Tuesday, October 4, 2016

Iris Green 2016

Last year for my pigment experiments I used aluminum sulfate from a dye company thinking that was the right kind of alum.  In 2016 I made Iris green clothlets with the medievally recommended alum, Rock Alum, which I learned is aluminum potassium sulfate or potassium aluminum sulfate, KAl(SO4)2·12H2O.

Iris Green Clothlets 2016 from De Arte Illuminandi

 Click "read more" below to find out how!

creating clothlets

I first learned about clothlets from Thompson's The Materials and Techniques of Medieval Painting.  It's sort of generic but encouraged me to do more digging... 

'the generic name, however, for cloths saturated in the colours was petia in Latin, and pezza or pezzetta in Italian...
Clothlets were a most convenient form of colours for illuminators. It was only necessary to put a bit of clothlet in a dish, and wet with a little glair or gum water, and the colour would dissolve out of the cloth into the binding medium, forming a transparent stain.  A good many colours were prepared in this way for late medieval book painting...' pg 144

From the British Library's Catalogue of Illuminated Manuscripts glossary we find.
Clothlet: "A piece of cloth impregnated with PIGMENT (generally a vegetable dye). A portion of such cloth, when soaked in a little BINDING MEDIUM, releases its colorant and produces an artist's pigment. Clothlets are called petiae in Latin and pezze or pezzette in Italian; bisetus folii refers to clothlets dyed with folium, or turnsole, extract. Clothlets were a convenient way of carrying or shipping vegetal pigments, and they were especially popular from the fourteenth century on, with the growth of the textile trade. Glazes of vegetable dyes were often used to enhance other colours in book ILLUMINATION, since they created a rich, glowing, and transparent effect."

You can also find mention of them in this Getty Publication.  Once you start knowing what to look for, you will see a lot of references.

As the addage goes, 'Cleanliness is next to Godliness', so this year I took the recommendation of Jenny Dean in her book Wild Color scouring the linen for my clothlets.  I bought 'natural linen' from JoAnne Fabrics.  I don't know if it really is natural or it's dyed to look natural.

First I soaked it overnight in clear water filtered through my reverse osmosis (RO)filter.  In the morning, the water was light brown.  Yuck!  So, fabric from the fabric store is not actually the cleanest it can be, got it!

I dumped it out and refilled it with new clean, filtered water and measure 1 Tbsp dish soap (Dawn) and 2 Tbsp washing soda.  

I boiled it for about four hours.

When I pour out the water after boiling it is dark brown and quite dirty!

At this point I abandon the Reverse Osmosis filtered water and rinse in tap water until the water runs clear then wash it twice in my washing machine and air dry the linen. 

Looking at the internet it appears that 'finger' was commonly used to measure cloth and 'fistmele' I know from archery.. I used my index finger and fist to extended thumb to measure the clothlets.  We are in the modern world so I use my fabric scissors to cut the pieces to size.  Though we know medieval people had scissors too!  Next time I may use 'span' as I see that frequently as I poke around now.

Regardless, I now have clean rectangles of fabric for the next steps.  Yay!

Friday, September 16, 2016

Buckthorn yellow 2016

This year I decided to try using concepts from De Arte Illuminandi to try unripe, green berries to make yellow, a possibility indicated by the translators.
Two pigments were and are derived from Rhamnus berries; a yellow and a green.  The product of the unripe berries is the Giallo santo (cf. M. P. Merrifield, op cit., I clxiv), known in English by the extraordinary names, "Italian Pink" and "Dutch Pink."(Thompson and Hamilton 43)

That page of Merrifield's text explains,
 Giallo santo was a kind of yellow lake, which was made from various plants.  It was sometimes prepared from the berries of buckthorn (Merrifield clxiv)

and the result is reinforced by the Pigment Compendium that explains,
various species of the Rhamnacea family give a yellow dye on extraction of the unripe berries (drupes)
 It seems that the medieval artists more commonly would have probably used the local ochers from the land or orpiment, arsenic sulfide, or one of the lead yellows... but I have buckthorn berries from Saco, that I picked, for free, and don't feel like playing with arsenic or lead today!  

Here's a preview picture of them, 

yellow clothlets from green buckthorn berries in the foreground, sap green clothlets behind
And now I'll explain how I made them, just click 'read more' below.

