Wednesday, 28 October 2015

The Archers V sign (First visual evidence of use).

Much has been said about the Archers of Agincourt showing the two fingers as a sign of defiance against the French nobility. 

The mythical tradition originated from a document by Burgundian chronicler Jean de Wavrin were he states, 

“…And further he told them and explained how the French were boasting that they would cut off three fingers of the right hand of all the archers that should be taken prisoners to the end that neither man nor horse should ever again be killed with their arrows. Such exhortations and many others, which cannot all be written, the King of England addressed to his men”.. 

The quote was then used in the 20th century as a reference to the archers two finger demonstration of their ability to draw their bows. This then supposedly developed into the modern insult that is used today, Unfortunately no contemporary record has ever been found for this usage of the two finger gesture. The closest possible image is  from the 15/16th c. Swiss "Chronicle of Diebold Schilling", which shows an archer with two fingers raised at a besieged castle. 

However, I do know that the paintings in Schillings chronicles show many representations of figures using expressive hand gestures some using two fingers (Not all are military).  I would like to think that this image is showing an archer giving the V sign but it could equably be an expressive directional sign the same as the one below it. 

Civilians  with expressive hand gestures using two fingers, Schillings chronicles. 

Many will say that the sign developed in the Second World War whilst others state that there is no reference to the sign being used by the archers before the 1970's. 

However, the first solid evidence of the rude V-sign dates from 1901, (see above) when the Edwardian film-makers Mitchell and Kenyon were filming workers outside Parkgate ironworks in Rotherham. An unhappy looking young man can be seen making the gesture aggressively to the cameraman. (59 seconds into the film).  Prior to this film no other record can be found that directly associates the sign with a show of defiance. 

Of course during the medieval period the recording of something that was a lower class form of defiance against the upper class might not have been seen as a wise thing to do. So, with this in mind, we must ask ourselves where did the surly young man in the film learn this sign from? and how long had it been in use before the film was made?

As an afterthought Whilst I was doing the Online Agincourt course run by Leicester university, members were asked to find anyone with the same surname in the 1415 Rolls. There were 16 Walkers (the majority being called William). All were Archers. Two were commanded by Humphrey Duke of Gloucester. four by Edward Duke of York. one by Thomas Beaumont. One by Robert Lord Willoughby who was part of the Standing force in France. one by Robert Chalons. One by Robert Laurence. One by John Harrington and One by John Tiptof who commanded the Standing force in Acquitaine from 1415 to 1417. The other four Walkers have missing captains. I've not found that any come from my neck of the woods but then Walker is a common name.

You can see the 1901 film in full by clicking on the link below

Wednesday, 30 September 2015

Richard III Battle of Bosworth painting

For some years I have considered the composition of this painting and after a period of ill health finally came to the conclusion that what was needed was more troops.

The painting is set at the point when Richard decides to charge so it represents the very beginning of the manoeuvre. (Many other artists have depicted Richard III at the point of full charge and at the point of contact with Henry's standard bearer, so I felt that to gain something from the painting I would have to depict a short period earlier in the battle, this I felt would be more suitable for me rather than slavishly copying an already well documented depiction) 

The pencil sketch
The painting before changes
In my painting Richard III has not yet rode ahead of his fellow horsemen but has only just given the command to make the move. As you can see he is only just about to raise his lance in preparation for it to be couched beneath his armpit. Whilst his men slowly canter forward  Richards horse rears up in anticipation of the following charge, Richard looks down as he brings the destrier and his lance into control and the fateful event begins.

I also wanted in some way to show that Richards stature was slight and small as the documentary and archiological evidence has shown. He may have appeared small next to some of the 800 cavalry that charged with him and I wanted to show that besides this vunerability he still fought valiantly. 

Other figures who died in the charge deserve as much recognition and in my research I have considered those who were closest to Richard in the charge such as his banner-bearer Sir Percival Thirlwall, who can be seen dirctly behind Richard  and Sir William Catesby who appears to the Right of Richard. Also others such as Sir Ralph Ashton, Sir Thomas Broughton and Sir John Neville to name a few.
The painting in full

The addition of troops and artillery in the distance gave a sense of scale plus made the interpretation more accurate as archaeological studies have found many canon balls on the battlefield.
Richards artillery fire over the advancing infantry Note the impression of detail in the distant troops. This is all an illusion as will be explained further on. 

