Illustrating Carnival.

Spider costume designed by Charles Briton for the “Missing Links” theme, Mistick Krewe of Comus, 1873: Carnival Collection, Louisiana Research Collection, Tulane University — <a href="https://digitallibrary.tulane.edu/islandora/object/tulane%3A4878" target="_blank" rel="noopener">Source</a> (some potential restrictions on reuse).

Spider costume designed by Charles Briton for the “Missing Links” theme, Mistick Krewe of Comus, 1873: Carnival Collection, Louisiana Research Collection, Tulane University — Source (some potential restrictions on reuse).

“D for Dragon” float design by Bror Anders Wikstrom for the “Alphabet” theme, Krewe of Proteus, 1904: Carnival Collection, Louisiana Research Collection, Tulane University — <a href="https://digitallibrary.tulane.edu/islandora/object/tulane%3A4382" target="_blank" rel="noopener">Source</a> (some potential restrictions on reuse).

“D for Dragon” float design by Bror Anders Wikstrom for the “Alphabet” theme, Krewe of Proteus, 1904: Carnival Collection, Louisiana Research Collection, Tulane University — Source (some potential restrictions on reuse).

“U for Unicorn” float design by Bror Anders Wikstrom for the “Alphabet” theme, Krewe of Proteus, 1904: Carnival Collection, Louisiana Research Collection, Tulane University — <a href="https://digitallibrary.tulane.edu/islandora/object/tulane%3A4382" target="_blank" rel="noopener">Source</a> (some potential restrictions on reuse).

“U for Unicorn” float design by Bror Anders Wikstrom for the “Alphabet” theme, Krewe of Proteus, 1904: Carnival Collection, Louisiana Research Collection, Tulane University — Source (some potential restrictions on reuse).

Coral Polyp costume designed by Charles Briton for the “Missing Links” theme, Mistick Krewe of Comus, 1873: Carnival Collection, Louisiana Research Collection, Tulane University — <a href="https://digitallibrary.tulane.edu/islandora/object/tulane%3A6278" target="_blank" rel="noopener">Source</a> (some potential restrictions on reuse).

Coral Polyp costume designed by Charles Briton for the “Missing Links” theme, Mistick Krewe of Comus, 1873: Carnival Collection, Louisiana Research Collection, Tulane University — Source (some potential restrictions on reuse).

Darwin as an ass costume designed by Charles Briton for the “Missing Links” theme, Mistick Krewe of Comus, 1873: Carnival Collection, Louisiana Research Collection, Tulane University — Source.

Darwin as an ass costume designed by Charles Briton for the “Missing Links” theme, Mistick Krewe of Comus, 1873: Carnival Collection, Louisiana Research Collection, Tulane University — Source.

Oh gods, these are beyond fabulous! I am so in love with the Coral polyp costume. Also in love with the bat, so cheerful!

On March 6, 1889, the New York Times breathlessly reported on the recent Carnival spectacles in New Orleans. The Krewe of Rex’s pageant, themed around “Treasures of the Earth”, included a “Crystal” float “attended by figures in gorgeous costumes and prisms by the thousand”, and a “Diamond” float featuring “a rocky diamond dell” through which flowed “limpid streams where nymphs sported and played with the gems”. The Krewe of Proteus, meanwhile, dazzled with their “Hindoo Heavens” pageant, where in one scene appeared Agni “God of Fire” riding a ram that “strides the flames, attended by the fire sprites.” This opulent, and highly exoticized, interpretation of South Asian religion concluded with a tableau where “Vishnu, under the guise of a horse with silver wings, shatters the earth with his hoof and rises to the celestial abode.”

The modern American Mardi Gras owes much of its bombastic revelry to this late nineteenth-century “Golden Age” of Carnival design. From the invitations to the costumes to the hand fans carried by spectators, artists designed entire identities for each Krewe (a group that organizes a Carnival event).