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

Friday, June 17, 2016

Mulling Notes and Resources

Some early sources that describe mulling pigments:
  • 12th c De Arte Illuminandi (Thompson and Hamilton 9-10, 14-17, 18)
  • 15th c Il Libro Dell'arte (Broecke 56-93)
  • 15th c Bolognese MS (Merrifield 502)
  • and a slightly later discussion about muller composition in 17th c Brussels MS (Merrifield 770)

Sources for natural pigments to make your own paint. Pigment kits and tools to help it happen:
Safety equipment and resources:

Beginner Mulling

The medieval methods for grinding pigments correctly are described in many treatises.
12th c De Arte Illuminandi (Thompson and Hamilton 9-10, 14-17, 18)
15th c Il Libro Dell'arte (Broecke 56-93)
15th c Bolognese MS (Merrifield 502)
and a slightly later discussion about muller composition in 17th c Brussels MS (Merrifield 770)

Natural Pigments' tutorial on preparing a grinding surface and making gouache is helpful!
They say mulling is important for pigment dispersal in the binder and the paint's final appearance.

The steps I use...
Step 1: Gear up; you don't want to breath or touch even the non-toxic colors. Put a damp white cloth on your firm surface under the glass slab to increase contrast and add stability.
Step 2: Prepare glass: I used silicon carbide with just enough distilled water (DW) to form a paste the consistency of toothpaste. Used the muller to grind for 5-10 minutes to form a roughened circle on the glass slab as described on the website. Then I cleaned everything with soap and water.
Step 3: “Now that the grinding surface has been prepared, you can begin to dispersing [sic] pigments and making your own paint.” Grind the dry pigments with distilled water to avoid contamination. Put a walnut sized (Broecke 57) pile of pigment into the center of the slab. Add DW a drop at a time, mixing with a palette knife or other tool until you reach toothpaste consistency.
Step 4: “Holding the muller firmly with the heel of your hand down and your thumb up, slowly move the muller in a circular motion while keeping the pigment in the center of the surface. The pigment will slowly accumulate along the outside of the circle. Use the spatula to move the paste to the center of the grinding surface in order to continue grinding.
If the paste becomes too stiff, add more water a few drops at a time... remove any accumulated pigment from the sides of the muller using a spatula, putty or palette knife.
Sometimes suction will form between the muller and grinding surface... Use the spatula as a lever to raise an edge of the muller. Then slide the muller horizontally off the grinding surface.”
Clean all tools thoroughly between each color; observing your local toxic water disposal requirements.
Step 5: Combine mulled pigment with a binder. I use commercial gum Arabic from Winsor and Newton. Other binders include glair (egg white), egg yolk and other gums.

Broecke, Lara. Cennino Cennini's Il libro dell'arte, A new English translation and commentary with Italian transcription. London: Archetype Publications Ltd., 2015.
Merrifield, Mary P. Original Treatises: Dating from the XIIth to XVIIIth Centuries on the Arts of Painting, in Oil, Miniature, Mosaic, and on Glass; of Gilding, Dyeing, and the Preparation of Colours and Artificial Gems; Preceded by a General Introduction; with Translations, Prefaces, and Notes, In Two Volumes. London: John Murray, Albemarle Street, 1849.
Medieval and Renaissance Treatises on the Arts of Painting, Original Texts with English Translations. Two Volumes bound as one. New York: Dover Publications, Inc, 1967.
O'Hanlon, George. Making Your Own Water-Based Paint. 2015.
Thompson, Daniel Varney and Hamilton, George Hurd. De Arte Illuminandi, the Technique of Manuscript Illumination. New Haven: Yale University Press, 1933.
Thompson, Daniel V. The Materials and Techniques of Medieval Painting. Dover Publications, Inc., New York, 1956.
Adrienne d'Evreus, 2016. http://scientistsscroll.blogspot.com

Friday, May 20, 2016

'levigation' and 'elutriation'

It's super funny to find out you've been using a fancy word because you think you're smart and always right... and you've been using it wrong!  Or not!

Wednesday, May 4, 2016

Buckthorn Berries, Rhamnus spp.

EK Gazette Iris and Sap Green

Arts & Sciences Research Paper #9: Making green paint medievally with spring irises and fall buckthorn berries

02 Monday May 2016
Posted by mollyeskridge in A&S Research Papers, Arts and Sciences
#9: Making green paint medievally with spring irises and fall buckthorn berries
a&s, Arts and Sciences
Our ninth A&S Research Paper comes to us from Lady Adrienne d’Evreus, of the Province of Malagentia. She turns to the flora of her woodlands to learn ways that medieval painters made green pigments. (Prospective future contributors, please check out our original Call for Papers.)
Making green paint medievally with spring irises and fall buckthorn berries
Iris flower and buckthorn berries
Iris flower and buckthorn berries. Photo by Adrienne d’Evreus.

Saturday, April 30, 2016

Saffron paint

One of the first pigment experiments I did was with saffron.  Didn't it turn out pretty?!

 Read on for my references and methods...