To give a sense of middle-ground a group of infantry was added to the left side. This group are descending a hill which is shown by the rise in front of them,
The advancing infantry seen behind Richards cavalry

In addition to the Artillery and infantry I felt that Richards Horsemen needed to have more participants. The original version just showed Richards closest knights but I felt that the painting should show that a full cavalry charge was about to take place. Fortunately the simple addition of mounted men to the middle distance on the right side of the picture gave the impression that a large number of cavalry were about to follow into the scene.

Richards cavalry advance into the scene from the far right. Again these knights are impressionistic so as not to overpower the painting with too much detail.

One of the pleasures of painting is the understanding of how the mind fills in the details when in reality only a small amount of information is given. This is how the Impressionist artists worked and it can be almost magical when you have the confidence to use it. I sometimes have to take a second look myself as I see details appear that I know I haven't painted. A good example are the mounted men at arms that are on the furthest right of the painting. There is, however a good reason for working in this way. 

The eye See's detail in the main area that it is looking, all around it is blurred to a degree, the brain fills in the details as they are needed. When painting a picture with lots of movement and characters the composition can become overwhelming if all is painted with detail, thus it is necessary to give less important areas of the picture less detail. In this way the artist can lead the viewers eye to the main key features. 
The impressionistic knights on the right side of the painting.

This set of knights consist of various shapes that are blue grey in colour. It may surprise you that I literally splodges the paint down left and right until I saw something that looked like armour. I then blobbed some round shapes along the top followed by a few bobs of flesh tone. Finaly in my minds eye I saw areas where light and shade might be and used a dark blue and white to add little spots and stripes across the scene.
The Infantry also use this method of painting with the addition of vertical lines for weapons

Troops in the middle distance showing simple impressionistic style.

The distant troops consist of smaller splodges of greys and blues with additions of reds that have been mixed with the greys. Flags and banners also use muted colours but small flecks of brighter colour is added to make them stand out.  

Distant troops

In addition to the extra troops Various details were added to the armour and grass on the painting, with some tweaking of edges and lines

 Richard III positions His Lance and prepares to advance his cavalry down the hill

All the work done at this time was with just two brushes. I use Nylon brushes which I find hold their shape very well. the two brushes are A. a number 2 pointed brush and B. a Rake brush which is used for painting fur or grass.
The Rake was used to add depth to the foreground grass by adding dark and light strokes of greens yellows and blues.

Other Details added are the clumps of grass and earth that is kicked up by the horses
Clumps of grass

Reflections in the shining armour are very important to give the sense of metal. This can be quite daunting to a beginner but as long as you follow a few simple rules then it can be quite fun to do. 

Firstly you must forget about the lines and details around the armour ,(this will be painted after). Mix your sky, grass and tree colours that you have used on the painting. also add some white so that you have enough to use.  

Now choose the area you are going to paint on, lets say the helmet below. Take the blue sky colour and paint around the top of the helmet blending with white as you come down to about half way.This shows the sky reflecting on the top of the helmet. let it dry and then mix some dark green, draw a rough line across the middle of the helmet with this green paint and then blend a paler grass green as you move down. This shows the reflection of the trees and grass. If you were painting a breastplate this colour would then blend down into whatever colour is below the figure. In this helmets case the lower edges flare outwards and as such they show the blue of the sky again.

Remember we haven't added any details yet but now when the paint is dry we can get a fine brush and add dark lines for shadows and white lines where the light catches the edges of the metal. 

Take a look at some of the pictures here and you will see the method being used. Blue sky fading into white on top, dark green line across the middle which fades into grass green.

The other reflections are more complex but just rely on the colours that are opposite the metal. A small horse and rider is seen in the horse armour below but the blue green method is still followed behind it.

 Note the reflections in the armour

Reflections of the banner can be seen in the helmets

The Blue, Green reflections can be seen across these breastplates and helmets. Its a simple effect but still gives a sense of shiny metal. Note the effect is used on all the armour pieces in the same way.

The painting Framed up and on a wall.

To see my painting of Richard III at the Marsh click link below

Monday, 15 June 2015

Visually Reconstructing effigies.

Effigies are often a great source of detail were armour is concerned. Unfortunately not all are in pristine condition and some are almost just fragments.

