Friday, September 16, 2016

Renaissance Newsletter #14

Georgia Renaissance Festival

For those intrepid souls that make the trek to tiny Fairburn each spring to enjoy the myriad sights and sounds of the annual Georgia Renaissance Festival, the journey is made with excitement and wonder as they are transported to a magical world where fairies dance to the lilting sounds of minstrel music, kings and queens lord over the realm, and great warriors and champions battle to the death for honor and glory.

For roughly three months of each of the past 31 years, the sleepy Southern town just south of the hustle and bustle of Atlanta has come alive as an average of 200,000 visitors arrive on the 32-acre Renaissance theme park to experience what life might have been like in a bygone era.

With a combination of outdoor theater, circus-style entertainment and a wide variety of activities for all ages, including rides for the children, more than 300 street performers and costumed characters, and 10 stages featuring more than 150 daily performances, the festival has something for everyone.

Although the festival is rooted in the prevailing culture of 16th century Europe, the festival also embraces a bit of the fantastical as visitors will no doubt encounter gargoyles, fairies, satyrs, wizards and even a cartoon character or two, frolicking with pirates, knights, peasants, vikings, lords and ladies….

Indeed, fairies are a common sight throughout the Renaissance Festival as they can be seen roaming the grounds and dancing with adults and children alike to the sounds of minstrel music, or manning the various clothing stores and booths that sell things like elf ears, necklaces, and garlands.

In fact, many of the fairies, as well as a great many of the knights, wizards, pirates, warriors and other medieval and fantastical characters one encounters throughout the 32-acre grounds, are not even festival employees, but rather festival-goers who purchased various garments and other accoutrements from the 150-plus vendors and artisans in the village marketplace and dressed up in costume…

Texas Renaissance Festival

Charlene and Daniel Singletary have been Renaissance Festival enthusiasts since before they met.

“We met through mutual friends who were also involved in the Renaissance Festival,” Charlene said. “I threw a party in 2011 and he came with some friends. At the time, we were both dating other people, but he was really nice and we all had a good time hanging out and playing games.”

A few years later, Daniel reconnected with Charlene and the two started dating…

Charlene and Daniel have been involved in the Renaissance Festival in many facets. Both of them have worked there, sold wares and have many friends in their ‘clan’ or group of people they associate and camp with at the festival.

For two months out of the year, the couple joins their clan in costume and character. They enjoy the experience of interacting with guests.

“We get into the theatrics of it,” Charlene said. “The atmosphere is extraordinary. It’s romantic, enchanting and almost like stepping back in time…”

“A Renaissance Festival wedding was always at the forefront of our mind,” Charlene said. “That festival is what we love to do with our time out…”

Charlene and Daniel were given an opportunity to make their dream a reality as one of four couples competing in the 2016 Renaissance Run at the Texas Renaissance Festival Saturday, May 21.

Complete article and picture:

Celtic Renaissance Faire, Chickasha, OK

The festivities begin at 10 a.m. in Shannon Springs Park on Saturday, May 21.

…A variety of vendors sold jewelry, wooden crafts as well as blacksmiths and silversmiths. Attendees can feast on turkey legs, Scottish eggs and enjoy some brew.

There was entertainment for all ages, including a climbing wall and a castle bounce house for the kids. There was also be a beer garden in a designated area for adults, Kim Kohler, Celtic Renaissance Faire coordinator said. A sheep herding featured a professional sheep herder, border collies and–of course–a live herd of sheep.

The event's highlight was a performance of Shakespeare's "Taming of the Shrew" at the park's amphitheater at 2 p.m. The outdoor stage took play attendees back in time, as Shakespearean plays were actually performed outdoors in a similar setting, Katie Davis, Associate Professor of Theatre Arts at the University of Science and Arts of Oklahoma, said.

Chef Jason Fox will soon travel back in time to cook a medieval-inspired pop-up dinner

This July, the chef has signed on to cook a medieval-inspired pop-up dinner benefiting Cut Circle — a late-medieval and Renaissance vocal ensemble directed by Jesse Rodin, an associate professor of 15th century food and music at Stanford, that brings early music education to under served Bay Area communities.

The evening’s elaborate four-course meal will be inspired by recipes from the 14th and 15th centuries, including dishes like capons in aspic, roast quails in broom flower sauce, roast suckling pig and haddock in brown ale sauce. Mead and gruit — an early forerunner to hopped beers, brewed by one of Rodin’s students — will accompany the meal.

