Sunday, 13 September 2009

Sun helmet orb.

I recently worked at the Hampton Court Tudor joust on the August Bank Holiday, 29-31, part of the display was to show not just jousting but how some of the more ephemeral items were made.

The image below is of a helmet orb.

The specification is as follows:

Turned hardwood ball
Gesso ground
Bole and gold leaf
Vermillion and lead tin yellow
Binding medium egg yolk.

This item was produced very quickly, as can be seen by the coarseness of the brush strokes up close.

The actual method is the interesting feature IMHO, that using sgraffito, this is the laying on of colour on gold or silver leaf using the egg yolk as the binder. When dry a sharp wooden stylus is used to scrape away the paint revealing the metal leaf underneath. In this case the theme of the joust was a contest between the Knight of the Sun (Henry VIII) and the Knight of the Moon (George Boleyn). The emblems used were suns for the king, in red and crescents for Boleyn, silver on black. With that in mind I reversed the idea, and used the gold as a highlight and the red as a background where the sun shone through.

You can see the rough hatching out on the upper part, what is also visible is evidence of an earlier attempt, the hatching that is underneath the red ground, luckily this method means you can redo such things.
Why not go to greater lengths in terms of detail? yes it is eminently possible, but given that this orb could have been used by the retinue of the knight of the moon and by implication produced in some quantity and the fact that such things are not observed close up so extra detail is a waste of time. Convenient use of a very few tones to achieve depth of colour was very common so an eye for boldness is needed.


Gaston de Clermont said...

Beautiful! I love the contrast in colors. I also adore the Burgundian banners in your slide show. Every piece of yours I've seen has a rich elegance and a depth of pigment I admire.

medievalpaint said...

Many thanks Gaston for your kind words.

I find it easier and cheaper to use the period materials from the get go, makes for some interesting research and results.