Thursday, March 20, 2008

Four Virgins Too Many

Another biblical parable leads us to today's motif. You may have seen this parade of ladies and wondered what exactly was going on. Here are two versions found on antique samplers:

The ladies are always divided into two groups of 5 each, and there is usually some matronly figure in the middle. You will have to take my word that they are virginal - it's hard to represent that in cross stitch. It seems five of the gals never caught on to the importance of proper prior planning and have let their lamps go out. As the ten wait for the (singular) bridegroom to arrive to take them to the wedding, only the wise girls have brought along extra oil to keep their lamps burning (you can see the jerry cans beside them in the lower version). When the suitor finally ambles in after midnight, five of the girls had gone back into town to get more oil since the wise virgins refused to share. The bridegroom heads out with the girl scouts and the others are left out in the cold. I do not know what activities ensued between the unchaperoned suitor and his five wise virgins. (Everybody sing: Five girls for ev - ry boy.) I don't think that an embroidered depiction is appropriate. This is all supposed to be a parable for the Second Coming and you can read more about it in the wikipedia.

Besides the scores of painting and sculptures, this motif has been a popular one for samplers in many lands. Once again Julia Line of Long Dog Samplers has made an outstanding rendition of of a classic motif in her "Wise and Foolish" sampler (on the left). On the right is a Norwegian version by Lucy Lyons Willis with the foolish virgins sobbing into their hankies.

Rather than cross the bounds of good taste and show what troubles five foolish virgins could really get into, mock thier ample hips, or introduce the Energizer Bunny or AAA roadside assistance, I decided an animal stand in would be a good plan. If it were but two virgins (one wise/one foolish), I could have used cows to created by own rendition of this "pair of bull".

So, that is when I came back to my thinking of what else shows up on these samplers in great numbers.

If my sampler had been wider, I could have done Four and Twenty Blackbirds: Twelve Wise and Twelve Foolish.

This has been the penultimate installment of the Chronicles of the Dutch Beast. Check back for the Final (and Original) Sin.

Sunday, March 2, 2008

How Do You Translate 'QWERTY' to Dutch?

Given enough monkeys typing randomly on American-English typewriters , they would eventually reproduce the complete text of the Dutch Beast blog entries. In other countries, our familiar 26 letter alphabet might not be enough to do the trick. Most modern alphabets owe their root to the written script that originated in the Canaanite region in ~1800 BC. (Yes that is the same Canaan that brought us Joshua and Caleb.) As languages diverged and developed, letters were added and changed. One of the ways sampler historians date and place sampler is to look at the alphabets and take note of what they see... and what they don't see.

In doing the research for the alphabet motifs that I would use on this sampler, I wondered idly about the minimum number of letters ever seen on a sampler. This side track led to my Hawaiian Mandala Sampler, which celebrates those twelve little letters that the Hawaiian Monkeys would have on their keyboards.

Today we get the Beast's Tiny Alphabet that goes along with the Big Honkin' Initials. You probably weren't expecting a J, but you are also being deprived of your Q, V, X, Y, Z (at least initially). Hey, where did that V go?

For those of you that are readers, I must share with you this fun book I've read that called "Ella Minnow Pea: a progressively lipogrammatically epistolary fable." An isolated society worships the gent that penned the phrase about the quick brown fox. As the ceramic tiles bearing the letters in that phrase fall one-by-one, the government officially bans each letter from all usage. It's a nice fable about out-of-control totalitarianistic government and free speech, but also entertaining to decipher as the characters creatively try to communicate using fewer and fewer of our 26 letters.

You may have noticed that I snuck in this fountain motif below the alphabet. Fountains are not terribly common, but certainly they show up on many Dutch samplers, commonly with birds. Then again, the Dutch have sprinkled their birds liberally onto the samplers. Yet, I don't think I've seen a single cat on one. That must be what has led these birds to their false sense of security. I've slipped this short paragraph into the text here, hoping not to cause a big stir. You see, I am anxious to see whether the cat gets dinner or ends up taking a bath. Shhhhh...