[…]

Mythology, literature, religion, and history, as well as nineteenth-century book illustration and turn-of-the-century Art Nouveau, were remixed into an eclectic excess. Up to the early 1900s, the main Krewes were Rex, Comus, Proteus, and Momus, each with their favorite artist collaborators. The names of these individuals are now obscure, but artists Jennie Wilde, Bror Anders Wikstrom, Charles Briton, Carlotta Bonnecaze, and others now anonymous all influenced the embrace of the fantastic that endures into the present. The greatest publicly accessible resource of their art is the Carnival Collection, part of the Louisiana Research Collection (LaRC) at Tulane University and supported by a bequest from the late journalist Charles L. “Pie” Dufour. In 2012, Tulane marked the completion of a two-year digitization project that put over 5,500 float and costume designs in the Carnival Collection online.

You can read and see so much more at The Public Domain Review, every single piece of artwork is utterly amazing and delightful! You can see all the images at a much larger size at the Tulane University source site. If you’re someone always on the lookout for inspired costume design, you cannot afford to miss these.

Oh gods, I Got Rats!

Image: res.cloudinary.com

I love taking the silly quizzes at Medievalists, and I’ve missed a bunch. Naturally, I went for What Medieval Torture Method Would You Use on Your Enemies? first. I truly am evil, I got rats:

Rats

You are a creative thinker, and your enemies would be wise not to underestimate your imagination. Your preferred torture method is to restrain your victim on a flat, horizontal surface, then use inventive ways to trap rats so that their only means of escape is through the victim’s body. Not a pretty picture.

Well, I am certainly well armed with rats. :D I wouldn’t be able to torture them though.

Colour In The Middle Ages.

The month of May from Très Riches Heures du Duc de Berry – three young women are dressed in green.

The month of May from Très Riches Heures du Duc de Berry – three young women are dressed in green.

Medievalists has a fun article up about colour. Me, I’m all about the red first. Black second. I was rather delighted to find out I’d be an evil knight. :D Some interestin’ bits:

Medieval scholars inherited the idea from ancient times that there were seven colors: white, yellow, red, green, blue, purple and black. Green was the middle color, which meant that it sat balanced between the extremes of white and black. It was also considered a soothing color, so much so that scribes often kept emeralds and other green objects beside them to look at when they needed to rest their eyes, while the poet Baudri de Bourgueil suggested writing on green tablets instead of white or black ones.

I wouldn’t mind keeping a few emeralds around…

Arthurian romances, one of the most popular forms of literature in the High Middle Ages, often made symbolic use of color, especially in the depiction of knights. Pastoureau writes:

The color code was recurrent and meaningful. A black knight was almost a character of primary importance (Tristan, Lancelot, Gawain) who wanted to hide his identity; he was generally motivated by good intentions and prepared to demonstrate his valor, especially by jousting or tournament. A red knight, on the other hand, was often hostile to the hero; this was a perfidious or evil knight, sometimes the devil’s envoy or a mysterious being from the Other World. Less prominent, a white knight was generally viewed as good; this was an older figure, a friend of protector or the hero, to who he gave wise council. Conversely, a green knight was a young knight, recently dubbed, whose audacious or insolent behavior was going to cause great disorder; he could be good or bad. Finally, yellow or gold knights were rare and blue knights nonexistent.

There’s also the mystery of why the colour blue took so very long to show up, and much more.

Michel Pastoureau has written extensively about symbolism and colors in the Middle Ages. His series A History of a Color, has four books that have been translated into English – Black, Blue, Green and Red.

I’ve already tracked these down at B&N and put my order in! :D Not only a lovely little history, but a nice read, and fun resource for artists. You can read everything at Medievalists.net.

Colour Me Treasonous.

That godsdamned tiny, jumped up wannabe dictator is talking treason. Why? Oooooh, get this: people didn’t applaud.

Donald Trump on Monday suggested that Democrats could be guilty of treason because of their reaction to his State of the Union address.

Trump complained during a speech in Ohio that Democrats had not applauded during his State of the Union. The president said it was “un-American” of Democrats not to give him an ovation when he spoke about topics like unemployment.

“It was bad energy… even on positive news, really positive news, they were like death, and un-American,” he said.

“Someone said ‘treasonous.’ I guess, why not?” Trump added. “Can you call that treason? Why not. I mean, they certainly didn’t seem to love our country very much.”

“But you look at that, and it is really very, very sad.”

NOT ENOUGH FUCK YOU. Paint me treason colour, drape me in a treason flag, complete with all the treason accessories, and I’ll parade them all over the damn place. I already have one hell of an attitude going about all the tainted, toxic positivity crap, and now there’s this.

