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Wait, whose veil?

Karen Gould reckons that’s a family portrait of Yolande with hubby and two of the three sons.

Now I’ve started to read the thesis, it’s interesting to find that Alexa Sand, along with others I need to chase up and read, thinks it’s not, and that the original owner depicted in the portrait was probably not even Yolande herself, but another member of the family.

Interesting, but I’m going to keep calling the lady in question by the nickname Yolande, whoever she turns out to be.

Alexa (this isn’t a scholarly blog, let’s all be on first name terms here) thinks the family picture is a biblical illustration, and I haven’t got up to the detail yet, but I presume of Naomi and Elimelech heading off to Moab. The marvel that is Google image search brings up lots of contemporary pictures of that scene (here’s a nice one) and it seems to me a very reasonable interpretation of the picture given Yolande’s book’s other illustrations.

Except I don’t see why it can’t be both. Alexa and Karen both talk about how the book presents a consciously Franciscan program of images, with Alexa pushing this to talk about the affective style of devotion that entailed. But I think that a lot of the women in these illustrations seem to be presented in ways designed to create emotional resonance for a laywoman. Why can’t that be Naomi and family drawn in a way Yolande would want to identify with?

In particular though, Yolande seems to have a strong emotional connection to the Virgin. The owner portrait is at the start of the Hours of the Virgin. And some of the pictures show people having a string emotional interaction (body posture, gesture, eye contact) with the Virgin. Here are my favourite two: her death, and the Wise Men presenting the gifts. (I like the veils in these too, the one long enough to curve round at the front, and the short ordinary one, and I have several like them. But I think I am getting a bit old. Might be time to wimple up a bit more often.)


Retail therapy for Yolande

It’s been a horribly stressful couple of weeks, work is busy and the whole family is comprehensively unwell, even the cat is on antibiotics and will be scheduled for surgery as soon as we have the blood test results. So it’s been nice and comfortable to distract myself a bit by getting back to Yolande in my little lumps of free time. I’ve been working up to making her clothes since I first found a postcard of her owner portrait in the late nineties, with a series of great big cycles of interest and attention followed by distraction.

I can talk about them another time, but first, what’s even better therapy than obsessive interests? Retail therapy! At least when it means buying books online. I am waiting for this to arrive in the mail, helped me find a nice cheap copy.

And in the meanwhile I will be reading her PhD thesis (thank you ProQuest/UMI), which looks like it covers a lot of things I’m interested in understanding:

I bought and read this one in the last cycle of attention, so I’ll dip into it again as I need to:

And there are plenty of other secondary sources to gradually chase up here. I really appreciate the Morgan Library’s current online setup giving you the bibliography for their manuscripts.

And now I’m going to read and nap and destress for a bit. The reading is enticing but I think I need a nap first.

And all the other veils

It’s not that the headwear in the rest of the psalter is unusual. It actually gives a nice sample of the stuff that you usually see illustrated in miniatures in this period.

And the other picture that is sometimes (though not always) identified as Yolande is much more ordinarily matronly. It’s actually on the very first page. Cool veil and wimple, I reckon.

Yes, look at that veil

I have never seen anything like it before.

You do start to see the occasional nearly-transparent veil depicted in French and English sources circa 1300. Here’s an example from the Peterborough Psalter (via manuscript miniatures website).

But I’ve never seen the transparent veil draped to imitate the shape of a barbette and fillet before.

So I keep wondering, is this arrangement something that has a real life as a fashionable thing to do, for the super-posh, but was too localised or too fleetingly popular to turn up in art much? Or is it the artist’s attempt to make a real person look more like the models they were used to working off? (From looking at other pictures, just wearing the cap without either veil or barbette and fillet seems less formal and matronly than this representation is trying to present as. I have a couple of relevant Pinterest boards if you want to scan quickly for yourself Here you go)

Obsessing about Yolande

The Morgan Library’s website gives much easier and better access to the images from Yolande de Soissons’ Psalter-Hours than it used to. Very exciting!


