Between the Medieval and The Modern

August 8, 2017

CoBloWriMo Day 6 – Book Recommendation

Filed under: Uncategorized — Frau Magda @ 10:26 pm
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Since I’m a bit behind on my CoBloWriMo blogging, I’m going to cheat just a little bit on this entry and recommend a book that I have already written about here. (Go read that post, then come back here and read the rest of this one.)

The book is The Devil’s Cloth: A History of Stripes. I read it back in 2010, but I still think about it often, because it keeps having relevance to me when I research Landsknecht clothing and look at medieval and renaissance art.
According to Michel Pastoureau’s The Devil’s Cloth: A History of Stripes, “In Germanic customary law of the early Middle Ages…such attire is imposed on or reserved for bastards, serfs, and the condemned.” Sometimes the hangman or executioner was required to wear an entirely striped set of clothes. In Biblical paintings, sometimes striped clothes are used to indicate the traitor in the Scriptures (Cain, Delilah, Judas, etc.). Sumptuary laws of the time required striped clothing for certain classes of reprobates and outcasts: prostitutes, jugglers, clowns, lepers, cripples, heretics, Jews and other non-Christians.

So now when I look at striped clothing in 16th century art, I’m now asking myself, how am I supposed to interpret this person? Are they a Lutheran (a heretic)? Are they an executioner? Are they someone who wants others to see them as someone outside of the social order?


When I look at images of Cranach’s martyrdom of Saint Catherine I now see the significance of her executioner not only being a Landsknecht, but wearing stripes.

And when I was at The Cloisters and saw the Unicorn Tapestries for the first time, I was squeeing to myself when I saw which members of the hunting party were wearing stripes. It’s important! Having read this book, I’m now better able to understand the subliminal message that these artists are including in their work via their choice to put these men in stripes.


December 29, 2010

On History

Filed under: Uncategorized — Frau Magda @ 9:06 pm
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Quote of the Day

“History isn’t dead. New facts are constantly being uncovered and published.”

From the fascinating comments thread for this post [Warning! NSFW!] over on Trashy Books, Smart Bitches.  The discussion contains some, um, rather frank discussion of period terms for lady bits and manly bits.  But also some fascinating insights into how authors research and write historical romances, and what readers look for in their historicals.

Oh, and did you know that there is a Historical Novel Society?

 *waits patiently for Christmas cheque from mum to arrive*

December 27, 2010

The Devil’s Stripes

Filed under: Uncategorized — Frau Magda @ 9:44 am
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I got a bee in my bonnet this week, and started drafting some costume guidelines for the Guild.  And as I sorted through the rather extensive collection of woodcuts and portraits on my hard drive, I noticed how very many of them contained stripes

I can’t remember when I added The Devil’s Cloth: a History of Stripes to my Amazon wish list, but I suddenly had the overwhelming urge to read it.  I toddled off to the local Barnes and Nobles, intending to order it.  But what to my wondering eyes should appear, but the in-house book search showed that it was in stock and on the shelf!  In the social sciences section, of all places.  Clutching the book to my breast, I did an internal little dance of glee as I scurried off to the checkout.

It’s a slim volume.  And quite scholastic.  It reads much like the sorts of academic articles I had to slog through back when I was in graduate school. Luckily it isn’t a very long book, a mere 90 pages, not counting the 30 pages of bibliography and footnotes.  But despite the dry academic tone, right from the beginning I knew that he was going to have something useful to say to me.  (more…)

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