Wednesday, 21 May 2008

Scroll with a difference

I had great pleasure in being asked to do a Panache Scroll for my good friend Jahanarabanu. She has a 7th century Sassanian Persian persona which made it a challenge.

In the 2 or so weeks I had at my disposal, the only research I could do was online, so I trawled the net for anything and everything. On manuscripts or any similar scribal stuff I drew a complete blank, although I did manage to find a couple of guides to the Pahlavi script and language.

What I did find was an article written by an Oxford Professor on the Gutenberg website which included sketches and renderings of extant architectural decorations and reliefs from the 1930s (presumably the last time anyone was able to study the remains) and some pictures of objets d’art held in various different museums. I therefore was given no option but to lift motifs and design elements from what I had available in order to create the scroll.

I did not want to make anything that resembled European manuscript design from the same period as the cultural influences were totally different. Some of the pictures of column capitals and reliefs had a distinctly Indian flavour so I decided to err more in that direction. I also rendered the design without shading, but with many small details to break up the block colours.

Another thing I had to make a (hopefully) educated guess on, was whether to use loose leaf gilding or not. I could find nothing that referred to the Sassanian culture using it or not. However in Byzantium it had been in use since the 5th century, and the Sassanian Empire bordered Byzantium. I figured that something as distinct and awe-inspiring as gilding would have crossed a border, especially travelling to an empire that was obsessed with decoration and the use of precious stones and metals, so I used a little, but only in the fine detail.

Finally I needed to decide on colours. The recipient is also known as the Purple Lotus, so that took care of one colour. I thought that the best for contrast (and the fact that she wears a lot of it) would be green. The majority of the design would be in those colours and as a tertiary I used yellow. Small elements of other colours were used in the flowers and leaves.

Due to the complexity of the design I took a photo at almost every stage of its construction. I have assembled these in a slideshow on youtube for anyone who may be interested.

I don’t know if this is the proper way to go about constructing a scroll without an original to base the design on, but it’s the best way I could think of with the time and skills I had at my disposal. All in all, I think I could have done better if I had had more time to think about it, but its not too bad. If anyone has better knowledge of the period and what I should have done, I will welcome the advice.

The link is here: