Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Snow, Geese and Heron at Colonial Williamsburg

Monday morning we woke up to snow for President's Day at Colonial Williamsburg. There wasn't much to do, so we spent the morning walking around taking pictures before the snow melted.
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I found a new rippling brook to spend quiet time at.

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My daughter...

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Found some geese which I spent a lot of quiet time with...

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...when to my surprise I found a rare treasure. A blue heron quietly stood just a few yards from me!

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Do you know how often I've planned nature trips to national parks and refuges to see these birds but we can never find them. I had no idea one lived behind the palace! When my family caught up with me, I kept hand motioning to them to be quiet but there was a bigger prize near me than those geese they were taking a million photos of. Finally they made their way to me along with a noisy family who were traipsing down the path. It didn't take long for everyone to figure out something rare was around the corner so all noise and rambunctiousness naturally ceased as everyone beheld this rare sight. He patiently stood there for the longest time. Eventually we quietly tiptoed away.

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Monday, February 27, 2012

Venetian Gown 1495

For our Renaissance history presentation I knew I wanted a Venetian gown. I drafted a pattern from a theater costume book which was quite close in lines to the rendering of Albrecht Durer who had been in Venice in 1495. He took quick renderings of the ladies he saw such as this sketch, Venetian Lady.
In my research I ascertained that the English shift was called a chemise in France but in Italy it was called a camicia.

From my Janet Arnold Book Patterns of Fashion 4 I learned that shifts of the Renaissance era were also elaborately embroidered, but again, time was lacking. Therefore I applied a trim with the feel of embroidery.

For the gown I imagined a turquoise fabric with gold trim, but I couldn't pass the rust/black changeable silk tafetta at a mere $6 per yard. In the end, it fit with the masquerade of various Medeci ladies, particularly one who sometimes sided with the French Huguenots, whom would entail my persona(s).

The camicia was prodigiously huge. The silk for the gown was slippery. Without directions or any back views for this costume I had to do a lot of thinking to figure out how to close the back with an overlap. I finally made ties like a wrap dress would take. Except that kept sliding and my family had an awful time tying up the back. How I need ladies-in-waiting! Oh and I did make sleeves just like in the illustration but that was a bear for my son to figure out, so I told him I'd go without.

Last summer at the Renaissance Faire I had purchased a hair accessory, like a caul. After doing my research, I realized it was all wrong. That is hugely disappointing. I wish that vendors selling things at historical shows would sell historically accurate items. I tried ordering one on-line but for the life of me couldn't find any on-line vendors. After doing more research on Italian Renaissance hairstyles I learned that braids were quite the fashion, with pearls often woven into the hair. I could do that. I'm sure they didn't French braid but that is the only way I can braid my hair.

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Update: My daughter later wore this gown for a Renaissance presentation at college. I detailed the alterations I made for it to fit her and to remain securely on her, here!

Saturday, February 25, 2012

Renaissance Masquerade Rhetoric History Presentation

Presenting 16th century Renaissance Europe with guess who?
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The theme is Masquerade, which had its history in Southern Renaissance Italy...
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The timeframe of our multiple characters is 1469, 1484, 1513, 1572, 1587, and 1598, all of which we learned about in these books...
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Since this is a masquerade, I'll let you keep guessing who we are! Our costumes hint to historical accuracy and more so to who we are. This is a masquerade though, so parts of our costume were a disguise!
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Simple Masquerade Renaissance Faire food included hors d'oeurvres reminiscent of the Italian Renaissance...
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Sparkling cider, non-alcoholic, to replicate Italian wine...
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shrimp cocktail...Italy was near the sea...
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spinach and artichoke dip with pita chips...artichoke is Italian...pita chips were imported...
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cantaloupe wrapped in prosciutto...very Italian...
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gorgonzola tarts, steak wrapped in bacon and scallops wrapped in bacon...
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Italian wedding cookies...to celebrate the Italian marriages in Shakespearan plays...
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We all took our plates of food to eat in the family room, while my husband asked questions about who we were. We stayed in character througout, interjecting comments when our foe misinterpreted our intents! Although we have completely different stories, there is one point in time where we all merge paths...for better or for worse. Meanwhile we listened to Renaissance music. I chose selections from 16th century Italy.

We each chose some Shakespeare to memorize. My daughter chose two selections, one from Hamlet and the other from Antony and Cleopatra.
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My son chose 3 of his favorite selections from Henry V.
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He was great!
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My selection was from Merchant of Venice, Act 4 Sc 1, lines 182-195. This is Portia's "Quallity of Mercy" speech. (No pictures of me. I always have to ask so I'm embarrassed to ask.)

Then we played "Who's Who from Shakespeare?" We saw this played at a Renaissance Faire last summer. I set all the Shakespeare plays the kids and I saw on DVD on the end table.
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My husband only watched one DVD with us, Julius Caesar, so I had him do the choosing and the kids and I did the playing. I had my son leave the room so my husband could choose any of these plays. Then my daughter showed him where the cast of characters were. My husband chose one of the men from that list. This all had to be done very quietly so my son would not hear. Then we put the book away and my son came into the room. My son was now that man whom my husband had chosen, but my son had no idea who he was. (Isn't this a fun masquerade?) My daughter and I asked leading questions that my son had to answer. Of course he wasn't certain of any of the answers so he'd answer anything he wanted while we giggled. As soon as he figured out who he was, he'd guess and that would end his turn if he was correct.