Cut Circle will also provide the evening’s musical entertainment…

Society for Creative Anachronism

By day, Norm Read of Kingston is an accountant, but in his spare time, he wears armor and becomes Aleid van Groningen, a 12th century knight…. He is one of about 50 members of the Barony of Carraig Ban, the local chapter of the Society for Creative Anachronism (SCA).

The SCA is an international organization with more than 30,000 members dedicated to researching and recreating the arts and skills of pre-17th century Europe. Members dressed in Middle Ages and Renaissance clothing attend and host events featuring armored combat tournaments, royal courts, feasts, dancing and workshops.

A recent  SCA event, the Tournament of Flowers, included heavy weapon and rapier challenge tournaments, a blacksmithing demonstration, medieval baseball, dancing and calligraphy classes. A tavern-style feast was served at 5:30 p.m. and  cost $6 a person…

“You never know what you’ll see at an event,” said Rachel Scheffler of Malta, who also is known as 14th century Baroness Epona Brodin. “Some have archery, falconry, hounding and equestrian events. There are also lessons on milking goats. At one event in Wisconsin, I learned how to sheer a sheep and process wool.”

May 1, 2016 marked the 50th anniversary,  of the founding of the Society for Creative Anachronism in Berkeley. The SCA was started by a group of young people--including some graduate students at Cal--as a whimsical way to celebrate, commemorate, and recall the Middle Ages through historically authentic events, traditions and culture. 

Their first event was May Day, May 1, 1966, at an improvised tournament gathering in the backyard of the home at the time of Diana Paxton (now a well known fantasy author). The house is still there on Oregon Street near Le Conte School. The current owner told me once that she is periodically bemused by SCA fans coming by to ask for a pinch of dirt from the yard, like collecting a holy relic.

The Barony of Carraig Ban was founded in 1974 at Northern Illinois University. Nora London of Sugar Grove, known as 14th century Dame Nicholaa Halden, was a founding member.

“I love that there’s always something new to learn,” London said. “Some say that we teach post-apocalyptic skills, the base skills needed for a zombie apocalypse. Over the years, I learned how to cook over a fire and I’ve done costuming and embroidery. Everything is hands-on. You learn as you’re doing.”

Everyone in the SCA is nobility, unless they choose to be a peasant. The SCA has an elaborate award system, with titles and ranks earned and bestowed upon members.

SCA members get to choose their persona’s name and history. Characters are picked from pre-17th century Europe and include people Europeans might have come in contact with, including people from Asia and the Middle East. Since the SCA is historically based, members wear period clothing to match their persona….


A Renaissance masterpiece has been returned to a complete painting for the first time in centuries following a 10-year restoration

The Adoration of the Shepherds by 16th Century Italian artist Sebastiano del Piombo was removed from a wooden panel with acid in the 1700s and then painted over.

Conservators at Cambridge's Fitzwilliam Museum worked to repair the damage.

It is due to be displayed at the museum for the first time later this year.

The Adoration of the Shepherds, dated at between 1511 and 1512, was almost completely destroyed while owned by the French royal family…

Complete article with pictures and video:

Botticelli’s fame delayed more than three centuries

…Only shreds of evidence survive to suggest what Botticelli himself was like. From old studio anecdotes, there emerges the impression of a man who had a characteristically Florentine taste for boisterous practical jokes and sharp back talk. Despite his reputation, then and later, as a painter of naked women, Botticelli was not in person a ladies’ man. The real Botticelli seems to have been a hardworking, disputatious leg-puller with a preference, in common with many of his contemporaries, for same-sex relationships…

One of the odd aspects of Botticelli’s fame is that it was so delayed. Quite a few artists have become stars only posthumously, Vermeer and Van Gogh being two other examples, but in Botticelli’s case the gap was unusually long: more than three centuries. During his lifetime, Alessandro di Mariano di Vanni Filipepi (circa 1445– 1510), to give him his proper name, was a well-respected member of the Florentine art community. (Botticelli, “little barrel,” was a nickname that was first applied to his elder brother, a banker who was presumably either rotund or heavy-drinking, although historians are unable to distinguish which.) 

In an assessment of the painters working in Florence written for the Duke of Milan around 1490, Botticelli came out well, his works described as “excellent” and, puzzlingly to those who associate him with dreamy, sad-eyed Madonnas and Venus on her shell, having a “virile air.” But the duke’s agent did not necessarily put Botticelli above the others on the list, which included Ghirlandaio and Perugino. Nor did anyone else for several hundred years.

