Between the Medieval and The Modern

February 24, 2013

Pinterest and New Research

Filed under: Uncategorized — Frau Magda @ 11:41 am
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When I first started doing Landsknecht research in 2008 and 2009 I would right-click and save any image that caught my eye.  I started with the English language Landsknecht web sites, mostly on the excellent Saint Maximillian web site and exploring the archives for the German Renaissance Costume Yahoo group and going down the rabbit hole clicking links on Wikipedia

But after reading rather widely on the Internet, it started to sink in that Cranach was working in Saxony painting the court ladies, so all those lovely gowns were probably inappropriate for a camp frau from Bavaria.  And someone wrote a blog post about how Urs Graf was not only Swiss (and thus sketching Reislaufer and not Landsknecht) but that he was often satirizing the outrageous styles of the time (I’ve tried to track down the blog post, but alas, I can’t remember where I read it).  So it didn’t take me long to realize that who the artist was and where they were from might be important information to know when examining period images.  And I made the connection that hey, our unit has picked a specific time and a place (1528 Bavaria) and these images I was saving?  Probably there were some that were appropriate to our unit and plenty that were not, as styles of dress varied widely across the region.

That’s when the research started to get real.  I wanted to be able to say for sure if the thing I was documenting was appropriate for our place and time.  So I spent the better part of the winter of 2009-2010 going back and revisiting those sites, trying to track down more information about all those random images.  I started recording the date, artist, and title in the file name when I saved images.  And if I didn’t know that information, I filed the image in a different folder on my hard drive.  And didn’t share it with my peers.  It was still useful, but not as useful as a fully documented image that I could trace back to a particular date and artist.

There’s also the added twist when you’re playing in 16th century Germany of religion, because we’ve got the protestant Reformation going on.  And that impacts how artists from various regions depict religious figures.  And while portraiture is on the rise, there is still a vast body of religious artwork being produced.  And it’s important to keep the religious leanings of the artist in mind when looking at images with a religious or moral theme.  Some are the equivalent of today’s political cartoons, where the artist is using exaggeration to make their point.  So it’s often useful to know if the artist is from the North (and probably Lutheran) or from the Catholic southern regions (Bavaria is still Catholic).  And keep in mind the religious affiliation of your unit and your persona.  Wikipedia has been a godsend for tracking down more background information when I only have a name for an artist.

Three weeks ago I went to ReenactorFest 9 (OK, technically the name of the event has changed to Military History Fest, but I’m a creature of habit, and it’s still ReenactorFest to me.)  One of the panels I attended was Historical Research in the Modern Age given by Antina Richards-Pennock.  She talked a lot about Pinterest.  Now I’ve been holding off joining Pinterest for months now, because I know how easy it is for me to get lost looking at pretty pictures on the Internet.  But when one of my costuming friends shared the news last Tuesday that they’d created a board for leopard prints in 18th century clothing, I broke down and created an account to follow her.

Of course, my very first search term was “Landsknecht.”  Since I had a bunch of other things to do that night, I didn’t allow myself more than 10 – 15 minutes to poke around.  But it didn’t take me long to find one of my own photos, pinned on someone else’s board.   Then I found a pattern that looked suspiciously familiar.  I clicked it to take a closer look, and yes, it was the hemd pattern layout that one of our members had shared last year.  So now I knew that “Ilsa” was on Pinterest.  I also found a ton of pictures of Landsknecht reenactors, both good and bad.  After spending so much time looking at period source images, I’ve picked up more about costuming than I’d realized.

I also learned a new Google Images trick from that research panel. I’d heard that you could use Google Images to search for matches to an existing image, but I was fuzzy on the details of how to do it.  She demonstrated how you can drag an image off your hard drive and into the search box.  Cool!  I know this is going to be useful in trying to track down those mystery images where I don’t yet know artist and date and title.  Although I’ve already tried with one of two that I’m most desperate to track down provenance for, and so far all I’ve found is various blogs reposting the same images.  Eventually I will track them back to their museum origins.

Which brings me back to Pinterest.  I’ve started creating boards (You can find me at  but I’m going to try to go slowly at adding new images.  My goal is to only pin or re-pin material where I know the date and artist of the image, and if possible the title of the work.  And hopefuly the museum that holds the piece.  Because, depending on the museum, that may link you to a high resolution image where you can zoom in to see details.  But it’s going to be hard to restrain myself, as there are so many wonderful images already pinned!  And tracking down sources can be difficult and time consuming.

But I’ll take the time, because it’s not good research material if you don’t know where it came from. 


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