For the record, Donny Dipshit, no, you cannot call that treason. For fuck’s sake, have someone look it up in a dictionary and explain it to you, you brainless lump. “I guess, why not?” Aaauuuugggh. Because words have meanings. Concepts have meaning. You. Do. NOT. Get. To. Do. Whatever. You. Want.

There’s video at RawStory, if you want to punish yourself.

Mermecoleon.

A poor sketch by the same hand as f.94r. The open stone, lying on green water, takes in the heavenly dew in order to grow a pearl.

A poor sketch by the same hand as f.94r. The open stone, lying on green water, takes in the heavenly dew in order to grow a pearl.

Nothing but preaching.

Text Translation:

Of the stone called mermecoleon. There is a stone in the sea which is called in Latin mermecoleon and in Greek concasabea, because it is both hollow and round. It is, moreover, divided into two parts, so that if it wants to, it can close up. The stone lies at the bottom of the sea and comes to life early in the morning. When it rises from its resting-place to the surface of the sea, it opens its mouth and takes in some heavenly dew, and the rays of the sun shine around it; thus there grows within the stone a most precious, shining pearl indeed, conceived from the heavenly dew and given lustre by the rays of the sun. The stone, therefore, is called conchus; it symbolizes Saint Mary, of whom Isaiah foretold, saying: ‘There shall come forth a rod out of the stem of Jesse’ (Isaiah, 11:1). And again: ‘Behold a virgin shall conceive and bear a son’ (Isaiah, 7:14). Of the rod and the virgin, Saint Mary, it is said: ‘A flower was born of Saint Mary, our Lord Jesus Christ’. For just as the stone rises from the sea, so Saint Mary went up from the house of her father to the temple of God and there received the dew from heaven. These are the words which were said to her by the archangel Gabriel: ‘The Holy Ghost shall come upon thee, and the power of the Highest shall overshadow thee; therefore also that holy thing which shall be born of thee shall be called the Son of God’ (Luke, 1:35). Behold these words are the heavenly dew, just as before her, the patriarch Isaac, blessing his son, signifying that Christ would be born from his seed, said to him: ‘God give thee of the dew of heaven and the fatness of the earth’ (Genesis, 27: 28), signifying the chaste, untouched virgin Mary. ‘Early in the morning’ refers to the time of prayer. The mussel opening its mouth signifies the occasion when Mary says to the angel: ‘Behold the handmaiden of the Lord; be it unto me according to thy word’ (Luke, 1:35).

Folio 96r – the adamas stone, continued. De lapide qui dicitur mermecoleon; Of the stone called mermecoleon.

Adamas Stone.

The adamas stone on a mountain.

The adamas stone on a mountain.

Whole lotta preachin’ going on. The last paragraph is about the stone.

Text Translation:

Of the adamas stone. Physiologus says: There is a stone called adamas found on a certain mountain in the east. Such is its nature, that you should search for it by night, not day, since it shines at night where it lies, but it does not shine by day, since the sun dulls its light. Against this stone, neither iron, fire or other stones can prevail. The prophet says of it: ‘I saw a man standing on a wall of adamant and in his hand was an adamant stone in the midst of the people of Israel’ (compare Amos, 7:7). But a creature cannot prevail against its creator, and for this reason Christ is the adamas stone. He stands on a wall of such stone, on the holy and living stones of which heavenly Jerusalem is built. These are the Apostles, the prophets and the martyrs, over whom neither fire, nor the sword nor the teeth of beasts could prevail.

[Read more…]

Firing Bearing Stones.

The tale is divided into two scenes. A naked man and woman stand apart above a fire, offering each other fire stones. In the lower image, they embrace.

The tale is divided into two scenes. A naked man and woman stand apart above a fire, offering each other fire stones. In the lower image, they embrace.

Commentary:

A literal illustration of the text only requires a picture of stones, as shown in London, B.L.Harley MS 3244, f. 60, but the arrangement of the figures and tree is intended to suggest the Fall in the Garden of Eden.Fire-bearing stones are male and female. When they are apart the fire does not ignite, when close together, the mountain burns. The warning is for men to stay clear of women and avoid kindling lust. Beside the painting are sketches which are a combination of the Ashmole and Aberdeen illuminations. Ashmole Bestiary, f.103v. Their comparisons are analysed here.

