Wednesday, May 6, 2009

The Lowly Bauble: A Tool of Fools

So here goes... I am going to try and see if I can cut and paste my documentation about the fool's bauble. Hopefully this will work :)

The Lowly Bauble: A Tool of Fools

From the Webster’s dictionary…Bauble: 1) A small showy ornament of little value; a trinket. 2)Archaic: A mock scepter carried by a court jester. Middle English: babel, from old French, meaning plaything.

In picturing a fool from the 13th to the 16th century, it is often seen in pictures as a person dressed in motley (parti-colored clothes), a belled hat, and carrying a scepter with a model of a head on it. Searching through different sources, I came across many paintings and illuminations of fool’s with these scepters. They are often shown as being just the head, covered in a hat that usually matches the clothing of the fool in the picture. In the Bible du XIIIe siecle, there is an illuminated page showing a fool in a yellow hat with ears on it and the head of a bird on the top of the hat. He is carrying a scepter that is matched to his hat, including the bird shape on top. However, in the Grimani Breviary, known as the codex, an illumination there shows a fool with almost corn-rowed hair carrying a bauble that has a hood while he himself does not. In the painting The Ship of Fools, by Hieronymus Bosch, there are many foolish people portrayed, and one true fool. He has a bauble that is more like a staff in its length. It is also topped by a head with a similar hat to the fool pictured.

For building my bauble, I relied most heavily on two actual baubles that are housed in the Nurnberg Museum in Germany. Both baubles have ivory heads and are dressed in brocades and velvets with bells on the ends of the dags that surround the heads. I used clay instead of ivory since there are many extant examples of dolls and toys created from clay and it was the most cost effective material I had at hand. I believe that it is still a good choice as it might have been used for less opulent baubles. Clay, now as then, is still a durable material that allows great detail, but is easier to obtain than ivory. The clay I used was an air hardening clay with the look and feel of a terra cotta clay. I would have loved to use real terra cotta, but as I do not have current access to a kiln, I made do.

For the hood and “body” of my bauble, I chose to use cotton fabrics for the cost, but the prints where chosen for fun, not period “proper-ness”. The colors of black and white are our Barony’s colors, and as this fool was being made for our local “Fool’s Revel” the colors and patterns were appropriate. I painted the face in gauche/watercolor paints and then protected it with a natural varnish. I tipped the ends of the dags with bells just as the two examples showed. I ended up making two, one as a gift to our stepping down “Baronial Fool” and one to keep as they came out so neat.


The Weidner 13th Century Bible

Bible du XIIIe siecle

King David and a Fool by the workshop of the Master of the Echevinage de Rouen, France, Rouen, c. 1465-75
The Free Library of Philadelphia, Rare Book Department, Widener 2, fol. 290

The Web Gallery of Art

Grimani Breviary1490-1510
Illumination on parchment; Biblioteca Nazionale Marciana, Venice

The Ship of Fools: Hieronymus Bosch 1490-1500
Oil on wood, 58 x 33 cm; Musée du Louvre, Paris Fooling Around the World: The History of the Jester. From University of Chicago Press, by Beatrice K. Otto.

Friday, May 1, 2009

Geez! I let the entire month of April whiz past without a single post...and I know it didn't feel all that busy! Must have been though....

I did get a few things done. I have about 20 inches of lace done...only 20 or so more to go. My aim is a full 48 inches to give the garter a good full ruffle, but anything over 36in will do that. I also got about 24in of the
blackwork cuffs done. That is enough for two cuffs with ruffling. I hope to get enough more done to get the cuffs for my Husband's smock as well. I also focused on getting our deck clear and prepped for the summer. All the snow is gone, the umbrellas and canopy are up, the kids toys cleaned and up, and we have fired up the BBQ. It has been in the mid 70's for the past few days...Heaven! My Sister-in-law in Dallas said that we were only three degrees cooler yesterday (4/30) that they were. Insane! Texas and Alaska both the same warmth, in April?! I am not arguing, it was too darn nice sitting on the deck and making lace.

My main distraction for the moth of April was in getting our local
SCA Barony's Fool's Revel organized. I was the "autocrat" (person in charge) for the event, and it fell to me to get the site, arrange the activities, and generally make sure everything went off without a hitch. It was worth the effort though. The food was great, we had lots of people come, and it sure did seem as if everyone had fun. Their Highnesses traveled from Wasilla and joined in our silliness, and that just added even more fun to the mix. If you want to see just a bit of the things we did, you can check out for some of the heavy fighting. As we didn't have enough eligible heavy fighters for the Champion for the College of St. Boniface tourney, the Seneshal of the college opened the tourney to a "Rock, Paper, Scissors" tourney that anyone could then partake in. It was such a highlight of the event, that the Seneshal thinks that it might just happen once a year. You can check it out at (Part 1) and (Part 2).

Part of my job in the Barony is the Arts and Sciences Office. My duties are to help encourage people's interest in different aspects of the past. I will admit that my offerings tend to be heavy in the
needleworking areas as that is what I am most proficient in, and where my interest lies. I do try hard to bring in other aspects though, and events are one way I can do that. I usually host a competition that fits with the "theme" of the event and allows those interested to try their hand at something new. For this year's Fool's Revel, I redid a competition I offered several years ago...The Fool's Tools. I was hoping that people would be thinking about what a fool did, what they wore, and what "tools" they might have used. The winning entry this year was a baldric made from playing cards and chess pieces. While not exactly "period", it was this person's interpretation of what she thought a fool might use...and it went very well with her chess pieces coathardie she made as well.

That's it for the moment. If I can figure out how to do it, I will post my old entry from the first time the contest for "Fool's Tools" was held. Till then!