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Fly Girl's Cabinet of Curiosities

curated by Thornton Rigg

Category

Curiosity

A Griffin, a Fire Demon and a Monster.

… C17th extravaganza …

ommegriffinThere’s a side to C17th Europe which fascinates me: the Courtly emphasis on masquing and processions.  These theatrical displays employed the finest painters, writers and architects, cost fabulous amounts and, being largely ephemeral, can only be caught via hasty sketches, terse descriptions and the occasional commissioned painting or engraving.

In London’s V&A we are lucky enough to have The Ommeganck in Brussels on 31 May 1615: The Triumph of Archduchess Isabella. It was commissioned by the Archduke Albert and Archduchess Isabella to celebrate an Ommegang. This was an important civic procession honouring Isabella as Queen of the procession and the scene shows the ten pageant cars that formed the most spectacular element of the parade.

These must have been the equivalent of the big budget movie extravaganzas of their time with fantastical beasts, special effects and royalty on display.

There’s huge unicorns and griffins made from wickerwork and painted canvas; special effects like this demon who holds a fire club, a fizzing hollow reed packed with charcoal and gunpowder;

ommefire

and a scary backwards monster waving a bladder (?) to amuse the crowds.

ommeback

The V&A has a marvellous interactive programme of the work where you can zoom in, roam around and read details about various elements of this large painting.  The work and the computer display can be found in the Europe 1600-1715 Galleries but can be overlooked as it’s in a low lit corner.

There’s another scene of this festival in the Prado.  It appears they got the boring religious procession whereas we’ve got the lighter side of the affair. Huzzah.

Beetle Jewellery

42525194_pI was listening to an episode of Radio 4’s Natural Histories on Beetles (http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b05w9l9z) and was fascinated to learn that live beetles have been used as jewellery – with little chain leads and gemstones glued to their backs.  Horrific, yet I can see the allure.

image3444Shiny and iridescent, certain large beetles do look like gem stones but it is not only their beauty which evokes such a comparison.  Surely it is also to do with their miniature perfection, the extreme compaction of so much energy and their transformative nature which makes me think beetles are Nature’s jewels.

 

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