In which I follow a grand mediaeval illumination tradition, but certainly not in miniature…
One of the historical characters you could meet if you were following my Heritage Hunt map was Anne Marchand, a Norman woman from the late 1200s. By then Norwich was bustling with trade and wealthy folk, and Anne was one of them, a merchant dealing with European contacts.
Her place on the Hunt trail was to be in the middle of The Forum atrium, in all it’s Saturday hustle & bustle.
Historically thats pretty good positioning – this part of the city was The French Quarter, where the Norman incomers had settled on ground overlooking their newly established Market. So Anne may well have had a fine, stone built house, within a stones throw of where she would really be on the day.
The Forum folk realised that she would need something extra to suggest she belonged to the late 1200s, and asked if I could make a backdrop image, something to suggest the Norman city of that time. It would be printed on three 1m x 2m panels, so would be a decent size.
Well, after all these years of reading, researching and imagining what the city would look like in many different periods, I was just the fella to ask…
The Norman lady herself asked if I could make sure Norwich Castle keep was in the picture, as this would be part of what she talked about.
I decided to keep the composition simple – not a distracting vista of Norman Norwich, but a back drop for a presenter. The majority of it would be behind Anne and her props, but the Castle still needed to be easily visible and, crucially, instantly recognisable.
So I had the idea of a window, which would (a) say “Norman” by its unmistakable Romanesque architecture and (b) show the Castle in practically the same view as it really is from the Forum – no chance of anybody not knowing what that was supposed to be!
Of course it wasn’t just that easy – I had to make the battlements be more like the (conjectured) original ones, not the great chunky monsters placed there in the 19th century. A picture, you see, can say a thousand words, but just as easily the wrong ones as the right ones.
To be really smarty-arty here, is there not also something familiar about the image of a wealthy mediaeval woman, sitting indoors, with rich architecture and a view through a window…? Those mediaeval illuminators loved the “window on the world” thing, so why not.
Veni, Vidi, I Copied…