Tuesday, April 26, 2016


In medieval painting glair was sometimes used as a binding media for pigment. I used the translation of the ”recommended” recipe from "an anonymous eleventh-century tract in Berne, called De clarea..." (Thompson 50).
Read on to see how I made some glair with a medieval recipe and modern equipment:

Saturday, April 16, 2016


Indigo (Indigofera tinctoria)
                 4/13/15 Soaked seeds in water overnight.
                 4/14/15 Planted 2 seeds each in three 4" pots,
                         three seeds each in three 4" pots, none of these germinated.
                Planted more outside in pots 5/30/15, two seeds germinated and grew.
                  Plant matter never yielded blue

Tuesday, April 12, 2016

Rock Alum

This is my silly "rock alum" saga. 

The bottom line is that alum in medieval paint recipes is Potassium Aluminum Sulfate KAl3(SO4)2(OH)6.  

Read on for how I learned this.

French Soap in Mappae Clavicula

An addendum to my post on soap:  I found a recipe in Mappae Clavicula!


Wednesday, April 6, 2016


I am still learning about lye.  Here's a list of notes for me and you about what authors and craftsmen who wrote medieval books probably used in their paint-dye-pigment 'recipes'.

Potassium Carbonate, K2CO3.

Tuesday, March 22, 2016

Adrienne d'Evreus' apprenticeship ceremony to Isabel Chamberlaine

Mistress Isabel Chamberlaine belts her new apprentice, Adrienne d'Evreus

Buckthorn berries, Yellow Experiment(s) 2

I tried to begin to follow another source to produce yellow.  I was working from Merrifield's Bolognese Manuscript, De Fiendis Viridibus again!  This book is so big, I'll never run out of possibilities. :D I will, ultimately, have to read it cover to cover.  I know I'm missing her details about general color production, opinions and her references.

Merrifield pg 428
The last ripe berries from Shana's New Hampshire Buckthorn bushes, about 30g, only yielded about 20 drops of juice so that attempt was unsuccessful.  At the end of September I found Buckthorn across the street in Saco.  I acquired the appropriate permission and went picking berries.  Someday I need to find an identification key for these Rhamnus spp bushes.  These berries seem plumper and larger, it must be a different variety or maybe they're just really ripe?
The 189g of big, juicy berries were manually squished with gloved hands and squeezed through cheesecloth to yield about 63g sludgy juice that I closed in a jar.
With fall archery events we were busy for more than the next month.  The juice sat closed in the jar for almost five weeks.  That was longer than the instructions indicated but I'm a volunteer... busy with being an archery safety officer and regular life activities when I'm not doing scribal or other Arts&Sciences projects!
I noted that when I finally opened the jar that the juice was definitely fermented and smelled like wine.
Athena Thickstun's blog helped me define that a 'fiasco' of wine is 2 liters.  One quarter of that would be 500g.  I didn't need that much so I made a smaller batch. Taking 200g distilled water I added a teaspoon of lye, K2CO3 (<1g on the kitchen scale that I had access to since I flooded the little one I had been using).  Then I added about the same quantity of alum (aluminum sulfate Al2(SO4)3. which resulted in immediate fizzling.  [I have since found out that that is the wrong alum.  Next time I will use rock alum which I have learned is KAl(SO4)2.]  As instructed I heated it in my corning ware sauce pot on low for the time that it took me to recite the Our Father prayer in Latin:
Pater noster qui es in coelis sanctificetur nomen tuum.
Adveniat regnum tuum. Fiat voluntas tua sicut in coela et in terra.
Panem nostrum quotidianum da nobis hodie.
Et dimitte nobis debita nostra, sicut et nos demittimus debitoribus nostris.
Et ne nos inducas in temptationem.
Sed libera nos a malo.
Adding the prepared lye/alum/water to the jar of juice there was an immediate color change of the reddish juice to a yellow/green liquid.

"Very fine white earth like the fellmongers use" is defined in Alexander's glossary in the Dover edition of Merrifield's treatises as lime.

In the spring of 2016 I was able to come back to this experiment.

I found pulverized (vs. pelletized) lime at one of the big box garden centers.

Speaking to Randy Asplund about it again he advised that I was basically making a lake pigment and elaborated on the volume of a mezetta, "In Florence the mezzetta was equal to 0.7613 liters."  I recalled that I had made a smaller volume and not very accurately measured the lye and water in the fall because my little scale had died the quick death of drowning in a different experiment.  Water under the bridge; I'll know the correct mezzetta volume next time!  Regardless, this might have worked anyway.