In this article I will talk about two effigies that I illustrated in my book in 2012. Both are painted in such a way as to reconstruct them to their original state. Short histories of both characters can be found at the bottom of the page.

Sir Roger Hilary 1399

The effigy of Sir Roger Hilary 1399 in St Mathews church Walsall, West Midlands has always fascinated me. Partly because it is so damaged but also due to some very unusual features.

Sir Roger Hilary 1399 Lines used to aid detail positioning. 

A Victorian Drawing and engraving was made of this effigy which shows a belt with a bag and dagger. (Now almost eroded away) See link below. then click back button to return

A short History of Sir Roger can be found on the link at the bottom of this page, Sir Roger's effigy is, to say the least poorly. Its life has seen it dumped outside the church, cut up to fit into tight areas and used as a target by small schoolboys to through stones at. The armour is typical for the period  but almost worn away.

My first concern was to take as many photographs as possible with various lighting position to enhance what little detail was left. these photographs were then placed into photoshop where I proceeded to draw lines of possible detail and positioning of legs and head. When happy with the lines I then made drawings of the areas needed to be added such as greaves (leg armour) and Sabatons (Foot armour). Other effigies and paintings contemporary to Sir Roger's effigy were researched See Link below

The final painting was made in watercolour on board and shows the effigy as it may have been painted when new. The omission of the dagger was due to various accounts of its accuracy in the earlier Victorian drawing.
A reconstruction of Roger de Hilary 1399 from his effigy in St Matthew's Church, Walsall. West Midlands.
Roger de Hilary effigy Lines made to aid reconstruction. 1399 from his effigy in St Matthew's Church, Walsall. West Midlands.
The Reconstruction of Sir Roger Hilary

The details include.

The shield. 
Sir Roger holds a heater type shield in his left hand, crossed over his body as if protecting his chest. Fortunately this position has preserved the leather straps that are used to hold the shield. 

The rear of the shield 

The shape of the shield is triangular with a convex curve and on closer inspection there are traces of the original relief carving that show the coat of arms. (This carving is minimal and does not in any way give direct clues to the coat of arms born by Sir Roger).

At the rear of the shield are three straps and a handle. The first strap, which is long runs from the top left to the top right of the shield and was used to carry it when not in use. This strap is broken but can be seen running around the shoulders of Sir Roger.

There are two crossed straps that are used to hold the shield tightly next to the arm. This would have been imperative to keep the shield from moving unnecessarily when hit.
The handle takes the form of a shallow letter U. this could have been made from wood or it may be a thickly bound leather strap.

The Purse bag
A civilian purse bag that is evident suspended on a horizontal belt the dagger is no longer in existence but it was most probable that it would have been a ballock dagger. This form of purse was popular in civilian life and effigies such as the one in Stanford-on-Soar in Leicestershire display bags suspended in a similar manor.

The bag clearly has two suspending loops at either end with a gap in the centre where the belt can be seen. The bottom of the bag is pointed but it is not central, which leads me to believe a dagger hung behind. (This too was a popular method of wearing ones dagger in civilian life).
The use of civilian accessories on military effigies is not common, which makes this an interesting addition.

The belt that the bag hangs from is void of detail, it is possible that it had plaquarts but it is more likely to have been plain or tooled with floral patterns. Also of interest is a narrow sword belt. This form of narrow sword belt does not become popular until much later in the 15th century. 

The Legs
The armour on the legs take the form of a stud and splint design. the cuisses (thigh protection) are leather which is hardened by boiling. Metal studs are driven into the leather that are then fixed at the rear to thin strips or splints of metal. The greaves and sabatons (Lower leg and foot protection) take the form of plate metal. The rear of the legs are protected by maille leggings called chausses.

The helmet
The helmet is a typical bascinet from the period. The neck being protected by a maille aventail. Sir Roger's face dons a moustache as was the fashion.

Composite image of effigy and my  illustration

Earl Roger de Montgomerie d1094

The much dilapidated effigy of Earl Roger de Montgomerie d1094 is situated in Shrewsbury abbey and was made one hundred years after the Earls death. 

A short history of the Earl can be seen at the bottom of this 

Two key features intrigued me about this effigy, the shield design which is taken from that period and although similar to the Norman design that would have been familiar to Roger this shield is cut across the top and is coloured with the Earls coat-of-arms, (a newly burgeoning concept in the 12th century). Secondly and more obvious is the totally eroded head.

