Sunday, January 1, 2012

Nosegay with beaded heartsease

Nosegays, posy's or small bouquets are often seen in portraits. This portrait by Niccolo dell'Abbate is one of the closest correspondences to my preferred area. He was known to have painted in the Emilia-Romagna area. The sitter has a small balzo and zibellino and her dress style seems to close to my 1530's-40's.
Other portraits of interest are this one by Santi di Tito of a young woman with a bouquet of fresh flowers and what seem to be faux flowers of beads and silk in her hair and Flora by Tinteretto with a lovely small nosegay tucked into her bodice.

Because of the time of year, fresh flowers and plants are not particularly available, so I tried to think ahead. I have been keeping culinary herbs, and as luck would have it, several of them are used for their small and symbolism in nosegays. Jadwiga Zajaczkowa mentions both rosemary and thyme in her article "Medieval herbs for the very small garden." Rosemary was part of marriage wreaths as well as being "put in tussy-mussy flower bunches to ward off vermine and noxious smells." Thyme is referenced as well (albeit from a rather suspect 1941 source) "it used to be the custom for maidens to wear a nosegay of sprigs of thyme, mint and lavender to bring them sweethearts."

Shakespeare's Ophelia also makes mention of "Rosemary for remembrance" and "pansies for thoughts." Pansies (or heartsease as they are also called) also show up in blackwork patterns and are embroidered on several extant English coifs. They were a rather popular for embroidery, especially as Queen Elizabeth I used them as a badge. At age 11 she embroidered a book cover for Katherine Parr with pansies in each corner and a second book a bit later, also with heartsease.

Since I wasn't going to find those sorts of flowers in December, I decided to try something different. Faux flowers were very popular in the 15th and 16th century. Silk ones were very common, but beaded ones did exist. Particularly in Venice where they were made by poor women from cast offs from the glass making industry. Beaded flowers were a lower and middle class item most usually, as the upper classes could afford more expensive materials and had their faux flowers made from gold and jewels. I, however, do not have access to a lot of gold and jewels. I ran across Roxelana Bramante's research into beaded flowers (as well as incredible stuff on silk flowers)and have wanted to try making a few ever since. This seemed the opportunity.

As this was a first attempt and I was working with stash materials, I went with much larger beads. I used blue and gold glass beads to match my dress and a small amber carved leaf for the center piece. They are made using very basic French beaded flower techniques. They're just strung on wire and twisted into shape. Roxelana mentions that it would have been iron wire used in period. I used steel 22 gauge paddle wire. The resulting flower is very oversized comparared to the delicate pieces that would have been made by Venetian beadstringers for sale, but I am happy with it as a first attempt. I would like to make some further pieces out of smaller beads with more intricate patterns in the future.

To make the tiny nosegay, I clipped a few sprigs of rosemary and thyme and arranged them with the beaded heartsease. The fresh herbs are wrapped in a bit of damp cotton and the entire posy is wrapped in a scrap of silk and tied with ribbons. When I wear the dress, I do plan to do a larger nosegay and add a few more sprigs of the herbs but I didn't want to snip too much and hurt my herb plants.

Cost $0
Culinary herbs grown for my kitchen use with fabric, ribbon, wire, and beads from stash.

Fief Holding:Gardening and horticulture

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