Back to creating a lake pigment... Cool!  I have never made a lake.  The Materials and Techniques of medieval painting talks about brazil lakes:
Sometimes the decoction of brazil wood with alum was precipitated with chalk, and a more opaque, pink, rose colour was produced by the resulting admixture of calcium sulphate to the alumina lake.  Sometimes, in England, instead of adding chalk to the solution, a chalk stone was hollowed out, and little holes were made in the bottom of the hollow, and the hot alum solution coloured with brazil was poured into the hollow of the chalk.  The reaction between the alum and the chalk took place at the surface of the chalk stone, in that case, and a crust of semi-opaque brazil lake was formed in the hollow and in the little holes.
When lakes were made by precipitating the alum solution with the chalk, the calcium sulphate was formed automatically along with the lake, in intimate combination with it.  Sometimes brazil lakes were given some opacity by adding opaque substances to them at the moment of precipitation, and even after.  When white lead was used, as it sometimes was, it had no other effect than to give a little substance to the lake, to make it a little less transparent, and to develop the rosy colour.  when marble dust and powdered egg shells were added to the newly formed lakes, or introduced along with the precipitating agent, they probably had the further effect of controlling the colour produced by reacting chemically with any excess of alum which might give a brown cast instead of the desired rose.  In all these cases the brazil colour was mordanted upon the white material, whether calcium sulphate, or an excess of chalk, or white lead, or marble dust, or powered egg shells.  The white substances were, so to speak, dyed with the brazil; and the pigment so formed was different from a mixture of a finished lake with the white pigment. (Thompson 119)
So, since I'm making a lake, I tried both crushed eggshell and pulverized lime.  I took about 10 g of each and pipetted off about 5 g of liquid from the jar into each material.  The eggshell is probably not pulverized enough to paint with.  I wonder if I can mull it or crush it down and use it anyway.  And just maybe add more of the buckthorn/aluminum sulfate/lye juice after "in order that it may become more beautiful and of a brighter colour" (Merrifield 428)

Buckthorn yellow.  Ripe buckthorn berry juice with lye and aluminum sulfate with crushed eggshell.

Buckthorn yellow.  Ripe buckthorn berry juice with lye and aluminum sulfate with pulverized lime.
This experiment produced beautiful yellows!  Some day I'll try to paint with them.  I bet you can paint with the plain juice like with the sap green as a transparent glaze.  I wonder if you can make a green lake with that juice with lime or eggshells too.  Anyway, yay yellow!

Mr. Asplund advises that this yellow lake can be produced in the same way from green berries too.  Awesome!

Friday, March 18, 2016

Dyeing skins green with Buckthorn berries, ripe berries Experiment 3

I was excited to try dyeing some leather green using another recipe from one of Mary Merrifield's translated Original Treatises.  "Someday", I secretly dreamed, "Mistress Isabel Chamberlaine might make my wish a reality and take me as an apprentice.  I'll need a green belt!"  Spoiler alert... I was apprenticed at Birka!

Adrienne's Experiment steps:
Collect materials
 Suit up with nitrile gloves, goggles over glasses and dust mask!

Back to the medieval inspiration for the dream for the need of a green belt...

Bolognese MS De Tintis ad Tigendum Pellum (Merrifield 558)
I wasn't sure what a medieval "boiler" was.  Not wanting to contaminate any of my food-grade cast iron pots, I used the same corning ware sauce pan as in Experiment 2.  I used another 100g of the ripe buckthorn berries from Shana's.  They had a few leafy bits but I wasn't willing to arduously pick that out and I didn't want to contaminate my berries by rinsing them.

Combining the ripe berries with the same quantity, by weight, of organic, unfiltered cider vinegar (Bragg brand) I continued to follow the instructions.  I put it on the simmer burner of my gas stove on low for fourty-one minutes.  When the berries and vinegar had "boiled a little" I took it off the heat.  I let it cool a bit then poured it into a washed, secured square of linen over a clean jar then squeezed the juice out into the sealable glass jar.

When I tried to paint it, the shinier 'outside' part of my leather just achieved a blueish gloss and the sueded part still blueish.  Maybe it's just because it's a modernly prepared piece of leather?  

Painting the first three experiments out on a small piece of leather, the only one that's green is Experiment 2.

I painted them out again onto what turned out to be chromium tanned moose leather six months later with pretty much the same results.

                                              Left 3/18/16                Right 9/15/15
                                         Experiment 1                   Experiments 3,2 and 1  
                                         Experiment 3
                                         Experiment 2

Tomorrow I'll try again on Vegetable tanned leather from Birka.

Thursday, March 17, 2016

Sap Green 2 from Buckthorn berries

This is the continuation of my research on trying the medieval paint recipes for Sap Green from Buckthorn.

Once I figured out what Buckthorn berry bushes looked like I began to see them everywhere.  Consequence?  More experiments!

I visited my good friend Shana Clark in New Hampshire to raid her local Buckthorn bushes in early September.  They were growing in a more open area in more sun than the ones in the first experiment.  The branches were full of berries, mostly ripe and dark and with a few green.  The next day I sorted them into 53g of green and 341g of ripe berries.