In the early 19th century, The Birth of Venus and La Primavera were discovered at the villa of Castello outside Florence, where they had been for centuries. They were put on display at the Uffizi and slowly attracted attention….


Concert explores commercialism in music in Middle Ages and Renaissance

Entertaining the gentry. Whether having to satisfy the nobility or the capitalist market, composers have usually been at the mercy of those with money.

Musica Antigua, New Mexico’s early music ensemble, explored this relationship in a selection of medieval and Renaissance works that have amusing stories surrounding them in a concert entitled “The Royal Treatment – Musicians and Their Employers in the Middle Ages & Renaissance.”

No one was more outspoken in his music than the wandering German poet known as Der Unverzagte (The Courageous One), a minnesänger (troubadour) of the 13th century and the author of a number of songs that castigate the ungenerosity of patrons. His most famous work, the satirical “Der kuninc Rodolp” (King Rudolph), takes on even the king for his miserly habits, then extends his outrage to the nobility who are “alien to the arts.”

From Philippe de Vitry, a 13th century musical innovator, comes a no-holds-barred Latin-language portrait of one Master Hugues, calling him “Master of malignity” and concluding, “I can more truly say to you: You are the hypocrite.” He compares him to Nebuchadnezzar’s statue, which was made of gold at the top, then decreased in value of materials until it reached feet of clay.

Not all composers suffered from financial difficulties, however. In a set titled Well-Rewarded Medieval Composers, we hear the distinctive sound of Guillaume de Machaut, the dominant poet-musician of 14th century France.

In “Une vipere en cuer” (My lady harbors a snake in her heart) the poet protests against a merciless woman with a scorpion sleeping in her mouth. Machaut’s Italian contemporary Francesco Landini, too, enjoyed esteem during his lifetime. His beautiful “Angelica bilta” tells of an angel-like beauty come to earth…

Complete, outstanding not-to-be-missed article:

The History and Evolution of the Bassoon

The ancient history of the bassoon is fairly murky, but ancestors of the bassoon and its kid brother the oboe have been around since the middle ages. Double-reed woodwind instruments called “shawms” were in use in Europe by at least the 12th century, having probably arrived there from the Middle East, where similar instruments had been developed a few centuries earlier.

By the Renaissance, shawms were squawking all over Europe, and by the 16th century they were making shawms that played in a variety of ranges, from sopranino to double bass. One branch of the shawm family that became common, especially in Brittany, was the bombarde. The “bombarde” label was mainly applied to lower-ranged shawms, while higher-pitched shawms were usually just called shawms.

As Renaissance music grew more complex, musicians saw the need for a woodwind instrument that could play really low and reasonably loud. The bombardes that were available presented a conundrum: in order to play as low as composers wanted, the instruments had to be ridiculously long, as much as three meters of tube.

The solution instrument makers came up with in the second half of the 16th century was to fold it up in the manner of brass instruments. The bore did a u-turn at the bottom, effectively cutting the length of the instrument in half and making it more manageable to play and transport. The bending also made the instrument’s tone considerably mellower, so it was dubbed the “dulcian,” from the Latin for “sweet sounding.” The dulcian is the direct forerunner to the modern bassoon, the homo erectus to the bassoon’s homo sapiens. The dulcian went by other names as well, including the curtal in England and the Fagott in German-speaking places.

Dulcians evolved into bassoons in the 17th century, when the modern four-joint construction was developed, probably in France. Bassoons had a range that could stand up against the lowest members of the string family, so composers who wanted bass notes out of a woodwind instrument now had something to work with…


 21 June to 18 September 2016
Museo Thyssen-Bornemisza

From 21 June to 18 September 2016, the Museo Thyssen-Bornemisza will be presenting Caravaggio and the Painters of the North, an exhibition that focuses on Michelangelo Merisi da Caravaggio (Milan, 1571 – Porto Ercole, 1610) and his influence on the northern European artists who were fascinated by his painting and disseminated his style. Curated by Gert Jan van der Sman, professor at the University of Leiden and amember of the Istituto Universitario Olandese di Storia dell’Arte in Florence, the exhibition analyses the artist’s legacy and the wide variety of responses that his work provoked. On display will be 53 paintings, twelve of them by Caravaggio, loaned from private collections, museums and institutions such as the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, the Galleria degli Uffizi, Florence, the Hermitage Museum, Saint Petersburg, the Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam, and the church of San Pietro in Montorio in Rome.