France, Amiens, between 1280 and 1299

MS M.729 fol. 232v

That’s her donor picture, or perhaps it would be better called an owner picture, and I love thirteenth century donor pictures. They often look less generic than the other images of women they are surrounded by, and I think it’s not unreasonable to conclude that they are one of the few places that thirteenth century women had some influence over how they were depicted in art.

Look at Yolande and her glitzy heraldic gear over that tasteful grey outfit. Look at her veil arrangement! Look how much her dog adores the Virgin! Look at the red carpet over the rush matting in the corner of the room.

Isn’t this all just gorgeous?

A thirteenth-century costuming blog

So, I asked around, and no one could point me at a costuming/re-enactor blog which is currently active and talking about thirteenth century stuff. The old 75 years mailing list seems well and truly dead. And I really want to talk about thirteenth century stuff at the moment. So maybe I should just do it for myself. Is anybody out there who wants to join in?

I’m very time poor – this is going to be more like thirteenth-century-themed Facebook posting than a proper blog, most of the time. But maybe that’s better than nothing at all.

And right now, I’d probably have to say it’s the “long thirteenth century” I’m interested in, because I’m working my way up to making Yolande de Soissons’ outfit, which is usually dated as “circa 1300” if not slightly later.

More about that to come. Right now I’m building a new basic late 13th century cotte, so I’ve got something to wear, and because it’s more fun than darning the moth holes in my old one. And I’m also a bit fatter than I used to be, so the dress still fits but not quite as well as pictured here a couple of years ago.

pic in green dress for blog



The new one is getting made as a trade off between what works for wearing most of the time here in Australia, and what is bearably historically justifiable. It’s made out of a very light and springy worsted that should be nice and cool in summer and a good first layer in a Melbourne winter. It’s not going to be lined. The long seams are going to be machine sewn but hand finished. I spent all of my discretionary leisure time on Sunday getting my increasingly grumpy old 1980s machine to behave, tension-wise, with a flax thread and a light fabric. So I’ve only sewn a few panels together so far. The cat has been very keen to help.

maccy cat helpssewing in progress

It’s loosely based on the St Clare cut, but I’m looking for an effect that’s much less nunnish. It’s an experiment to help me work out if I really believe in the Elisabeth/Clara style cuts for non-religious women’s clothes. I was inclined to think the undivided front panel was only useful for surcotes for secular purposes, till I made a dress for my daughter with roughly the St Elisabeth cut, and it worked quite well. (I must dig up the photo of her wearing it) I guess this dress will help me think that one through.

And I”m making my daughter a warm surcote. She says she wants it but she won’t let me put it on her this week so I can pin the sleeves to the right shape. Its pattern is a bit dubious for a girl’s late 13th century surcote – the underarm gore is more like the Bocksten man than like anything solidly associated with a female person around then – but it got something the right size out of the limited amount of super-warm and PURPLE wool available (purple is very important to her at the moment!). I’m using it as a sort of technique sampler for some of the things I want to do on clothes for me over the next little while. I think that’s the next post. Or the next few posts!

purple dress underarm seam.png





So. I’m in

hello world. again.

Well it’s been a while, and it’s been a very busy while. My daughter had leukaemia. She’s good now thanks, though there seem to be some lingering non-cancer-related health and immune system issues to keep us occupied. But my workplace is quite understanding about needing to juggle that with full time work, and I have a very lovely and supportive family and community around me, so we’re fine really.

The lumps of time I have to make stuff in are even littler than they used to be. But I’ve got the costuming itch again, and if I can’t be making as much as I want to, I do want to ramble on about the whys and wherefores. So I think it’s time to blog again. Let’s see how it works.

[Also I just had a migraine “with aura” that had totally Hildegaard of Bingenesque shapes and colours in the “aura”. I haven’t had such a medieval migraine for years. And part of the, well, medieval people would have called it a vision, part of the vision that came with the aura, the flavour of the shapes (if you don’t get migraines, don’t worry, it’s a migraine thing)  was of a costuming blog, so who am I to refuse my brain chemistry’s own suggestions?]

Okay. Having thoroughly scared away any potential readers, have a picture of Queen Victoria one of Hildegaard’s visions (via wikimedia commons). And I’ll talk about thirteenth century costuming in the next post.