Today’s article in our series on the Kingdom’s Virtual Queen’s Prize Tourney is about a beautiful entry titled Italian Humanism: White-Vine Illumination on Vellum, made by artisan Serena Milani. As we do not have the ability to converse with our entrants face to face, the Virtual Queen’s Prize Tourney now offers the opportunity to drool over images and read the documentation right there on the Kingdom Ministry of Arts & Sciences website – even to leave feedback! And to learn a little more about the artisan and their thoughts behind their entry, the organizers decided to broaden our traditional entry of object and documentation with personal interviews.
Serena’s scroll is a recreated Italian white-vine illumination that is gilded and painted with homemade pigments on a sheet of sheep vellum. The scroll was created for a Fleur d’Aethelmearc recipient. The 11” by 14” sheep vellum is crafted by Nichola Beese. The homemade pigments (ultramarine blue, red ochre, bohemian green earth, and zinc white), gilding (with 24k gold) and illumination, done in the Italian white-vine style, is created by Serena Milani. Later on, words, created by Jehan LeBlanc, were calligraphed by Magdalena Txoperena.
Could you tell me a little about you, your persona.
My persona, Serena Milani, is influenced by the real-life female artist known as Artemisia Gentileschi. During the renaissance, in the area modernly known as Italy, the arts flourished and trade with foreign cultures was prosperous. There my persona lives…
Serena Milani is an aspiring scribe and painter from Milan who moved to Florence to study art. During her time there, she is learning how to make her own paints, gild, and paint beautiful works of art. Recently, she was commissioned to create a scroll for the noble and most honorable Lady Fede di Fiore with calligraphy assistance from Magdalena Txoperena. The scroll was completed and presented on time and the recipient is pleased with the piece.
What inspired you to make your entry?
When I found out that THL Fede di Fiore was to receive her Fleur d’Aethelmearc, I was thrilled to do the illumination. I asked Nichola Beese for sheep vellum, Jehan LeBlanc for words, and for Magdalena Txoperena to do the calligraphy. THL Fede di Fiore was one of the first individuals in the SCA to welcome me and to teach me sewing. She taught and assisted me with creating a beautiful Tudor dress to wear for my first Æthelmearc 12th night in the shire of Abhainn Ciach Ghlais. It was a dream come true! Fede’s skills as a seamstress are remarkable and her art is magnificent. I am very honored to illuminate her Fleur d’Aethelmearc scroll.
What is your intention with your entry?
My intention with this piece was to create it as historically as possible, in a safe manner. It is based off of Italian humanism: white-vine illumination. THL Fede di Fiore’s persona is Italian, so this style fits her persona perfectly. I created my own pigments and paints. Those were ultramarine blue, red ochre, green earth, and zinc white. I gilded the sheep vellum using homemade gesso and 24k gold leaf. Once the scroll was calligraphed by Magdalena Txoperena, it was framed and then presented to THL Fede di Fiore in person during the virtual Æthelmearc Æcademy Court on 7/11/2020.
Did the entry throw up any unexpected issues?
Overall, this project went very smoothly and came together in a timely fashion. The most challenging aspect of the illumination was designing and creating the knotwork in the Italian white-vine. Knotwork can be tricky. After practicing and drafting, the knotwork turned out lovely. It is fun to follow the vines with your eye.
Did you learn something specific, something you would do differently, or would recommend others to do again?
I really enjoy gilding. I love the aesthetics of gold. I want to continue improving my gilding skills. Furthermore, if I could, I would have loved to use the historical pigments of vermilion and lead white. However, crafting those pigments are dangerous and not safe because of the mercury in cinnabar, which is used to make the pigment vermilion, and lead in lead white. Additionally, I do not live in an environment in which I could safely paint with those pigments.
What motivated you to enter the Virtual Queen’s Prize Tourney?
I entered the Virtual Queen’s Prize Tourney to share my love of the scribal arts. I also want to demonstrate my progress as an artist and receive feedback. I am honored if anyone is inspired by me to create their own historical scribal pieces. Furthermore, the timing worked out well in my favor.
Anything else you would like to share?
I would like to thank Nichola Beese for creating and providing the sheep vellum, Jehan LeBlanc for the words, Magdalena Txoperena for doing the beautiful calligraphy and painting the device and badges at the bottom of the calligraphy and the scribal college for being supportive and teaching me illumination. Ultimately, I want to thank THL Fede di Fiore for being a wonderful teacher, enabling me in the arts and for her friendship.
Thank you, Serena Milani, for sharing your wonderful work with our Kingdom’s artisans and populace!
If you would like to see Serena’s entry, follow this link. And if you liked her work, have a question to ask, or a tip to share – please leave your comments with her entry! You can “Leave a Reply” at the bottom of the entry’s page. Their Majesties announced the winners in Virtual Court at the Æthelmearc Æcademy on July the 11th, and the winners are listed in the Virtual Queen’s Prize Tourney website.