I had already experimented with the Iris Green paint recipe from De Arte Illuminandi with pretty results so I was excited to put the recommendations for Buckthorn to use.

De Arte Illuminandi, pg 7
And it's note: 

De Arte Illuminandi (Thompson and Hamilton 43)

Then the recipe:
De Arte Illuminandi (Thompson and Hamilton 7)
Adrienne's Experiment steps:
Collect materials
Suit up with nitrile gloves, goggles over glasses and dust mask!

I took 100.00g of ripe buckthorn berries and crushed them with a plastic fork.

In a glazed porcelain (corningware) sauce pan I mixed 11.60g of lye (K2CO3) with about 100g distilled water.  Adding 5.05g of alum (aluminum sulfate) resulted in immediate bubbling.  The reactions at this point have raised the temperature a little to 80F.  Warming the mixture on a simmer burner on low, I hoped to dissolve more of the alum.  After about ten minutes the bubbling had mostly stopped, the temperature had risen to 120F and the solution had a pH of 6 with a milky appearance.  After heating it up to encourage the alum to dissolve and losing a little in the sink when I poured it into the jar with crushed berries, the total weight of the solution had decreased to 87.07g.  There was also a little residue left in the pan.

I mixed the solution into the berries with the same plastic fork I had used to crush them.  The next day I found the solution bubbling out of my pint jar!  I got rid of the beautifully green paper towel beneath my jar and put it in a glass bowl.  As the recipe directs I "let them stand so, out of the way, for three days".  After they had rested I used a clean square of linen to strain the juice into another jar.

The next week I painted it out!  What a beautiful green!

Tuesday, March 15, 2016

Medieval Mappae Clavicula Elderberry Paint Recipe

Last year I posted some medieval recipes for blue paint from elderberries here.  And the testing of it as blue paint here.

I am excited to expand the post to include pictures of a manuscript of the Mappae Clavicula, one of the medieval recipe sources I used.  The manuscript is held at Rakow Research Library which is part of The Corning Museum of Glass.   The entire manuscript can be downloaded from their website here.

This picture is provided by the courtesy of the Rakow Research Library, The Corning Museum of Glass.

This table of contents entry is toward the beginning of the parchment leaves.  The numbers were penned in red ink probably after at least most of the book was written. We'll see the red ink again later.

To me the latin content entry reads:
Indicum colorem facere.
Which can be translated as
To make an indigo color.
In the manuscript we find the page with the description of how to make the blue color.  Note the different colored inks used again.  This time perhaps to designate titles versus instruction.

This picture is also provided by the courtesy of the Rakow Research Library, The Corning Museum of Glass.

Mostly trusting and heavily relying on the Latin edition found on Corning's website here, on page 28 which can be accessed by typing in 32 of 70 pages in the downloadable pdf, the abbreviated latin probably reads as:
Indicum colorem facere.  Succum de ba(c)cis ebuli collige et diligenter sicca at solem de hoc quod remanserit fac pastillos cum parvo aceti et vini et utere 
According to a magazine I interlibrary loaned, Transactions of the American Philosophical Society held at Philidelphia for promoting useful knowledge, New Series Volume 64 part 4 written by Smith and Hawthorne in 1974 in the article "Mappae Clavicula, a little key to the world of Medieval Techniques", it can be translated as:
97. Making indigo pigment.  Collect the juice of dwarf elderberries and dry it thoroughly in the sun.  From what remains make pastilles with a little vinegar and wine, then use it.
I would have translated "Indicum color facere." as "make indigo color" but high school Latin class was a long time ago now. Perhaps the disagreement with what number of the recipe has to do with either different manuscript versions, mis-translation (probably by me, I'm pretty new at deciphering manuscripts) or the numbering being added either after the book was done by the original scribe or by a different scribe, perhaps even at a different time. I have not finished reading all of the resources on the internet about Mappae Clavicula; maybe I'll eventually find more theories about the differences but I wanted to share the great references provided by the Corning Museum of Glass and it's Rakow Research Library. Go check out that manuscript; it's great!

Sap Green 1 from Buckthorn berries, medieval paint recipes,

There are many medieval sources with recipes for Sap Green, the beautiful paint and pigment used to provide green in medieval miniatures and to dye skins green among other things.

My first Experiment to produce green with Buckthorn was one from Mary Merrifield's Original Treatises, a 15th century recipe from Bolognese MS De Fiendis Veridibus (Merrifield 426)

I picked the berries in August in Westbrook, Maine.  Here's that first recipe:
Mary Merrifield's Original Treatises pg. 426
As the recipe suggests the day after picking the berries I combined about fifty grams each of ripe berries and Hannaford white vinegar of 5% acidity in a glazed sauce pan and heated it at gas mark two on the simmer burner of my stove.  At two minutes I noted that it was steaming, at four forming bubbles.  Five minutes in it was spattering so I turned it down to low and simmered until the weight of the mixture had reduced by about half which took about thirty-five minutes.  I poured it all into a square of washed clean linen secured over a canning funnel over a glass jar then squeezed as much liquid as I could into the jar.  The liquid looked dark purple.  Several days later I painted it out.

