Crispin’s Mosaic, by Melissa

Another wonderful piece of art sent in by a reader to the Bright Weavings site. Melissa Houle’s great portrayal of Crispin’s mosaic in Ravenna of the Sarantines he met in Sarantium. Click on the picture for a larger image, which will appear in a new window. Just close the window to get back to this page.

Melissa writes:
The Sarantine Mosaic novels held me at arm’s length, at first, and Crispin in particular held me back. Not that he didn’t have just cause to be angry with the world given the losses he’d suffered, but it took me some time to warm to him. I still find him among the more prickly of Ser Kay’s creations, but also one of the most interesting, particularly because he is both an artist and a craftsman. At the end of Lord of Emperors, I was moved that, even after losing his dome which would have been his masterpiece and the mark by which he’d be known to the world long after his death, he could still courageously embark on a new, if more modest project, and realize that his world could continue even after that immense loss. I was also moved by the subject matter Crispin chose–all the people he had met in Sarantium, whether benevolent or not, whose lives had touched and changed his. This painting is my attempt to show that mosaic in the little chapel, based on Ser Kay’s description of it, to the best of my ability.

Showing a large number of people in a painting is not unlike an extended family photograph–it’s hard to get an image that’s flattering to everyone. But working from left to right, the first person is Pertennius. I don’t think Pertennius is that tall, but otherwise, I’m relatively happy with this image. In front of Pertennius is Artibasos. He looks a bit too tidy and a bit too calm for an architect who is scared to go home. Beside Artibasos is Scortius, ready for a chariot race. I am relatively happy with this image. I’m not sure I’ve got his charioteer’s tunic and helmet right except for the color, but he will have to do. Behind Scortius is Carullus in his soldier’s outfit. I don’t have a clear mental vision of Carullus, but that is who it’s supposed to be. Next to Carullus and Scortius–the Holy Men and Charioteers connection–is Zakarios holding his sun disk. Beside Zakarios is Leontes. His right arm looks like he had an unfortunate encounter with a stretching rack* at some point, but for the most part, he’s perhaps the most successful figure in this painting in terms of showing Leontes as I see him. Beside Leontes, notable for his lack of arms, is Gesius, the Chancellor. I am content with his image, although he is perhaps a little robust. Next to Gesius is Valerius II/Petrus of Trakesia. He too, comes VERY close to my mental image of the character.

Next comes Alixana, and she didn’t fare quite as well in terms of being an accurate portrait. She is certainly richly dressed, but as to being “beauty, and that which is something more” she doesn’t quite make the grade in my eyes. I could have started over, but the risk would be that I’d get a lower satisfaction to figure ratio on my next attempt than I did with this one. Next to Alixana is Styliane. Her face is very close to my image of Styliane; proud, beautiful and tough, yet a little vulnerable, too. Then there is Shirin, who was a rather resistant subject. Her cap seemed determined to turn into a Jackie Kennedyesque pillbox hat. And I’m sure Shirin has far more glamorous garments than this green “thing” in her wardrobe. Her face is rather good though. Last of all, is Crispin himself. I am quite fond of this portrait. Crispin seems to be looking back at his life-changing experiences in Sarantium and gaining some perspective. Or maybe he just looks calm, for a change. The kind of calm and satisfaction that comes from doing the work he loves most.

*Little known Sarantine historical fact. As soon as Strategos Leontes became Emperor Valerius III, his military nickname, “Lemur Limbs” went RIGHT out of fashion.


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