Why the hunt for the Holbein carpet

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A passing Holbein homage

My ideas and interests for this project circle around my fascination with history, art history and the history of costume.

Holbein Ambassadors

Holbein Ambassadors (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

As mentioned goodness knows when, the plan is to decorate certain areas in the model after the style in certain paintings.  At present the bee in the bonnet is about Holbein’s painting of “The Ambassadors”.  The idea is that the house is set some time in 1616, which would me the 2 gentleman in the painting are well deceased.  The gentleman on the left is Jean de Dinteville, 29 at the time dying in approx 1555, and the younger gent on the right is Georges de Selve, 25, who died at an early age in 1541.  They are, of course, both ambassadors and filled that capacity for a number of city states and ecclesiastical hierarchies.  The painting was done around 1533

What I’m thinking of trying to do is create the court cupboard they’re leaning on, updated to pre 1616ish, and add some indication of the type of objects that were on the shelves in the original painting.  Don’t think I can make the instruments as they are shown but some sort of Tudor/Jacobean steampunk might be possible – we’ll see.

Reduced the ‘fancy work’ and reduced the height

Not because I’m a believer in all folk being generally smaller back in the ‘olden days’ but want to keep any figures used smallish to keep a feeling of largeness of scale to some of the rooms.  Also the very plain one in the painting has only the 2 shelves.  In fact it looks a bit like something you keep at the back of the garage. Perhaps Holbein had it to hand when he dressed it according to the standing of the gentlemen and the convention of the time.  If you look really closely at the painting, the silk brocade hanging at the back has raw edges at the top where it is affixed.  Strange thing to paint in, isn’t it?

So here is the original set of shelves/court cupboard that came my way in a bundle of items bought when I first started out.  It has that chunky look and finger nail carving at shelf edges.

theinfill - Medieval to Jacobean Great Hall - Holbein 'The Ambassadors'

3 shelf as it came to me with new rug wrap. Red was in mind and I like this, but it’s going to take over even with things on top of it.

theinfill - Medieval to Jacobean Great Hall - Holbein 'The Ambassadors'

Pape print out of first results in attempt to reconstruct the rug in the painting. Looks better, but shelves feel too high.

So far the search for a carpet that makes me happy has come up with this and that, most of which look lovely but tend to ‘say’ look at me as a display item, and do not bring to mind the painting.

Be that as it may, the answer was a prolonged exercise yesterday evening in recreating something based on the accessible pattern of the rug in the painting.

After wood surgery …

and rubbing down of the fancy bits to make them a little less prominent.

theinfillclicks - Medieval to Jacobean Great Hall - Holbein's 'The Ambassadors'

Better, more like a piece of furniture and less like something from the Gingerbread House, which the bottom shelf seemed to make it take on.  At about 3.35″ instead of 4.25″  and 2 levels there’s a better balance with the fireplace.  The carpet may be worthwhile to try as a transfer print on fabric.

Still working on it, but determined to make something of the sort, making the border and edging whites whiter would help for a start .

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