The alum water I used in the following paints is pure alum, Aluminum Sulfate, Al2(SO4)3, and distilled water in a 1:10 ratio.  This should make an acidic solution.

"A" consisted of a drop of the buckthorn and white vinegar juice as well as Winsor Newton Gum Arabic.  It painted out blue then turned green the next day.
"B" a drop of the vinegar-buckthorn berry juice, one drop of the gum water and a drop of alum water.  It painted out green immediately.

A on the left, B on the right.  Still wet B is already green.

"C" is the same as A in a clam shell, it painted out red purple-y and turned green by the next day.

"D" is C, juice and gum in a clam shell, with a drop of the same 1:10 alum water in B and like B it painted out green and stayed green.

Ultimately there will be an updated picture of after all of them turned green and one of my notes too!

And more experiments:
Experiment 2

Lord Deormund Wulfscyld's Sagittarius scroll creation

 Lord Deormund Wulfscyld - Order of the Sagittarius AS L

Words: Lady Adrienne and Lord Alexandre
Gouache and Gold Illumination: Lady Adrienne d'Evreus
Calligraphy and white work: Lord Alexandre Saint Pierre

Sunday, March 13, 2016

Sap Green and yellow from Buckthorn berries

Several important books talk about Sap Green, a medieval and renaissance pigment used in Book illumination among other things.  This year I had a mission to make some of this paint using the techniques and methods medieval paint makers may have utilized.

First I made note of all the different recipes for sap green and then had to find the materials these paint makers talk about.  

In De Arte Illuminandi, an anonymous 14th century treatise, translated from the Latin by Daniel Varney Thompson, Jr. and George Heard Hamilton in 1933, the author talks about several greens including buckthorn berries. (Thompson and Hamilton, pg 6-7)  

Buckthorn Berries are further described by the translators in their note "For the identification of these prugnameroli as buckthorn berries (Buckthorn = It. spincervino, spino gerbino), fruits of the varieties of buckthorn, Rhamnus, see Cennino ed. cit., II, p 32, n 1. (Thompson and Hamilton p 43). 

Further reading of this note explains the etymology of Sap Green which has nothing to do with the juice or sap from the plant and berries but how it may have been stored. 
"the color known in English as 'Sap Green,' the Italian verde di vescica (so called because the inspissated juice was preserved in bladders), the Saffgrien of Valentine Boltz, who specifies ed. cit., pg 75" the time of year "therefore, in Alsace, the color came out yellow if the berries were gathered in August, and green if they were gathered about the middle of September, we may probably assume that the quality of green yielded by these Rhamnus fruits was not entirely definite." De Arte Illuminandi pg. 29

So, Sap Green and yellow from the Buckthorn...

It took me what felt like forever to find Rhamnus spp. berries.  I searched the fields and ditches nearby, went to "Buckthorn Lane" in my local neighborhood in Saco, Maine; I found other trees with other fruits but no Buckthorn!  Finally someone said 'look for tall trees, usually somewhere wet' so I went back to my stomping grounds as a teenager in Wesbrook, Maine and found spindly trees in what used to be a protected wetland for turtles.  "This?!  Is this it?!" I begged my friends to confirm cell phone pictures of my find.  

The leaves look right from the plant books, the berries are dark and the bush was spindly and taller than I might have guessed, growing somewhere wet.  "Yes!", they chorused, "that looks right, try it!"

So I tried some of the recipes and will post them soon.  Sorry it's taken so long!

Iris for pigment References

These are the references I used during my iris experiments.  I tried to recreate medieval paint an pigment recipes using the iris from my garden.  Those experiments can be found here and the paint results with them here.

You may note that they call them 'blue lilies' with astonishing regularity.  This will make noticing other references easier.

 A 14th century anonymous treaty De Arte Illuminandi pg 6-7

"(Green) may be seen... in blue lilies, which are called iris, and yet are changed into a very pure green color by treatment.
The color is made from these lilies as follows.  Take these fresh flowers in the springtime when they are blooming and pound them in a marble or bronze mortar and squeeze the juice with a cloth into a glazed porringer.  And in this juice soak other linen cloths, clean and soaked, once or twice, in a solution of rock alum and dried.  And when the cloths are thoroughly saturated with the juice of the lilies in this way, let them dry in the shade, and keep them between the leaves of books; for a very lovely green, suitable on parchment is made out of this juice, made in this way by combining it with gallarino.  And note that after the cloths are dry, if they are again soaked in this juice and dried, they will be better." pg. 6-7

