Saturday, February 20, 2016

Recreating the past - from the sublime to the ridiculous

When my husband and I decided to re-create this famous portrait of 15th century composers Guillaume Dufay and Gilles Binchois, little did we know just how carried away we were going to get.

Simple, I thought. Just put on a bathrobe or something, strike a pose, and there you go. After all, we had the requisite instruments: my portative organ, Tim's harp. And the picture, which is a miniature in a French manuscript, is not very detailed.

But one thing led to another, and another, and... pretty soon we had cleared our living room, experimented with camera and tripod angles, drafted a friend (Linda Wendt) to take the actual photograph, and gathered the components of our costumes, which included a long dress, a SCA tunic, a beanie, and a hand towel.

The conversation went something like this:

Linda: I don't think Dufay would be wearing earrings.
Me: Oh, right. (off go the earrings) Is my scarf all right?
Linda: Tuck in your hair. There you go - that's better.
Tim: How about my towel?
Linda: Yep, looks just like Binchois's towel.
Tim: Maybe he had just gotten out of the shower.
Me: Maybe so. I'll have to stand behind the organ or it won't all fit in the picture.
 Tim: My harp is about twice the size of Binchois's.
Me: Why is Dufay pointing at Binchois's kneecap, do you think?
Linda: I don't know, but you do realize those two guys are supposed to be the same height, don't you?
Me: Well, our version of Dufay is 5'1" and our Binchois is 6'3". There's not much we can do about that.
[At this point, Binchois starts mugging and doing "Live long and prosper" with his right hand, and Dufay cracks up. Considerable session time is lost before Dufay can once again keep a straight face. At last Linda snaps the picture.]
Linda: Got it. What do you think? The picture in the camera is too little, and I can't see it.

Tim: Let me look. I've got my glasses on. Oops - that means Binchois was wearing glasses. Oh, well.

But getting the picture was only half the battle, if that. Next came Tim's painstaking (read: obsessive) computer work to come ever closer to the original. First he blanked out the bookcase and assorted other stuff in the background. Then he got the brilliant idea of pasting in the original background, with the composers' names in calligraphy.

By this time I was hearing maniacal chuckling from the next room, as he went on to discover the joys of replacing our boring blue carpet with the mottled grassy surface Binchois and Dufay were standing on. Outlines had to be cleaned up, details tweaked, and slowly, slowly our masterpiece came into focus.

And so I present the results to you, dear readers, as an instructive example of either (1) meticulous attention to detail in an act of homage, or (2) relentless persistence in the pursuit of total silliness on the part of three alleged adults, depending on your point of view. Enjoy!

This is what we usually look like.