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Todd Eriksen




Location: Osceola, IA
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PostPosted: Sat 27 May, 2006 9:35 pm    Post subject: How Reliable are historical paintings?         Reply with quote

Sometimes I wonder about the credibility of historical artwork from the high middle ages. How serious should we take these paintings? As country rulers had absolute rule over all and everything that went on in their countries, how much bias was put into these paintings? Just because one or two paintings show 'all' the soldiers with their visors up during a battle, is it safe to assume that all did so in every battle? I mean, come on. At times we take ourselves too seriously and then read too much into historical paintings. To base our modern studies on historical paintings is way off base. Let's say that we didn't have the ability to record modern things as we really do. So, a 'history major' or budding, way too serious, recreator of the past, (in the future, mind you) will look, at Salvador Dali and think that his paintings are realistic? Will people in the future portray us from those types of paintings or modern day video's? That's why I think that people using historical artwork to force the past as authentic are out of touch. Humor goes a long way, and even though we may never fully understand the past and it's way of thought, don't think that through your studies and observations of the past you know it all.
Ich Dien
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Jean Thibodeau




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PostPosted: Sat 27 May, 2006 10:10 pm    Post subject: Re: How Reliable are historical paintings?         Reply with quote

Todd Eriksen wrote:
Sometimes I wonder about the credibility of historical artwork from the high middle ages. How serious should we take these paintings? As country rulers had absolute rule over all and everything that went on in their countries, how much bias was put into these paintings? Just because one or two paintings show 'all' the soldiers with their visors up during a battle, is it safe to assume that all did so in every battle? I mean, come on. At times we take ourselves too seriously and then read too much into historical paintings. To base our modern studies on historical paintings is way off base. Let's say that we didn't have the ability to record modern things as we really do. So, a 'history major' or budding, way too serious, recreator of the past, (in the future, mind you) will look, at Salvador Dali and think that his paintings are realistic? Will people in the future portray us from those types of paintings or modern day video's? That's why I think that people using historical artwork to force the past as authentic are out of touch. Humor goes a long way, and even though we may never fully understand the past and it's way of thought, don't think that through your studies and observations of the past you know it all.


I would hate to think what an archeologist 10,000 years from now would make of a DVD set of " Star Trek the Next Generation " if it was the only surviving thing from the 20th century. Razz Laughing Out Loud

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Douglas Meek





Joined: 13 Feb 2005

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PostPosted: Sun 28 May, 2006 6:16 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Ive thought about that myself. What if the future gets this age all messed up Maybe throwing together the red scare and WWI time periods all together with a few people walking around in astronot suits just for fun.
Haha think of the 21st c reenactor saying well you can only narrow this time down to 100 years. So i based my costume on things i foundout through that 100 years time.
how much has changed in 100 years? You would have reenactors looking at decades.
and think of the hype that would follow...21c secret agent would train for at least 30 years, but had fewer gadget's, but the m-5 secret servecis had more gadgets and where popular with the women of the time. Big Grin
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Allan Senefelder
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PostPosted: Sun 28 May, 2006 7:09 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Well they'll probably have fun trying to explain why all this armour and swords needed to be made in the late 20th and early 21st centuries. I'm getting buried in a suit of armour just to screw with the archeologists heads 1000 years from now.
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Geoff Wood




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PostPosted: Sun 28 May, 2006 8:37 am    Post subject: Re: How Reliable are historical paintings?         Reply with quote

Todd Eriksen wrote:
Sometimes I wonder about the credibility of historical artwork from the high middle ages. How serious should we take these paintings? As country rulers had absolute rule over all and everything that went on in their countries, how much bias was put into these paintings? Just because one or two paintings show 'all' the soldiers with their visors up during a battle, is it safe to assume that all did so in every battle? I mean, come on. At times we take ourselves too seriously and then read too much into historical paintings. To base our modern studies on historical paintings is way off base. Let's say that we didn't have the ability to record modern things as we really do. So, a 'history major' or budding, way too serious, recreator of the past, (in the future, mind you) will look, at Salvador Dali and think that his paintings are realistic? Will people in the future portray us from those types of paintings or modern day video's? That's why I think that people using historical artwork to force the past as authentic are out of touch. Humor goes a long way, and even though we may never fully understand the past and it's way of thought, don't think that through your studies and observations of the past you know it all.


Given modern transport, communications and surveillance, I'd guess that modern totalitarian states (and some that claim not to be) have more 'rule over all and everything that that - goes - on in their countries' than did rulers of the medieval period, say. Power was far less cenralised then, and it appears to have been a surprise to many such rulers that people were raising armies to overthrow them , never mind what art they had on the walls.
That said, sure, paintings were probably biased and innaccurate. But why restrict yourself to paintings? What about texts (people can flatter, lie, be mistaken with a pen just as well as with a brush), what about sculpture (was anyone's physique ever quite that good), what about physical artifacts (how do we know they didn't put special, made for the grave, shields in with the body - or how do we know that some of the best preserved swords weren't that way because they were the wallhangers of their day and never got lost or damaged), indeed, what about modern 'reconstructive archaeology', possibly prey to the influence of a few people of strong character who may shout down everyone with a different opinion of 'how things must have worked/been used'? I think that to ignore historical paintings would also be way off base. Like all of our sources of evidence, they should be considered and weighed for their consistency with anything else in the way of evidence that we have available.
Geoff
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Todd Eriksen




