Archangel Raphael talks Illumination

… I was about to try and pull an Orhan Pamuk and have the drawing I did in the scriptorium tell you about itself, but I thought twice (and apologize for even thinking of it). Anyway, as he would have told you, I had a great time with it.

I looked around online for awhile for different letters to draw inspiration from. I decided to do a letter T, for my last name (then I figure my parents could have it, and, you know, display some pride in their lineage), and these are the ones I decided to jump from:

I thought an angel would be a lot of fun, and the letter seemed interesting, but doable– and not like it would distract from the angel part of it. I decided to make it a specific angel: the archangel Raphael, who is the Catholic angel of healing. He’s the youngest of the archangels (the others being Michael the warrior, Gabriel the messenger, and Lucifer the beautiful, who… well, you know), the only brunette, if you believe the paintings, and associated as well with fishermen and the sea. My family lives near the sea and is obsessed with boats, and my mother is a nurse, so it all seemed pretty appropriate for a family crest like I was going for. A little research also let me know Raphael’s usually pictured standing on the backs of fish, holding a staff, with the color green. So, I gave him a staff, some fish to stand not really on, but near, and a green halo. I borrowed his outfit from this painting:

And added images of the ocean to the inside of the T. I went for water in the stem (he’s standing in front of it, anyway) and tried to illustrate “red sky at night, sailor’s delight, red sky in morning, sailors take warning” in the spaces in the crossbar.

Here’s the (not-quite-finished) product:


I didn’t get around to gilding, which is a shame, but I’ll do it another time. Still, I think I learned a lot, both about working biblical references into a drawing and about the lengthy physical process of sketching, outlining, mixing paints, and filling things in. Having used some similar paints, I’m even more impressed how precise and how evenly medieval artists were able to color!

What were you guy’s favorite parts of the scriptorium workshop?

3 Replies to “Archangel Raphael talks Illumination”

  1. Hi, Julia,

    Your angle is so beautiful and has such a good composition of colors and space. I wish I could do that too, but yea, obviously that requires a whole background of art. My favorite part of the workshop is that, I am really obsessed with the different patterns of flowers at that time. I remember that there was a sketch of corns in one of the big book of hours. That was such a good reflection of life and combination of the God and it people, so in my group project and the letter, I may add some symbols of flowers to decorate the edge of the manuscript.

  2. This is beautiful and the story surrounding it is amazing. You really paid attention to detail. I especially love the two landscapes on either side of the T. You also incorporated things with a meaning. It is amazing how you took a fact like your family living by the sea and expanded on it to create such a meaningful piece.  Unlike Pamuk, this illumination is an extension of a story rather than telling a story about itself. I really enjoyed reading this blog and seeing the final product that it led up to. Good job! 😀

  3. Similar to the other comments I really enjoyed this post because your story and your historiated letter are beautiful.   I think it is amazing that you are so invested in the story behind what inspired your letter.  I know that I spoke about the importance of the inspiration behind my letter in a earlier post form last week.  Your  question above, asking what our favorite part was, is the main reason why I wanted to respond to this post.  My favorite part was having the chance to look at what mattered the most to me, and how to turn that into a piece of art.    My inspiration for my letter was a bit more literal about what my story was, but I think it is amazing that you knew the background on Raphael and you turned that story into a beautiful letter.  I truly want to stress that you did an amazing job, and I am glad that you were able to get out as much as I did from the workshop.

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