up as another post, we gathered them on a Household day to the beach (Cassandra’s idea!) and I adore using them.  The ridges help with mixing the paint to a smooth consistency and I use different sizes depending on the amount of a colour I need.  They also add some calcium to my oak gall ink when I use that, which helps reduce its acidity.

I learned my lesson from my last scroll and this time did the calligraphy first.   This was a new hand entirely and even after several attempts I wasn’t managing the precision I was looking for and in the end had to settle on an imperfect but at least presentable (I hope) version.   I do enjoy calligraphy, I’m just concerned it pulls down the finished product.  Practice, practice, practice I suppose…  The original work had gold calligraphy and a patchy gold border so I used Windsor and Newton gold ink to replicate this, with gold leaf gilding in the initial B.  The gold ink doesn’t flow as freely as I would like and needs very frequently stirring.

img_2319Next was the sketching, with lots and lots and lots of measuring for correct proportions from the original, with enough room to add signatures and the Silver Martlet.  I haven’t quite mastered the habit of using a ruler as often as I should.  I use a putty rubber for constantly revising the sketch until it as closely matches the original as I can manage and it’s fantastic, no traces left and keeps the perg nicely clean throughout.
I use a very soft pencil so it doesn’t leave any indents but I have to develop the habit of img_2320paring it far more frequently than I currently do.  I was still happy enough with progress at this pencil stage, which was a significant improvement on my previous attempts.

On the advice of Mistress Melisende Fitzwalter the next step is to ink everything and rub out all the pencil marks.  I’m always a bit hesitant after this stage because I know my penmanship still needs work, and the lines lack precision     

img_2322Painting next, this is the bit where I lose hours and sit up wondering why I’m starving.  My trips to Scriptorium have taught me to see how images in illuminations are made up of definite single strokes, so I am practicing to try and recreate that more faithfully.  I’m still not getting the precision I’d like but a few pieces turned out well and I am definitely seeing improvements.   I really like the oranges, for example.  
 img_2329 img_2332 img_2335


(The cat print wasn’t in any of the original, it’s just for Cassandra)  All in all I am pretty happy with how this one turned out, I know I have a ways to go with precision and execution, but the core ideas were sound for the Lady in question and I was especially pleased with finding the original art work in the first place.

And of course it’s important to recognize the reason the Lady was awarded the Silver Martlet in the first place:

Be it known by this charter that Elffin and Alessandra Melusine, Prince and Princess of Insulae Draconis, mindful of the beautiful work and exquisite skill displayed by our subject Signora Cassandra della Corona, and the great inspiration she has become to those in our fair lands who seek to better their knowledge in the Textile Arts, charge that she continue to enrich our Principality in this way and confirm the said Cassandra as a member of our most noble Order of the Silver Martlet within the nones of August, anno Societas 50 at Raglan Fair


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