And then came another high merit request. Who even am I?! This one was a Maunche request for my apprentice cousin Gaius Claudius Valerianus. With a Roman persona, I didn’t want to do just any scroll. Thus began the “what if” questions. What if I did a mosaic? What if I painted it? What would that look like? I knew it had been done. His Laurel, Honig, had done a beautiful one for Duchess Caoilfhionn.
Okay, I thought, game on. And then I began to look. There are a plethora of sources of mosaics. But I kept rolling back to this one from a the Constantinian Villa which was uncovered in the 1930s. It’s cited as an image of Dionysus.
I wanted to personalize it, so rather than use Dionysus’ head, I roughed in Gaius’ head complete with his Baronial coronet and his Thunder wheel.
I reached out to Aelia Fortunata for good Latin text, and was so pleased with her quick turn around, and making it perfect.
Then came the process. My Laurel, Camille, came up for an afternoon while we figured out the best way to paint mosaic tiles. We knew, without a doubt, it was going to be lay the base coat down, and then the “grout” in after. We just weren’t sure how to best lay the grout down. After a few hours, we came to the conclusion there was no shortcut. I would need to paint each square individually, otherwise they would be too uniform and not have the correct look. I would need to figure out the base size of square by working with the waves first, because they appeared to have a “two-square” height, and then I could build the rest of the mosaic after that. There would be a lot of squares.
I began by figuring out the best way to do the calligraphy. After discussion with Edmund, I decided a full banner around the illumination would look the best, and roughed it out. After the calligraphy was in place, there was just enough room for Their Majesties to sign in line with the rest of the text, making it look complete.
The illumination area was an 8x8in block. I added in the base colors, not worried too much about a full mix of my custom palette. I knew that it would just create the depth of stone. Once the base colors were in and I was happy, the little squares began. So. Many. Little. Squares. For the two weeks leading up to Great Northeastern War, I spent most of my evenings painting little squares. I used the exemplar as a guide, to figure out the best way to divide the sections up. All said and done, there were probably over 16,000 tiny squares.
All in all, this was a scroll of perseverance. In the last few hours, I was looking for pretty much any way to finish it without completing the squares. I talked it out with Master Alexandre, my scribal uncle, and finally settled in for the last few hours to finish them out. There were about a dozen ways I could have gone to make the squares, but I wouldn’t have been happy. It wouldn’t have looked right. I had thrown down the gauntlet when I started the scroll, and I would be damned if I didn’t complete my initial vision.
What I wasn’t prepared for, was the emotional release which happened when this scroll went out. Camille and Countess Meggie tucked me in near the stage so I could watch Gaius’ reaction. I could hear the crowd. I could see his eyes light up. And then there were tears. My tears. I am eternally thankful Camille was standing right there, because I felt overwhelmed that this work I had given in to was loved. I was terrified leading up to the weekend that it would not be well received. And I was so wrong. Emotions are a real thing, and crying over art is a very real thing. I just hadn’t done it before. So hey, that’s new!
But I loved doing this piece, and if I could change anything about it…I’m not sure I would. This was intense. It was made with love. And I am proud of it.
Paper: 16x16in Bristol – Vellum Finish
Ink: Ian the Green Oak Gall Ink, Calli Red
Paint: Holbein Gouache, Winsor & Newton Gold Gouache
Words: Aelia Fortunata
Calligraphy & Illumination: Baroness Audrye Beneyt
The progress photos can be found in the slideshow below: