Here are this week's Friday Fun Facts about Diana Gabaldon's books.
1) Here's Roger's first impression of Brianna, in DRAGONFLY:
It was a Bronzino painting she reminded him of, he decided. She and her mother both gave that odd impression of having been outlined somehow, drawn with such vivid strokes and delicate detail that they stood out from their background as though they’d been engraved on it. But Brianna had that brilliant coloring, and that air of absolute physical presence that made Bronzino’s sitters seem to follow you with their eyes, to be about to speak from their frames. He’d never seen a Bronzino painting making faces at a glass of whisky, but if there had been one, he was sure it would have looked precisely like Brianna Randall.
(From DRAGONFLY IN AMBER by Diana Gabaldon, chapter 1, "Mustering the Roll". Copyright© 1992 by Diana Gabaldon. All rights reserved.)
Agnolo Bronzino (1503-1572) was an Italian artist whose paintings included the pair of portraits shown above. (Top: Portrait of Lucrezia Panciatichi; Bottom: Eleanor of Toledo with her son Giovanni.)
2) This video shows how to make roof shingles (also known as shakes) using a froe, and how to lay them on the roof of a log cabin.
Between them, Jamie and Ian had succeeded in getting a roof on the cabin before snow fell, but the sheds were less important. A block of wood sat constantly by the fire, the froe stuck through it, ready for anyone with an idle moment to strike off a few more shingles. That corner of the hearth was in fact devoted to wood carving; Ian had made a rough but serviceable stool, which sat under one of the windows for good light, and the shavings could all be tossed thriftily into the fire, which burned day and night.
(From DRUMS OF AUTUMN by Diana Gabaldon, chapter 21, "Night on a Snowy Mountain". Copyright© 1997 by Diana Gabaldon. All rights reserved.)
The photo above shows an example of a froe, along with a wooden mallet used to pound the froe into the block of wood being chopped.
3) Whenever I read the part in BROTHERHOOD OF THE BLADE where Lord John encounters the mob at Tyburn, I think of William Hogarth's famous engraving, "The Idle 'Prentice Executed at Tyburn", from 1747. The amount of detail in it is just amazing. (Click on the picture to see what I mean.) It certainly gives a very vivid impression of what it must have been like!
Grey shoved between two 'prentices who tried to squeeze in front of him, and elbowed one of them in the side hard enough that the youth squealed and pulled away, cursing. He could see Bates's gaze roaming over the crowd, and against his better judgment, waved his arms, shouting, "Bates!"
By a miracle, the man heard him. He saw the sharp eyes fix on him, and something like a smile beneath the mud and scratches.
He felt a stealthy hand at his pocket and grabbed at it, but it was a small hand, and the would-be pickpocket--a child of seven or eight--wriggled free of his grasp and dived into the crowd. He was barely in time to keep the child's accomplice from making away with his dagger while he was thus distracted, and by the time he was able to place his attention on the gallows once again, the executioner was moving the men into place beneath the dangling nooses.
(From LORD JOHN AND THE BROTHERHOOD OF THE BLADE by Diana Gabaldon, chapter 14, "Place of Execution". Copyright© 2007 by Diana Gabaldon. All rights reserved.)
4) This is what a passenger pigeon looked like. The species, Ectopistes migratorius, became extinct in 1914.
Here's an artist's rendering of a group of men in Louisiana in the 1870's, shooting passenger pigeons for sport. (You can see a bigger version here.) Looking at this, you can get some sense of what Claire and Bree experienced.
Rushing out of the house, I thought at first that a storm had come suddenly upon us. The sky was dark, the air filled with thunder, and a strange, dim light flickered over everything. But there was no moisture in the air, and a peculiar smell filled my nose--not rain. Definitely not rain.
“Birds, my god, it’s birds!” I barely heard Brianna behind me, among the chorus of amazement all around. Everyone stood in the street, looking up. Several children, frightened by the noise and darkness, started to cry.
(From THE FIERY CROSS by Diana Gabaldon, chapter 82, "A Darkening Sky". Copyright© 2001 by Diana Gabaldon. All rights reserved.)
5) The small ivory carving shown above is an example of a Japanese art form called netsuke. According to Wikipedia:
Traditional Japanese garments—robes called kosode and kimono—had no pockets; however, men who wore them needed a place to store their personal belongings, such as pipes, tobacco, money, seals, or medicines.These netsuke figurines are very small, just a couple of inches long, which makes the details of the carving and decoration even more impressive. Just imagine how exotic these little figures would have appeared to Englishmen in the 18th century, like Lord John and his friend Arthur Norrington:
Their solution was to place such objects in containers (called sagemono) hung by cords from the robes' sashes (obi)....Whatever the form of the container, the fastener that secured the cord at the top of the sash was a carved, button-like toggle called a netsuke.
Norrington raised one thin brow and took the package, which he unwrapped with greedy fingers.
“Oh!” he said, with unfeigned delight. He turned the tiny ivory carving over gently in his large, soft hands, bringing it close to his face to see the details, entranced. “Tsuji?”
Grey shrugged, pleased with the effect of his gift. He knew nothing of netsuke himself, but knew a man who dealt in ivory miniatures from China and Japan. He had been surprised at the delicacy and artistry of the tiny thing, which showed a half-clothed woman engaged in a very athletic form of sexual congress with a naked obese gentleman with his hair in a topknot.
(From AN ECHO IN THE BONE by Diana Gabaldon, chapter 15, "The Black Chamber". Copyright© 2009 by Diana Gabaldon. All rights reserved.)
If you want to see more examples, you can do a Google image search on the term "netsuke" (or "shunga netsuke", for the ones with erotic themes). I didn't find an exact match for the one described in ECHO, but you can certainly get the idea by looking at these pictures. <g> But please use caution if you're viewing the "shunga netsuke" pictures at work or where young children are around. Some of them are very sexually explicit. (The one shown above is quite tame by comparison.)
I hope you enjoyed these Friday Fun Facts! Look here to see all of my Friday Fun Facts blog posts. And please stop by next week for more!