Research on the Earls coat of arms was made which decided the colours that would have been painted onto the effigy when new.

The head was reconstructed from effigies of a similar date, as were the feet. 
Sir Hugo Mauvoisin's effigy showing head and mail coif detail.

Reconstruction of the Earl's effigy painted when new.

It is interesting to note that the effigy shows a 13th c knight and that the Earl would have looked more in keeping with the knights depicted on the Bayeux tapestry.

My illustration of how the Earl may have actually looked in his period armour.

Details included are.

The maille coif 
The early padded coif protected the head and hair from the mail hood that was made of iron rings riveted together. This hood was also known as a coif and without the helmet still gave the head some protection from glancing blows and cuts. 
The method of producing mail was already ancient by the 11th century, and the ability to make complex shapes that fit the head would not have been difficult to the skilled armourers of the time.
 The process of making mail is fairly simple, but very labour intensive.   Wire must be obtained by pulling hot iron through a series of holes that reduce in size.   Eventually a long strip of wire is produced, which is then wound around a rod called the mandrel, thus making a spring. This is then cut along its centre, which makes individual rings. The heating and slow cooling of the rings softens the metal making it easy to bend, flatten and pierce.  

Each ring, or the joint ends are flattened and overlapped where a hole is punched through, this hole receives a rivet, which closes the link tight.  Linking each ring to create a chain begins the process of making mail, followed by adding links to each alternating ring. When the garment was complete, the mail was heated and quenched to harden the metal.
Creating such large amounts of mail employed whole villages on an industrial scale.

The maille of Earl Roger extends down to the shoulders and covers the head ears and neck. Around the head is a band that could be mistaken for a leather strap but in this case is more likely to be a circlet. (A badge of office that could be a simple gilt band, a coronet or even a crown depending on the status of the knight). 

Many mail coifs had leather-edging strips and a leather lace that held the hood onto the arming cap, in some cases, the mail had a flap that could be tied up from the chin to cover the mouth when in battle, the effigy of a 13th century knight in Dacre, Cumbria displays a band around the forehead. 

The mail coif was commonly used throughout the 12th, 13th and early 14th centuries, and remained in use much later by lower foot soldiers. Its primary use was to protect the neck and retain flexibility but with the development of the gorget and bevor, its use became outmoded.

Maille Hauberk

The  knee length 'Hauberk', as it is known at this period, is covered by a blue surcoat. The wrist of the sleeve extends to make a mitten and is slashed so that the hand could pass outside when not in combat.  A mail hood, which extends up from the main hauberk, protects the head and neck

Although mail was to be used for many years, its ability to protect became lessened with the changes in warfare throughout the 13th and 14th century. Probably the biggest factor in its demotion to secondary protection was the use of the lance in large numbers.  

Blue Surcoat
A development of the hauberk happens in the 12th century with the addition of a cloth covering known as a 'surcoat'. This simple garment is usually sleeveless and follows the same shape of the hauberk with splits at the front and rear to enable horse riding. The purpose of the surcoat ranges from weather protection (heat of the sun on crusade) to recognition in battle, and its defensive qualities should not be ignored. The coat was usually tight fitting across the chest and waist but would splay out below the waist to contain many folds, which suggests a large amount of material was used to produce it. This excess of material is in itself a statement of the Earls wealth.

In the Bayeux tapestry 1066-82, mail leggings or ‘Chausses’ are worn by some riders beneath their hauberk but the majority wear loose hose. Throughout the 12th century, mail chausses increase in popularity and by the end of the century manuscripts show chausses on almost all but the lowliest men at arms.  
Chausses were worn in the same manner as hose, that is to say, a tube of mail, shaped to fit each leg in the same manner as a stocking, which is tied to a belt worn at the waist.    A 12th century stone carving on Verona Cathedral shows a knight with just one leg covered in mail, the other is bare and shows his shoe.
From the mid 12th century the upper leg could be protected further by additional soft armour known as a ‘Gamboised cuisse’. This quilted legging was worn either under or over the chausses and looked like a pair of long padded shorts that terminated just below the knee.                     
Some manuscript from the period show chausses made from a strip of mail covering the front and sides of the leg only, these strips were tied with leather points at intervals down the rear of the leg.

