Subscribe to Jessica's exclusive newsletter

Subscribe to Jessica's newsletter

* indicates required

Monday, November 8, 2010

Visual Inspiration

I started this blog, not many months ago, with a picture of something that helped me really focus on writing. I think we're about due for some more visual inspiration.
Autograph manuscript of the collected works
of Christine de Pisan. Probably Paris,
1410-15. British Library BL Harley 4431, f. 4
First, we have the amazing Christine de Pisan (1364-1430). She is shown here as author and scribe at her uptilted writing desk, a faithful dog at her side. She writes with a very small stylus in her right hand, with a scraping knife in her left hand, ever ready for self-correction. This picture is found in an "autograph manuscript," meaning that studious people believe she actually penned the whole thing by her own hand.  Such a book was as rare in the fifteenth century as it is now, because most authors dictated to a scribe, and then copies and copies of copies were made whenever there was enough writing material and money. Most scribes were men, and most of them were monks. That Christine could read at all can be credited to a father who wanted to foster her learning, another rarity of the time and place. That she went on to write several eloquent, engaging, proto-feminist books, which were "bestsellers" of their age, is astounding. Everything about Christine and her book is extraordinary, and she had this picture painted on the first page to draw everyone's attention to that fact. She wears richly dyed fabric in the shade of Virtue, and has a pleasant face in the portrait. Being her own scribe, with the added ability to correct her own mistakes, gave her complete control over her words as they were handed down to posterity. This picture is justly famous and incredibly inspiring to anyone who sets out on daunting tasks.

You Are Here! But Why? Artist Unknown,
with color by Jessica Knauss
Second, we have the intriguing "You Are Here! But Why?" This was the cover of a brochure I picked up -- snatched up! quickly! -- when I was really not sure what I was doing at the University of ____. It turned out to be a piece of marketing for positions in the university food service. Somehow, putting dishes through the washer will improve one's future employment prospects. The brochure was not answering the question I was asking.

I like to contemplate the picture and its question and come up with my own answer. Depending on the situation and my mood, it can range from snarky to... inspiring.