Daniel V. Thompson's  The Materials and Techniques of Medieval Painting

"The chief rival of sap green in late medieval manuscript pianting was iris green. This was made from the juice of iris flowers, sometimes mixed with alum and thickened, like sap green, but more often prepared as a clothlet. Bits of cloth were dipped into the juice of iris flowers and dried, again and again, until they contained a sufficient quantity of the color." pg. 171

Mary Merrifield's Medieval and Renaissance Treatises on the Arts of Painting 

"Lily or Iris green (verde giglio). --This pigment was sometimes prepared for use by dipping piece os linen (pezzette) into the juice and then preserving them dry." pg. ccxix

Mary Merrifield's Original Treatises pg. 422

Mary Merrifield's Original Treatises pg.504

Mary Merrifield's Original Treatises pg. 658 Paduan Manuscript De' Colori In General

Mary Merrifield pg 678  Paduan Manuscript Colori Diversi

Mary Merrifield pg 684 Paduan Manuscript Colori Diversi

And Mappae Clavicula has a recipe for blue from iris: 

Illustrating that there are iris all over the world, some of them in different habitats than wet ones, is a handout by the U.S.D.A. called Garden Irises.

Tuesday, March 8, 2016

Lady Brynhildr Ansvarsdottir's AoA

Assignment: Award of Arms for Brynhildr Arnsvarsdottr
Words: Mistress Aneleda Falconbridge
Calligraphy: Lord Alexandre Saint Pierre
Illumination: Lady Adrienne dEvreus

Scroll Story:

I received the proposed assignment for one of my fellow queen's guards from the EK signet.  The write-up was brief and the contact for more info was the king himself, Brennan Ri.
When I reached out to him he told me great tales of this fearsome, fearless yet gentle woman warrior who was his man-at-arms.

The weekend after speaking with him Alexandre and I went camping at Endewearde's Hunt.  I spoke of the assignment to the breath of fresh air and silver-tongued inspiration that is Aneleda Falconbridge, asking if she knew of Brynhildr.
"I know her well," said Aneleda, "She enjoys it when I sing to inspire her passion for battle and she has told me so."
At least it was something like that. ;)  I am not a bard!  I was excited that Aneleda had had contact with Brynhildr and asked if she would help me write the letters that would honor her with an Award of Arms.  Aneleda said yes!  She wrote these beautiful words for Alexandre Saint Pierre to pen:
In the Eastern land ruled great King called Brennan with his wife Queen Caoilfhionn  Brynhildr Ansvarsdottir was fostering there and was sent to guard the land's most precious treasure, the Queen. Brynhildr was called to the Crown Tournament in the holdings of the Hersir of Bergental. Because she had served with joy and abundance, she was given the right to bear arms, ____________________________________ and take the title Hefdharkona. It was the fiftieth year, on the seventh day of nóvember, after Gormánuður but before Ýlir. The King had his poet and scribe make word-gold for her to be read and seen that day.

The linden of the battle-wall 
lifted her slender hands
to join the Njords of swords.
Shield-bearer now arms-bearer
Silver-dressed goddess of the raven-field
You are worthy to hear an ode*
war-valiant one, wrought for you*
 King Brennan and Queen Caoilfhionn made their names on it.
*these two lines are from the saga of Hallfred Troublesome-Poet (trans. Diana Whaley)

While waiting for words I decided on inspiration.  I don't yet know the full meaning and significance of long ships in Viking art but they seem abundant and striking.    

This one is from an Anglo-Saxon Chronicle in a section about stars.  I had help figuring this out and more explanations about it from Michael Rupert and Sari Csollany who shared this blog on the Book of Faces.

In closing it was inspiring working for Brennan Ri more directly than usual and I am grateful for the contributions of all of the scribes and researchers who helped me pull this one together!  Special thanks to my wordsmith, Mistress Aneleda, just before her elevation, and to my beloved beau and calligrapher, Lord Alexandre.

Friday, February 26, 2016

medieval shell and other palettes

Inspired by my laurel, Isabel Chamberlaine, and medieval painters, I've been collecting shells to prepare paint in (to use like a palette) and with (as a calcium source).

This website has many links to resources about medieval painting and painters including palettes, brushes and grounds:


Real oyster shells found in excavations around London:


Shells as paint holders and palettes in medieval illuminations:

De mulieribus claris (BNF Fr. 598), beginning of the 15th century

Possible painting from oyster shell: 1420, St. Luke

St. Luke 1425-30
detail of that page: http://corsair.morganlibrary.org/icaimages/4/m453.014va.jpg

Giovanni Colonna, Mare historiarum, ouest de la France 15th century
Discussion about that page: http://expositions.bnf.fr/fouquet/pedago/dossiers/62/3/index.htm
Hopefully I will be able to read it some day! :)

1450-1460 St. Luke

1470-80 St. Luke, possible shells?

