Wednesday, March 27, 2013

I Think I've Got It

Deuteronomy II & III, (2013)
Remember back a while when I was going on about the text I was going to use in the Deuteronomy series? It was a passage from the book of Deuteronomy that listed the birds that one should not eat, and I was going to use a French translation from the King James version of the Bible that would have been contemporary to Louis Nicolas.

Well, soon it occurred to me that since Pere Nicolas was Catholic, he wouldn't have been using the King James version at all. No, it would have been the Latin Vulgate. So I found the passage online (this is when the internet makes working on a remote island possible) and then went back to the manuscript of the Grammaire Algonquine, which was, remember, in his own handwriting. I enlarged sections of that, and traced off the Roman capitals that he had written in various headings, and created my own Louis Nicolas hand drawn alphabet.

Then, in the style of the Bayeux Tapestry (See? I told you there was a connection!) I divided up the text and placed it on the four panels. Only the owls are complete, but I wanted to show them off. There will be a panel of eagles to the left, and the swan and pelican to the right.

I embroidered the text in a lighter value embroidery floss using Holbein stitch, as I didn't want the lettering to be too dominant. Words, even ones we don't understand, are always first to grab our attention. What the text translates to is basically: "These are they that you shall not eat,[list of birds] every creeping thing that flies is unclean, of these do not eat."

Now, I can understand why carrion eaters might be prohibited, but why would swans be unclean? I asked my uncle, who is Jewish and quite orthodox, so he knows all about the prohibited foods, and he didn't know either. Oh well, a little mystery never hurt.


  1. Ummm...they made it up as they went along? No real understanding of biology. Or likely even taxonomy. So arbitrary really.

    Your Pere Nicolas font is so cool!

  2. looking marvelous,the font is a stroke of genus

  3. I think so too; btw we were in Normandy two summers ago, camping near Bayeux and of course we went and saw the whole tapestry, it was AMAZING, 1000 year old history in fabric; I bought just one book (The Bayeux Tapestry, English ed, The Boydell Press 2011) with the historical background and artistic context of the tapestry and a commentary on all the different episodes in the cloth; that it managed to survive more or less intact is amazing in itself, as at one time the tapestry was used to cover military wagons!
    Our sons were both impressed by it as well, they were 13 and 15 at the time; as it is 'comic' like they could relate to that plus all the weapons and fighting caught their imagination.

  4. heather, you are so talented. -sarit


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