Urartian Bronze Belt with Winged & Double-Headed Hybrid Creatures, 8th-6th Century BC
This bronze belt bears the strange images of winged sphinx-like and siren-like creatures with the heads of humans, horses, lions and other creatures. Some have the tail of a fish or bird while others have a ram’s head on the tail.
“For as ‘tis not the length of the beard, or the coarseness of the habit which makes a philosopher, so neither will those frequent shavings, or the mere wearing [of] a linen vestment constitute a votary of Isis; but he alone is a true servant or follower of this Goddess, who after he has heard, and been made acquainted in a proper manner with the history of the actions of these Gods, searches into the hidden truths which is concealed under them, and examines the whole by the dictates of reason and philosophy.”
Daffodils have always been one of the strongest signs spring was finally there for me, but I have never appreciated so much abundance and variety before moving to Scotland. Here they are so widespread and well established that a short walk during this period of the year is enough to spot a dozen hybrids and a combination of colours and shapes. Daffodils are some of the most common ornamental geophytes in temperate climates, and maybe that’s why I wasn’t even going to write about them this season, but then I came across a double-headed one!
I tried to find any data about the incidence of this phenomenon, but unfortunately I couldn’t find anything, at least in English or Italian. I have never seen it before and this would make me assume it is a rare enough occurrence I was lucky enough to photograph it! Has anybody else encountered double-headed daffodils?
Corresponds to: Strength, passion, love, lust, anger, rage, wrath, war, competition, courage, power, willpower, sex, desire, labor, cleansing, destruction, banishing and protection
Crystals: Amber, Sunstone, Carnelian, Obsidian, Fire Agate, Agate, Ruby, Garnet, Star Garnet, Red Jasper, Bloodstone, Diamond, Red Tiger’s Eye, Quartz, Rhodochrosite, Fire Opal, Lava Rock, Pumace, Sulfur, Thunderstone
Metals: Steel, Gold, Brass, *Nickle
*can be dangerous in raw form or if ingested
Herbs: Cinnamon, Basil, Cayenne Pepper, Black Pepper, Peppercorn, Peppermint, Rosemary, Chile Peppers, Cacti, Prickly Pear, Coffee, Nettles, Garlic, Thorn Trees/Plants, Thistle, Onion, Allspice, Juniper, Hibiscus, Red Poppy, Almond, Clove, Chamomile, Bay Leaf, Sunflower, Marigold, Holly, Oak
FABERGE RUSSIAN SILVER & ENAMEL EGG w STAND - Incredible Russian
silver & cobalt enamel egg by Faberge. Has intricate raised design
depicting the Russian double headed eagle, torches, wreaths and
griffins. Mounted with Cabochon garnets to top and bottom. Gold wash
Lady in Red: Linda Cho’s “Anastasia” Pièce de Résistance
I was going to wait a little bit before doing a piece on one specific outfit, especially since I’ve blogged about it a couple times, but inspiration has struck and I want to try and go in-depth on one of my absolute favorite costumes of the 2016-2017 season today.
As those who follow my other blog ( @overheardinwod ) already know, I am a huge fan of the musical Anastasia and have eagerly anticipated its debut for years. Linda Cho, in doing her research for the costumes for the stage musical, clearly took some inspiration from the 1997 animated Don Bluth classic upon which the musical is partially based, but instead of doing a shot-for-shot remake of Anya’s costumes, she chose to adapt them or create entirely new designs.
One of those designs is Anastasia’s Royal Red gown, sumptuously decorated with gold filigree, beadwork, and some of the most impressive gem work I have seen on Broadway this season. It’s a showstopping gown, and the one in which Christy Altomare took her very well-deserved bow on opening night, which is where many of the stills for this review have come from. Fortunately for me, this is an eye-catching gown, and so there are a lot of high-quality stills to choose from.
So, without further ado, let’s take a look at what I believe to truly be Linda Cho’s greatest accomplishment from the production:
(Photo credit: JustJared)
I’d be emotional in something this fine too, so I completely understand the expression on Christy Altomare’s face (okay, it’s because of the wild reception to her performance from the crowd, but I had to). The dress is absolutely fantastic on her figure, which is both petite and slender–in some ways, that made Linda Cho’s job designing a little easier because (while a bit on the short side), Christy Altomare has a “classical” figure for a leading lady on Broadway.
The dress itself is in two parts: a rust-red and gold brocade underskirt (presumably with some kind of corsetry or petticoats beneath to provide additional body), with an outer satiny, silky red body that is richly enhanced by gold filigree, beadwork, and truly impressive beadwork. At first glance, it positively screams royalty, even without the tiara (it’s not quite a kokoshnik this time because of the lack of a solid band!) on the head of the wearer. It’s a gown that is meant to impress the audience, not only in the scene but out in the crowd as observers of the musical. It has presence and helps to make Anastasia stand out in a positive way.
Look at the background of the scene (where this dress appears, even if this is a still from the bows). The scenery is a blend of black, white, and gray, and the other figured onstage are clad either in white or in much more muted colors. The bright, vibrant red of the outer portion of the dress and the bust are designed to command the attention of the viewer; they make clear that not only is Anastasia the central character here, she is the most important figure in the building. Even from a distance, one can see how important this costume is: it’s heavy, it’s rich, it’s colorful (and in shades not seen elsewhere in the musical), and it has body that gives it substance. But beyond all of that, the detail hops out even from afar.