More misogyny ahead.

Text Translation:

Of fire-bearing stones. On a certain mountain in the east, there are fire-bearing stones which are called in Greek terrobolem; they are male and female. When they are far from each other, the fire within them does not ignite. But when by chance the female draws near to the male, the fire is at once kindled, with the result that everything around the mountain burns.

For this reason, men of God, you who follow this way of life, stay well clear of women, lest when you and they approach each other, the twin flame be kindled in you both and consume the good that Christ has bestowed upon you. For there are angels of Satan, always on the offensive against the righteous; not only holy men but chaste women too. Finally, Samson and Joseph were both were tempted by women. One triumphed; the other succumbed. Eve and Susanna were tempted; the latter held out; the former gave in. The heart, therefore, should be guarded and guided by all forms of divine teaching.

For the love of women, which has been the cause of sin from the beginning, that is from Adam to the present day, rages uncontrolled in the sons of disobedience.

Folio 93v – the age of man, continued. De lapidibus igniferis; Of fire-bearing stones.

Of The Age of Man.

Isidore sits on a chair, writing on a sloping desk the words '(ysid)oris (de) natu(ra) hominisI' Isidore, Concerning the Nature of Man.

Isidore sits on a chair, writing on a sloping desk the words ‘(ysid)oris (de) natu(ra) hominisI’ Isidore, Concerning the Nature of Man.

Quite the misogynistic treatise.

Text Translation:

Of the age of man There are six stages of life. Infancy, childhood, adolescence, youth, maturity and old age. The first age is infancy, which lasts from the time the child enters the light till it is seven. The second is childhood, that is, when the child is pure and not yet old enough to generate young; it extends to the fourteenth year. The third is adolescence, when the child is old enough to generate children; it lasts until the twenty-eighth year. The fourth is youth, the the most robust of all the ages; it ends in the fiftieth year. The fifth age is that of riper years, that is, of maturity, and represents the movement away from youth to old age; you are not yet ancient, but you are no longer young; the Greeks call someone at this age of maturity presbiteros, an elder; an old man they call geron. This age, beginning in the fiftieth year, ends in the seventieth. The sixth age is that of old age, which has no end-date; whatever of life is left after the five Previous ages is classed as ‘old age’. The final part of old age is senility, senium, so called because it marks the end of the sixth age, sexta etas.

Philosophers, therefore, have categorised human life in these six periods, during which it is changed and runs its race and comes to an end, which is death. So, let us proceed briefly through the above-mentioned categories of the ages, pointing out their etymology in the context of man.

[Read more…]

Abdominal Organs, Genitals, Semen, Menstrual Blood, Fetus, Heredity.

Isidore sits on a chair, writing on a sloping desk the words '(ysid)oris (de) natu(ra) hominisI' Isidore, Concerning the Nature of Man.

Isidore sits on a chair, writing on a sloping desk the words ‘(ysid)oris (de) natu(ra) hominisI’ Isidore, Concerning the Nature of Man.

Oh, I have to say that this entry is most entertaining, in a trainwreck sort of way.

Text Translation:

Only women have a womb; in it they conceive as in a small cup; but there are writers who assign a womb to either sex, often calling it venter, belly – and not just poets, but others also. The womb is called uterus because it is double and divides itself into two parts which bend in different and opposing directions like a ram’s horn; or because it is filled inside with a fetus. For this reason it is called uter, a bag, because it has something inside it, such as limbs and intestines. Paunch, aqualiculus, is properly the word for a pig’s belly. For this reason it is translated as venter, belly. It is called the matrix because the baby is generated in it. It fosters the semen it has received, and by cherishing it, turns it into flesh; and what it has turned into flesh, it separates into parts of the body. The vulva is so called as if it were a folding-door, that is, the door of the belly; either because it receives the semen or because the fetus goes forth from it.

[Read more…]

Bellicorum instrumentorum liber (1420).

Bellicorum instrumentorum liber,  Book of warfare devices, is a fascinating and absorbing inventor’s notebook. The title was bestowed by someone else, and it’s misleading as to the contents, which cover a very wide range of ideas.