Location: Osceola, IA
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PostPosted: Mon 29 May, 2006 7:58 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Oh, I totally agree. We can't just throw out historical paintings or any of the things that you have mentioned. I guess what bothers me slightly, and I do mean slightly, is people who use all the afore mentioned items to be incredibly anal and stubborn to others interpretations and to use these sources as fact. I mean, we'll never really know until "Timeline" becomes a reality, nudge, nudge, wink, wink, so until that time comes I think a few people need to take a chill pill and not criticize and critique and overbare what others think. Let's say, for example, my father tells me that his experience in Vietnam was a living hell and he still has nightmares about it. I take this one source as my facts. I talk to Joe down the street and he claims that it wasn't anything close to hell, a little scary at times but not as disorganized and crazy as my father states, but I tell Joe he's full of it, because my father says otherwise. That's the kind of stubborness about historical paintings and documents that bugs me. (This example was only that. An example. I most definately have no intentions of getting into a Vietnam discussion on this forum.)
Ich Dien
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Chad Arnow
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PostPosted: Mon 29 May, 2006 10:39 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Like with any historical source, we need to temper it with the realization that artistic license has always existed and we need to know that that one source is just that: one source. We can't fully trust any source until there has been some corroboration with others. We need to use each source as a tool, not as the end-all source. Period literature is similarly fraught with issues of artistic license and the glorification of the patron. Does anyone really think a swordstroke can cleave helm, coif, skull, hauberk, shirt, torso, pelvis, and saddle and sink into the horse like we read in some of those romantic poems? Happy
Happy

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Felix Wang




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PostPosted: Tue 30 May, 2006 1:18 pm    Post subject: Re: How Reliable are historical paintings?         Reply with quote

Todd Eriksen wrote:
Sometimes I wonder about the credibility of historical artwork from the high middle ages. How serious should we take these paintings? As country rulers had absolute rule over all and everything that went on in their countries, how much bias was put into these paintings? Just because one or two paintings show 'all' the soldiers with their visors up during a battle, is it safe to assume that all did so in every battle? I mean, come on. At times we take ourselves too seriously and then read too much into historical paintings. To base our modern studies on historical paintings is way off base. Let's say that we didn't have the ability to record modern things as we really do. So, a 'history major' or budding, way too serious, recreator of the past, (in the future, mind you) will look, at Salvador Dali and think that his paintings are realistic? Will people in the future portray us from those types of paintings or modern day video's? That's why I think that people using historical artwork to force the past as authentic are out of touch. Humor goes a long way, and even though we may never fully understand the past and it's way of thought, don't think that through your studies and observations of the past you know it all.


There are two different things going on here. One is the concious intent of an artist: the "text" if you will; i.e. to glorify one's king or lord, demonize or ridicule his enemies; exult his lady/wife. The other is the background material: "subtext " is not quite right, "context" is closer to my meaning. The text material is always deliberately biased one way or another. However, as Geoff Wood pointed out, control over mass media is a modern phenomenon. Actually, mass media are a modern phenomenon also, since in medieval times every book or painting was a one -of production. Some gross supervision of the textual messages might be expected. For example, Michalangelo's Last Judgement was critiqued by a particular Vatican official while he was painting it, and Michelangelo struck back by painting this same man into Hell on the wall of the Sistine Chapel. The man complained to the Pope, who responded: "If Michelangelo had put you into Purgatory, I could have done someting, Since he put you in Hell, it is out of my power."

However, the contextual material seems, in general, in medieval times to be reasonably faithfully represented. After all, the art had to connect with the audience, and if the details were too bizarre, the connection would be strained. Certain "fantasty" items stand out, like putting Muslims/pagans into scale or lamellar armour; but it is worth noting that this seems to be pretty much realistic scale or lamellar - not video-game fantasy leather+spikes. A hero like Roland may cut an armoured man in half, down to the saddle - but the armour and saddle look pretty much like armour and saddle. The text of such a painting is exaggerated, but the context needs to look real to make the exaggeration effective. Even in modern times, the context is often left basically intact - in Dali's painting of the melting watches, the watches are pretty normal, aside from being stretched. And in re the visors in medieval battles, there are plenty of pictures that show all the visors down - which doesn't mean no one ever raised a visor. We know they did, because a number of important men died because they raised their visors in a battle.
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Bryce Felperin




Location: San Jose, CA
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PostPosted: Tue 30 May, 2006 6:28 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Allan Senefelder wrote:
Well they'll probably have fun trying to explain why all this armour and swords needed to be made in the late 20th and early 21st centuries. I'm getting buried in a suit of armour just to screw with the archeologists heads 1000 years from now.


Now that's funny! I can top that though. How about being buried with a fake obituary stating all kinds of falsehoods and weird stuff just to mess with future heads. :-)

You could even get a false tombstone just to mess with their dating for your date of birth and spouting falsehoods like your career as an astronaught who fought in the Martian invasion with your trusty longsword. :-)

Bryce Felperin
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