Accepting the challenge

First came the blue thin wool that begged me to take it home from the Medieval market in Visby in August 2014. I had no idea what to do with it, I just knew that whatever I’d make from it would be lovely. Then came The Manuscript Challenge started by Maria of the blogs In deme jahre Christi and Historical textiles. Maria invited people to choose an image from a medieval manuscript or statue and recreate it, in whatever way they wanted. The challenge soon became ”a thing” and a large number of people took up the challenge and shared their progress and problems in two Facebook groups, one Swedish and one international.

When looking for images that allowed me to use my blue wool I came across some portraits of the 15th century writer Christine de Pizan in a manuscript of her writings now owned by the British Library (Harley MS 4431). I already knew a little about Christine de Pizan and found her a fascinating person. She was born in Venice in 1364, but spent most of her life in France where she died around 1430. Her father was a court physician and astrologist, first in Venice and then employed by the French king Charles V. Christine was well educated, and when she became a widow with three children at the age of 25 she became a writer to support her family. Some of her work was love ballads, but she also wrote on and participated in the debate on the role of women in society. She has been described by some as an early feminist.

The first image in the book shows Christine de Pizan presenting her writings to the Queen Isabel of Bavaria.

The first image in the book shows Christine de Pizan presenting her writings to the Queen Isabel of Bavaria.

In 1410 Christine presented a collection of her works to the French queen Isabel of Bavaria. The book included illuminations by an artist whose name is unknown, now called ”The Master of the City of Women”. The author herself is seen in several images. In most of them she is dressed in a blue dress with tippets (hanging sleeves) over a red dress, with an intriguing white head dress with two high peeks. I decided that recreating this dress would be an interesting challenge.

Links for further reading:
The Manuscript Challenge
Christine de Pizan (Wikipedia)
The digitalized manuscript of Harley MS 4431 (Book of the queen)

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