The exhibition will offer a survey of Caravaggio’s career from his Roman period to the moving dark paintings of his final years, shown alongside a selection of works by his most important followers in Holland (Dirk van Baburen, Gerrit van Honthorst and Hendrick Ter Brugghen), Flanders (Nicolas Régnier and Louis Finson) and France (Simon Vouet, Claude Vignonand Valentin de Boulogne).

Between 1600 and 1630 more than two thousand artists settled in Rome, of whom a third were foreigners who transformed the city into an artistic melting-pot. To an equal or even greater extent than the Italians, the northern European painters opted to follow Caravaggio’s style for two principal reasons: the lesser importance of the classical element in the northern pictorial tradition, and the suitability of Caravaggio’s style for application outside the traditional context of a studio or drawing academy.

In the Low Countries and Germanic regions working from life through the observation of visible elements taken from the surrounding context was a firmly-rooted tradition. This established a link with the manner of working characteristic of Caravaggio, whose Lombard origins predisposed him to paint ad vivum, an approach that artists with a classical training considered inadequate in that it represented an obstacle to achieving perfection in art. In addition, most of the Dutch, Flemish and French painters who settled in Rome had received a basic training in drawing and painting in their native regions and were particularly interested in rapidly capturing and assimilating new ideas. Caravaggio’s art thus appealed to them, not only for the possibility of working from life but alsofor its emphasis on the use of light, shadow and colour.

The foreign painters were able to assimilate this style into their own without the restrictions implied by a study program. Caravaggio and the Painters of the North transports visitors to the era of Michelangelo Merisi da Caravaggio and the decades following his death, a period particularly rich in masterpieces of painting and when his fame was still at its height.

The exhibition opens with two galleries devoted to works by Caravaggio executed during his time in Rome and which reveal his multi-faceted career. The following galleries show works by painters from north of the Alps who saw Caravaggio’s works at first hand. The result of their impressions was manifested in the widest variety of ways, given that each brought their own contribution while also seeking out new modes of expression in both religious and secular art. The last two galleries are devoted to the work of Caravaggio and his foreign followers in Naples and southern Italy.

Caravaggio in Rome (1592 - 1606)

During his early years in the city Caravaggio executed paintings that were sold by art dealers for modest sums. These were genre scenes and still lifes with fruit and flowers, a speciality that he brought with him from Lombardy.With Boy bitten by a Lizardof around 1593-95 (cat. 2) the artist astonished his contemporaries both for the mimetic qualities of the vase of flowers and the youth’s melodramatic expression. His depictions of characters typical of Roman street life, such as The Fortune Teller of 1595-96 (cat. 3) attracted the attention of painters and collectors. The artist’s first patron, Cardinal Francesco Maria del Monte, offered him lodgings in the Palazzo Madama where Caravaggio painted The Musicians of 1595-96 (cat. 4) and Saint Catherine of Alexandria(cat. 6), revealing the rapid evolution of his technique from the brilliant and colourful palette of the former to the pronounced chiaroscuro of the latter.

Caravaggio’s ability to bypass conventions and approachtraditional themes with surprising originality is evident in David with the Head of Goliathof around 1598-99.

The years 1596 and 1597 marked a turning point in the artist’s career with the commission of two canvases – The Calling of Saint Matthewand The Martyrdom of Saint Matthew- for the Contarelli chapel in the church of San Luigi dei Francesi, in which Caravaggio combined his preference for painting from life and the depiction of popular figure types with a moving sense of drama. From the moment the work was displayed in public, during the Jubilee of 1600, Caravaggio became the artist most in demand in Rome, resulting in both public and private commissions for clients such as Maffeo Barberini, the future Pope Urban VIII, for whom the artist painted The Sacrifice of Isaac in 1603 and the banker Ottavio Costa, who commissioned Saint John the Baptist in the Desertof 1602.

Renaissance Art: Following in the footsteps of Piero della Francesca

I’m looking into the face of Piero della Francesca. Well, not literally; the great Renaissance artist died in 1492 but he left several likenesses of himself in the paintings he created for the churches and civic buildings of central Italy.

The Piero who meets my gaze is looking down from the glorious cycle of frescos he painted in the church of San Francesco in Arezzo, the city of palaces and squares 80km southeast of Florence. He is square-jawed, with a long nose and almond-shaped brown eyes. He wears a natty black hat, and his mouth is about to break into a smile. I think I’m going to like him.