The wise man and the fool in a book of love poetry

Brush tray

Using pen knife to hold parchment 1480-1490 St. Luke

Cutting the pen:
1500 Portrait of a young artist

Hand held wooden (?) palettes

De mulieribus claris (BNF Fr. 598), beginning of the 15th century

1420 St. Luke

1450-1460 St. Luke

c. 1460 St. Luke hand held palette and easel

2nd half 15th c.

Mercury's children


1490-1500 Zeuxis

1495 St.Luke

15-16th century Timarete

1500 St. Luke

1505 Niklaß Kerner

c. 1500-1525 St. Luke in a book of hours (MMW 10 E 3, fol. 19v),

1510 St. Luke

The Miracle of St. Francis of Paola, 16th century

St. Luke by Niklaus Manuel

1520 St. Luke

1524. St. Luke in a book of hours (MMW 10 F 33, fol. 15v) by Jehan de Luc

1532 St. Luke

1530-60 St. Luke

1548 Self-portrait of Caterina van Hemessen

c. 1556 Self-portrait of Sofonisba Anguissola

1558 Self-portrait of Anthonis Mor

after 1565 St. Luke painting the Virgin.

c. 1575-1609 A young painter seen from behind by Annibale Caracci

16th century http://www.photo.rmn.fr/archive/12-505617-2C6NU0WKA1MQ.html

1580s by Annibale Caracci

1584 Otto Venius painting, surrounded by his family

1590 by Jacob Willemsz Delff

16th century self portrait Cornelis Cornelisz van Haarlem

16th century

16th century, a young man seated with his palette

1602 Marten Vos, St Luke painting the virgin

1603? Portrait of the Artist's Son Jorge Manuel Theotokopoulos by El Greco

Sunday, January 31, 2016

Fine Cakes

I have made these little gems for years!  They make good gifts for friends, visiting royalty and relatives alike.

Medieval Recipe from The Widowes Treasury by John Partridge, 1585 and redacted by
Cindy M. Renfrow, author of Take a Thousand Eggs or More and A Sip Through Time as found here

To make fine Cakes. Take a quantity of fine wheate Flower, and put it in an earthen pot. Stop it close and set it in an Oven, and bake it as long as you would a Pasty of Venison, and when it is baked it will be full of clods. Then searce your flower through a fine sercer. Then take clouted Creame or sweet butter, but Creame is best: then take sugar, cloves, Mace, saffron and yolks of eggs, so much as wil seeme to season your flower. Then put these things into the Creame, temper all together. Then put thereto your flower. So make your cakes. The paste will be very short; therefore make them very little. Lay paper under them.

Baked flour: Take some flour (4 cups, unsifted, made enough) and bake, covered, at 350F for about 1hr 15min, until slight color change and a nutty smell.

To every 3 cups of sifted baked flour, take the following:
1 1/2 cups butter
1 cup sugar
1/4 teaspoon clove powder
1/4 teaspoon mace powder
1/2 pinch saffron, crumbled
3 egg yolks

Preheat oven to 350 F.
In a large mixing bowl, cream the butter and sugar. Add the spices and egg yolks, and beat to mix thoroughly. Add the flour, and beat until smooth. Use a non-stick cookie sheet, or line a cookie sheet with baking parchment. Take the dough, 1 level teaspoonful at a time, and roll into small balls with your hands. (Resist the temptation to make them larger -- they won't cook in the middle if they're too big.) Flatten the balls slightly, and place them 2 inches apart on the cookie sheet. Bake for 9-12 minutes, or until the cookies are puffed and golden around the edges. Remove from oven and cool on wire racks.

Urchins recipe


Quick little queen of the East

Known in song as the quick little queen of the east, Alexandre Saint Pierre and I wrote these words for Duchess Anna's scroll:

An Eastern Tiger in Truth

All hear tell of Anna Ophelia
Halloway Tarragon.
Mother, duchess, equestrian.
She is a shining beacon,
a paragon of virtue,
an example for us all
in either peace or war.
Thus we, Brennan & Coailfhionn
swiftly name her a Tyger of the East
on this xxx of January, a.s. l.

Which were quickly and deftly translated into Latin by Steffan ap Kennydd

Tigris Orientalis Vero

Omnes cognoscant Annam Opheliam Holloviam Tarragon.
Matrem, ducissam, caballariam.
Haec est ignis nitidus, specimen virtutis
Exemplar pro nobis omnibus
Et in pace et in bello
Itaque Nos Brennan et Caolfhionn
Eam dicimus velociter
Tigrem Orientis
Hoc die XXX [tricesimo] Januaris anno Societatis L [quinquagesimo].