Sunday, June 25, 2017

Chapter I: Verses 2 - 4 from The Song of Songs

Timeless love poetry from the Bible, in contemporary calligraphy.   

These verses introduce us to love poetry, in all its immediacy, from Song of Solomon.  The speaker, a young woman, longs for the kisses of her beloved, and describes how much he is loved by everyone.  She intends to follow him wherever he leads her, and hopes that they might end up in his chambers. 

I wanted the design to suggest this burning desire.  I illuminated the capital O of "O my beloved" to look like a torch or a brazier, with the Florentine scrolls inside the letter-stroke itself made of ash and embers, with flames* flickering on top.  The orange and yellow border is charring at lower right from the heat.  The rest of the verses are lettered in shades of gray, to resemble the fragrant smoke rising as incense.  
Detail from upper left of O.

The inner decoration of the capital O suggests the ashy embers in the hottest part of a fire, hotter even than the flames.  This grisaille technique is comparable to a black and white photograph; it appears occasionally in medieval manuscript illumination to add a supernatural note.

Not wanting to distract attention from the strong lines of this design, I rendered the text in simple Roman capitals and Bookhand lowercase, to keep the spotlight on the illuminated O.  The ashes and flames and smoke are complex enough.  

*I'll write about those flames next time.     

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