Arezzo is my first stop on the Piero della Francesca Trail, a new initiative setting out routes for visitors to see the artist’s works where they were made. You can drive (like me) or take public transport across the collaborating regions — Tuscany, Emilia-Romagna, Le Marche and Umbria — but walking and cycling are encouraged too.

We don’t know Piero’s exact date of birth but he was probably in his late thirties when he arrived in Arezzo around 1452 to work on the frescos, now regarded as his masterpiece. The paintings occupy the entire chapel behind the altar of the church and depict the Legend of the True Cross. The story begins high up on the walls and proceeds episode by episode, like scenes in a movie….


Medieval Music: A new recording of Machaut’s ‘Nostre Dame’ setting of the Mass

The Spanish Glossa label has released a new recording of the Messe de Nostre Dame by the medieval French composer Guillaume de Machaut. This release seems to have created a bit of a stir, since, fo a time, that this is being written, its stock on was apparently exhausted…

The recording presents the earliest known complete setting of the Ordinary of the Mass attributable to a single composer. Indeed, “complete” goes beyond what most listeners expect of a Mass setting, since Machaut went as far as to include a setting of the “Ite missa est” (the Mass is over, to which, in loose translation, the congregation gratefully replies “Thank God!”) exchange. The performance on this new recording is by Graindelavoix, a ten-member all-male choir led by Björn Schmelzer.

Schmelzer is interested in preparing a historically-informed performance; and undertaking that is far more difficult with the medieval repertoire than it is with, for example, music from the Baroque period. There are far fewer historical documents to consult that provide accounts of either making the music or listening to it. Indeed, there are even questions regarding the document of the music itself, since the proper interpretation of notational practices during the fourteenth century continues to be debated by medieval scholars…


Did the Medieval Warm Period welcome Vikings to Greenland?

What is known: Vikings sailed to Greenland. They homesteaded there for a few hundred years, and likely experienced multiple famines. Many died. Some returned to European shores. And all of this happened during a time in Europe known to geoscientists as the Medieval Warm Period. The warmer, milder conditions that defined this time eventually ended too.

For many years, scientists have pondered if the Vikings' diaspora to Greenland was made easier by the warmer temperatures of the Medieval Warm Period. Climate data extracted from shells had indicated that this warm period extended to Greenland, but new research suggests this may not necessarily be so.

As EARTH Magazine explores, based on the new data, scientists determined that glaciers grew from A.D. 926 to 1275, suggesting a much cooler regional temperature, and that the Medieval Warm Period was a distinctly European phenomenon.

Read the full story in the May issue of EARTH Magazine:

The Vatican Princess Book Review

…In his newest novel, "The Vatican Princess," C. W. Gortner tells the story of beautiful Lucrezia. Through her eyes, readers experience the darker side of the Renaissance, getting an intimate look at one of history’s most notorious families: the Borgias.

From the moment of her conception to her dying breath, scandal and notoriety followed Lucrezia Borgia more closely than her own shadow. This was only natural because Lucrezia was the product of an extramarital affair between Vannozza dei Cattanei and a cardinal of the Catholic Church, Rodrigo Borgia. Had it not been for her father’s political ambitions, the scandalous nature of her birth might have eventually faded from memory.

The moment Rodrigo Borgia was crowned Pope Alexander VI, though, her fate was sealed. As the daughter of the pope — the most powerful man in the world — Lucrezia was “the most sought-after woman at [her father’s] court.” She became a prized pawn in her father’s schemes, shifting from one advantageous marriage to the next to secure political alliances.

Since then, history has not been kind to Lucrezia Borgia. Long viewed as a willing participant in her infamous family’s intrigues, historians have painted Lucrezia as a “[personification of] evil through her long-established and erroneously attributed role as a malignant seductress.”

More recent research, however, “reveals that she was nothing like her legend.” According to Gortner, Lucrezia was no different than “most women of her status.” Like them, she was used to further her family’s ambitions, “with no say in her fate.”

"The Vatican Princess" provides readers with a unique take on the life of Lucrezia Borgia. Where many writers have portrayed her as a villain, Gortner suggests otherwise. Drawing from years of research, The Vatican Princess sheds new light on a contentious subject, revealing that popular opinion of Lucrezia Borgia might be less accurate than previously thought…

Complete review and  list of Top 5 Borgia family fiction:

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