Friday, July 29, 2011

Sixteenth Century Quote of the Week

"Un homme ne peut bien écrire,
S'il n'est quelque peu bon lisart."

A man cannot write well
Unless he's somewhat of a bookworm.

Clément Marot (1496-1542), French poet and royal secretary
Epistre du coq-à-l'asne (1531)

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

New Historical Fiction Online Magazine

Historical Fiction Daily is a new historical fiction magazine that aggregates articles and links of interest for writers and readers of the genre. It is moderated by Richard Lee, founder of the Historical Novel Society. If the first issue is any indication, it's going to be a wonderful daily read!

Saturday, July 16, 2011

And It Keeps on Ticking

Stumbled across an utterly fascinating story of a sixteenth-century wooden automaton of a monk on permanent display at the Smithsonian Institution. Watch the monk walk and kiss his rosary in this video, then read the article by Elizabeth King about the machine's genesis and attribution. "Monkbot" appears to have been built in 1560 by Juanelo Turriano, Emperor Charles V's mechanician. Representing Fray Diego de Alcala, a fifteenth century monk whose cause for sainthood was being promoted at the time, the automaton was commissioned by Charles's son, King Philip II, in thanksgiving for the miraculous healing of his own son Don Carlos from a near fatal head wound. It's amazing to watch the six hundred year old figure move and to read King's account of her attempts to determine its origins. Thanks to the Radiolab blog for running a recent post about this "Clockwork Miracle."

Friday, July 15, 2011

Sixteenth Century Quote of the Week

"I set to work to learn dancing and went twice to the school. There I had to pay the master a ducat. Nobody could make me go there again. I would have to pay out all that I have earned, and at the end I still wouldn't know how to dance!"

Albrecht Dürer (1471-1528), German painter
Letter to Willibald Pirckheimer, 1506

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Biography of the Biographer

Giorgio Vasari (1511-74) is best known for writing Lives of the Most Eminent Painters, Sculptors and Architects, a collection of biographical sketches of contemporary artists that is filled with amusing anecdotes about famous Renaissance creators, many of whom he knew personally. Vasari was, however, a painter and architect in his own right who served as court artist to Cosimo I de' Medici. One of Vasari's grandest projects was designing the Uffizi, a building constructed to house Florence's administrative offices and guild headquarters under one roof. The Uffizi now serves as one of Florence's finest art galleries, displaying works by many of the artists Vasari wrote about. In order to commemorate the 500th anniversary of Vasari's birth, the Uffizi is hosting a special exhibition now through October. Vasari, Gli Uffizi e Il Duca highlights Vasari's collaboration with Duke Cosimo in transforming Florence into a modern capital. The Financial Times just ran an interesting article about the exhibition and Vasari's accomplishments. I myself have a special debt to Vasari, for his essay on Rosso Fiorentino sparked several ideas for the novel I am presently working on.