Sometimes we try to invent something new by exploring within the bounds of what is known to be possible, and sometimes we invent by expanding those limits. For an imaginative engineer in the early fifteenth century — working more than two hundred years before the discoveries of Newton — the process of invention would be often a curious mix of the two. You would know so little about mechanical force that you could conjure up almost anything and believe it to be practical. Of course, attempts to bring the designs to reality would often fail, but they might, on occasion, also succeed.

Suppose for a moment that you were such a person possessing a talent for gadgets in the early fifteenth century, or an engineer hoping to build marvelous machines and clever structures no one else had yet dreamed of — how would you go about showing your talents? And what if you were someone who wanted to own wonderful and mysterious devices, such as a prince — how would you find the person who could make these things? A remarkable testimony to this meeting of engineering skill, technological ignorance, individual initiative, and public demand can be found in the Bavarian State Library, in the sketchbook of an Italian inventor of the early fifteenth century. It is a volume of sixty-eight drawings advertising the inventions that Johannes (or Giovanni) de Fontana (ca. 1395–1455), who was both the engineer and the artist, hoped to sell to patrons. Thought to have been created sometime between 1415 and 1420, the work has no title by Fontana that has survived, but a later owner gave it the title Bellicorum instrumentorum liber — the Book of Warfare Devices — despite the fact that most of it does not concern military matters.

This is an absorbing insight into thought, knowledge, and the desire to create, and you can see the whole thing here, or see selected bits along with text at The Public Domain.

Diabolus artificiosus, artificial devil.

Diabolus artificiosus, artificial devil.

Heilender Baum, Healing Tree.

Heilender Baum, Healing Tree.

Spleen, Gallbladder, Intestines.

Isidore sits on a chair, writing on a sloping desk the words '(ysid)oris (de) natu(ra) hominisI' Isidore, Concerning the Nature of Man.

Isidore sits on a chair, writing on a sloping desk the words ‘(ysid)oris (de) natu(ra) hominisI’ Isidore, Concerning the Nature of Man.

Text Translation:

The spleen, splen, gets its name from supplementum, because it fills up the part opposite the liver lest there should be an empty space; some reckon that it was created as a seat of laughter. For we laugh with the spleen, grow angry with the bile, discern with the heart and love with the liver; the whole animal is formed from these four elements in harmony.

The gall bladder, fel, is so called because it is a little bag holding the humour called bile, bilis. The gullet, stomachus, is called in Greek os because, as the door, ostium, of the belly it takes in food and sends it on to the intestines.

The intestines, intestina, are so called because they are contained in the inner, interior, part of the body. They are arranged in long coils, so that they are not obstructed by food that has been swallowed. The caul, omentum, is a skin containing the greater part of the intestines; the Greeks call it epiploon. The diaphragm, disceptum intestinum, is so called because it separates the belly and other intestines from the lungs and heart. The blind intestine, cecum, is so called because it lacks an opening or exit; the Greeks call it tiaonentipon [tuphlon enteron]. The thin intestine is calledieiuna; from it comes ieiunium, fast day. The belly, venter, the bowel, alvus, and the womb, uterus, differ from each other. The belly digests food that has been swallowed and is visible from outside; it extends from the breast to the groin. It is called venter because it conveys throughout the body the food of life.

The bowel is the part that receives the food and is regularly purged. Sallust: ‘Pretending that he purged his bowels’ (History, 1, 52). It is also called the bowel, alvus, because it is washed out, abluere, that is, purged. For from it flows out excremental filth.

Folio 89v – the parts of man’s body, continued.

Tearful.

Tearful, in a good way. Voyager sent me a priceless gift, a beautiful piece of sea glass, from the 17th to 18th century. It comes from large glass barrels which were used to transport goods in the early days of shipping. It’s an unusual size and colour, and I’m astonished Voyager could give it up, but I am beyond thankful. Thankful is completely inadequate…I hold this ‘stone’ in my hand, this small tether to people and events of long ago, a piece of history, and it fills me with awe. Such a gift. I shall carry it with me, and use its power to transport me to another age when I need it, and I’ll be needing that a lot this year. Another thank you for the magnificent card too. You can read a bit about black sea glass here.

© C. Ford, all rights reserved.