From afar, we can see the patterning in rough form. The fold filigree forms a geometric, almost feather-like design on the gown, while the bust sports a pattern that should be familiar to students of Russian history: it’s an homage to the Romanovs’ double-headed eagle, a symbol of Imperial Russia, the Romanov family, and the empire itself. But while typically a quite masculine symbol, here it takes on an airier, more feminine tone as befits the character. Even in a heavy dress like this, the light touch with the gold means that we are reminded that this is a princess, with all the soft connotations that word tends to conjure in our minds.
Let’s go in a bit closer, with a Broadway.com still from Christy Altomare’s dressing room (which I also first saw on @anyasdimitry‘s blog):
Up close, it’s easy to see the sheer beauty and mastery of the detail work, and the lighting lets us look even closer. We see that Linda Cho has chosen to accent the dress not only with gold filigree detailing, but with beadwork and with gem work. The way the light falls in this image, we can see that the jewels are quite a bit darker than the outer gown, but also more bright and “pure” red than the brocade that forms the inner body of the gown. That is a clever and intentional design decision; whenever you are stacking colors atop one another, you need to find ways to distinguish them. Usually you will do that by one of two means: variations in shade, or variations in texture. Linda Cho has taken both options here: she varied the texture of the brocade, silk or satin, and jewels, all the while finding complementary but quite different shades of red.
By having darker jewels on the dress, I noted earlier that there is an almost fiery effect. The jewels allow the dress to shimmer, looking like “sparks” over the more sustained flame of the satin surface of the outer body. It also means that the light will never catch on the dress the same way twice. Remember that jewels, when of a high quality (and while almost certainly rhinestones here, they will be of unmatched quality for a first-run Broadway production), jewels refract light and offer a little bit of “glow” when used in costumery.
For a better idea, Playbill provides us with a shot of Anastasia’s gown from the rear (I believe this still is from the Hartford production, but the gown itself did not change between tryouts and Broadway as near as I have been able to discern from my research):
Take a look at the sparkle and shine of the jewels on the bustle (which is the term generally used for the part of the rear of the dress that pops out a bit, offering a contrast to a woman’s bust in the front; traditionally this provided her with a bit more “personal space” on a ballroom floor, as well as flattered her figure). The darkness compared with the rich red color of the fabric gives the gown a whole new feel: the light catching on the stones almost gives a crackling effect. The gold filigree, in some ways, even takes a backseat to the interplay between the jewels and the fabric of the dress itself–but it also provides a contrast that is important.
There’s more than just color-matching at work here. Balancing a primary color with a metallic color has been a standard practice in design since the age of heraldry; colors (red, blue, yellow, and combinations thereof) and metals (gold and silver) could be mixed, but you always wanted to have a buffer between them, especially when using two different shades of the same color or tones of the same metal. Linda Cho has obeyed that relatively ancient rule by surrounding the ruby-red jewels with the gold filigree. In so doing, the jewels “pop” more and become much more noticeable than if they had merely been laid against the red body of the gown.
Another Broadway.com still offers us a better example of just how well this design works, this time as Ms Altomare emerges offstage:
Once again, we’re able to see the balance of the red tones from the brocade (the V-shape at the bottom of the frame), the silk/satin of the gown itself, and the jewels. In this light, the jewels on the bodice/bust appear dark and rich, almost crimson in color and tone, while those on the body of the dress, flaring out to the sides, are a lighter color that is just a bit offset from the red of the fabric beneath. This is one of the two images I have seen of this dress that really made me think of the phoenix idea I mentioned in another post. The other comes from my all-time favorite picture of the dress, from the New York Post’s “Page Six” blog:
Take these two previous pictures together and you can see some of what I mean by phoenix-like. The myth of the phoenix is that it is an immortal bird which ends its life in a bright explosion of flame and color, only to rise from the ashes reborn; it’s a classic mythological trope and one that I can’t help but think Linda Cho was trying to harness in this gown. Recall what I said earlier about the design elements of the gown: on the body of the dress, we see the almost feather-like filigree and jewel-work (accented with some gold beadwork), while the bust is covered with an homage to the Romanov double-headed eagle.
Doesn’t it look a tiny bit like the eagle has “shed” the feathers that float down the sides of the gown? Look at the way the eagle design “drips” down towards the open seam that reveals the brocade, jewels in every inch of the “tail.” To my mind, it’s a little like a phoenix that has shed its old feathers, burst into flame, and risen again up the bust of the gown as a new being. In many ways, that’s a great metaphor for Anastasia herself: she had an identity as the Grand Duchess, lost it, found it again, and then decided to renounce it in favor of another identity. Like the mythical firebird, she undergoes a cycle of birth and renewal over and over throughout the course of the musical.
I don’t know for certain that this is the effect Linda Cho was trying to harness with this gown, but it certainly seems plausible given how richly designed it is and how keen an eye for detail she possesses as a costume designer. This dress is rightfully the showpiece of the end of the musical, and the one that is designed to leave the audience with a key visual to take away from their enjoyment of the performance. It’s rich, heavy, and gorgeous from bust to floor and all points in between, and sits perfectly on the wearer.
Simply put, this is Linda Cho’s 2016-2017 pièce de résistance, a masterwork to end all masterworks, and one that deserves to be studied by fans of classic and modern design, the theatre, and the way in which these art forms intersect. It’s a joy to look at and a joy to analyze.
And that’s what costumery is about: bringing a sense of emotion and wonder to the viewer to complement their feelings regarding the performance onstage. In that regard, the royal red gown from Anastasia is a complete and total success.