Turn 1 with my son:

Me-Are you hot?

Son-"Standing next to this fireplace, I certainly am."

Daughter-Are you jealous of your wife being with a friend?

Son-Am I Othello?
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When my daughter had a turn, we asked:

Me-Have you lived with your dear one all her life?

Daughter-Dear one?

Son-Did you get the rope?

Daughter-Why would I need a rope? It wouldn't be any good for anything, like climbing into windows.

Me-Is she safe?

Daughter-Um, I hope so.

Son-Do you know much about medicine?

Daughter-Am I some kind of doctor?

Son-Do you like playing nursemaid?

Daughter-Am I the lady who helped Juliet? (This was close enough.)

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The kids and I each took 2 turns. My husband was impressed with how quickly we could guess our parts. This was a lot easier than the Shakespearan troupe at the Renaissance faire made it look.

Now for the wrap up. Can you guess who we are? My son made his masks and mine. My daughter made hers.

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Each mask has symbolic meaning.

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I have copper coins on my mask, the color of which is replicated in my gown, because I am from the Medici family, the wealthy banking family of Florence. I am wearing a Venetian gown, but this is a masquerade. I must be in disguise because Medici lives are in danger.

In 1469 I portrayed Lucretzia, who was married to Piero de Medici, who had recently died. Lucretzia was well educated, well favored by all, and told the story of the rise of power of the Medici family, the establishment of the banking system, the legacy of her father-in-law Cosimo de Medici, and the brief success of the leadership of her husband. Florence was not the largest Europeon city, but it was the richest because of the Medici family. We learned about them repeatedly in our Renaissance studies. Their story had to be told. Then she walked out of the room to get another lady of the Medici family.

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In walked Clarice in 1484, wife of Lorenzo the Magnificent, telling the story of how he quelled the plot of his enemies, including Pope Sixtus IV and the King of Naples. The people of Florence loyally supported and fought for Lorenzo, their hero. Then she left the room to get her daughter.

Maddalena arrived in 1513 to tell the story of her brother, Giovani who became Pope Leo X that year. She grew up with Michaelangeo who attended a school for artists that her father established. Then she left to send in one final Medici lady of note.

Catherine de Medici, Queen of France, was born in Florence and married Henry II, the future king of France. Apparently she studyied Machiavelli's The Prince. After her husband died, each of her three sons took a turn at kingship. When the first son, Francis II died, her second son Charles IX at age 10 was too young to rule, so she was the Queen Regent. When he was old enough to rule, he asked her to remain at his side as ruler. She was famed for siding with the Huguenots one day, then the Catholics another day, depending on who would strengthen the kingdom the most at that particular point in time. She tried to get Elizabeth I to marry one of her sons. Philip II who ruled Spain was already her son-in-law. Mary, Queen of Scots' uncles, the Guises, played heavily in the flux of her political schemes. She has been described as being peaceful yet subtly dictatorial, scrupulous, calculating and crafty. There is debate today as to her influence in the St. Bartholomew Day's Massacre.

I thought it would be a fun masquerade to pose as each of these ladies to tell many important stories. My changeable silk tafetta gown, in copper and black, reflected the story. The black of the sometimes support of the Huguenots and the copper for the financial power and banking system owned by the Medici family.

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Black represents the French Huguenots. Before we started this unit, my son wanted to portray my ancestor, a General Bertaut. Someone in our family had the Mormon church research the part of our family who bears a French name. They traced our ancestry to Brittainy France to this General who fled to Belgium (other paperwork documents descendants with a French name leaving Belgium in the early 18th century to settle north of Philadelphia.) during the St. Bartholomew Day's Massacre. My son's eyes got huge when he found out we apparently had a general in the family. He used that bit of information, combined with historical information from the day of the massacre, to assume that he was a Huguenot and weave an interpretation.

For his costume, I chose black embroidered trim with black ties, to replicate historical shirts of the era, which I inspected in a Janet Arnold book. The rest is based on a modern costume pattern. My son chose the coat fabric.

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This is the Henry V mask.

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My daughter wanted to portray Mary Queen of Scots. I didn't know if I'd have time to make an elaborate costume for her, so we talked about her wearing my Queen Elizabeth costume. Then I decided to try to redo that costume, ripped off the skirt and used that with extras of the original fabric to make a Mary Queen of Scots costume. All of this led into thinking it would be hilarious if my daughter portrayed both Mary Queen of Scots and Queen Elizabeth I. Mary was also the daughter-in-law of Catherine de Medici for a short while. Her husband had a short life, when Mary returned to Scotland then supposedly schemed to take the English throne from her cousin Elizabeth.

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The purple was chosen because it's my daughter's favorite color and complements the peacock feathers nicely, to represent Queen Elizabeth I. Queen Elizabeth actually had a gown with eyes and ears woven into it to represent the many spies she had in her court. The eyes of the peacock feathers replicated the spies.

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At a masquerade party, we could easily change our masks and confuse everyone as to who we are.