Knee cop's
The earl has knee protection in the form of a rounded cup or 'Cop' which is used to reinforce the vulnerable joint of the leg.  Made from hardened leather, known as Cuir bouilli or beaten metal plates, many poleyns were highly decorated with foliate patterns.  

Details not seen on the effigy
Beneath the hauberk a padded tunic or Aketon (Taken from the Arabic ‘al-qutun’ meaning cotton) would have afforded some comfort, but was primarily a form of soft armour protecting the wearer from direct blows from a sword or axe. Without the aketon a firm strike could easily drive the mail links through a shirt and into soft flesh. The heavily padded aketon acted as a form of suspension absorbing the sword impact and forming a barrier between the skin and the mail. 

History of Sir Roger de Hilary 1399

History of Earl Roger de Montgomerie,_1st_Earl_of_Shrewsbury

Friday, 29 May 2015

The Armour of Sir Thomas Cheddar 1443.

Whilst on holiday in Somerset in 2009 I happened across the church at Cheddar. Most visitors to Cheddar are drawn to the gorge and its impressive caves but situated beyond this is the Parish Church, which is dedicated to St. Andrew. 

Within the church, on the left hand side of the chancel under a decorated canopy is the tomb of Sir Thomas de Chedder (d.1443), a wealthy Bristol merchant.   On the floor is the brass of his widow, Lady Isabel de Chedder (d.1476) dressed in wimple and widow’s weeds.  Unfortunately The inscriptions and shields on both brasses are missing.

Born in 1398 East Harptree, Somerset, England. Sir Thomas' daughter Joan married John Talbot, 1st Baron Lisle and 1st Viscount Lisle (1426-1453). 

Sir Thomas' brass depicts a typical knight of the early to mid 15th century. He is dressed in plate armour that completely covers his body, his head being protected by a Great bascinet that has a gorget that surrounds his neck.

Sir Thomas

The great bascinet with its gorget was developed from the 1420's onward, it was a direct result of the inefficiency of the earlier maille aventail to stop the armour piercing arrowhead known as the bodkin.The bodkin was narrow enough to pass through and split the maille rings which could cause severe damage to the neck and upper shoulders. Earlier gorgets simply fixed above the aventail via two rivets at the base of the bascinet, this design used the original helmet and maille but did not protect the sides or back of the neck. A separate gorget was needed that encircled the neck and versions of this style can be seen on effigies and brasses across the country, The design at this stage still incorporated the maille aventail, simply covering it up.

Read more about Henry V and the Damage done by Arrows here.
Sir Thomas' gorget is the final stage whereby the maille is discarded and the breastplate and arm protection is designed designed to fit beneath it.

Read more about the bascinet here 

 The arm protection involves a series of plates that envelope the top of the arm and shoulder, the top terminates at the gorget. The armpit is protected by a Besagew. This plate was popular in the previous century then went out of fashion only to return during this period.   

The cuirass consists of a breastplate and backplate with a fauld of eight lames that covered the hips, groin, buttocks and upper thighs. Front and rear would have been held together with a series of hinges down the left and buckled straps down the right.

See my SN markers illustration of a 1450's harness here.

The legs were protected by Cuisse, Poleyn and Greaves. The design being very similar to the previous century.

My own Great basinet armour.

The cuisse consisted of a large plate that protected the front of the thigh which was fixed via hinges to one or two further plates that ran around the side of the leg. The poleyn, which protected the knee was fixed to the cuisse via rivets and articulation lames. (In Sir Thomas' this is a single plate). Beneath the poleyn was a further articulation lame and a larger plate which rested on the greave,

The greave protected the leg and consisted of two plates, front and rear which joined via hinges on the outer face and buckled strap on the inner. In Sir Thomas' case the buckles are not shown which could be artistic licence but is more likely to be a stud and hole fixing method. 

Feet were protected by pointed Sabatons and Sir Thomas' have small plates that follow up underneath the ankle section of the greaves.

The sabatons would have been hinged at the heal to allow access. The spurs bend around the bottom of the greaves.

The Sword is slender and would have had a diamond cross sectioned blade, during this period slashing cuts were useless against armour which gave rise to that narrow blade which could be stabbed into joints or chinks in the armour.

See more of my illustrations here.

To see my costumes and armour click here.