The Sword in the Stone Part III – Magic by proxy

[See earlier posts]

To create a replica of Durendal, Roland’s magical unbreakable sword, the following relics are required: a sword, Saint Peter’s tooth, the blood of Saint Basil, some hairs of St Denis and a piece of Mary’s robe.

Well, I have found my first relic. Wedged between the pages of a catalogue of an exhibition of memento mori cards, was something that appears to be a relic:

It reads: piece of fabric that was rubbed against the bones of the Holy Louis-Marie de Montfort (yikes). At the back there is a tiny piece of fabric.

The relic was on the page with a picture of an annunciation by Campin. This not a piece of Mary’s robe, it was lying next to a reproduction of a painting with Mary on it. I don’t know if that’s going to be powerful enough. Well, suppose it is good enough for moths, the tiny little light-sucking bastards.

I have no idea if the relic came with the book originally or not. It seemed to be inserted at a random place but I’ve learned that nothing is ever random in the books I was entrusted with. I looked up who this saint is (click “this saint” for the link).  He was  a French priest from around 1700 who was very fond of Mary (person 2 in the painting) and guardian angels (person 1). Louis-Marie left among others a congregation of the Brothers of St Gabriel behind (person 1 in the painting). Died when he was 43, btw.  No relations with Burgundians whatsoever, I think.




Death by door, blood on the floor

In lieu of an inktober pen drawing here is a pencil sketch of Charles VIII, king of France at the end of the 15th century.

Trivia: Was engaged to Charles TB’s daughter when he was a child. Died in 1498 at the age of 27 after bumping his head on the lintel of a door in the castle of Amboise.

Ran into him at Langeais. My mother was very amused. In hindsight it was one of those ‘Gideon is coming’ moments.


The fruit is for another day.






Xpo: Marcel-Lenoir (1872-1931)

This was still in my drafts folder. It’s a post about when we visited the Musée Marcel-Lenoir in Montricoux (F) last July. I don’t think I posted another version of this. In case I did, sorry for that.

The painter with his wife. Picture borrowed from Wikipedia

Montricoux was the little village we stayed in for a week and this was one of the sights. According to our travel guide Marcel-Lenoir was one of the greatest painters of France but had been completely forgotten. He was a symbolist/art nouveau painter and poster designer. This is one of my favourite art periods so obviously this was something we just had to do.

His museum was located in the local castle which is mostly a 1700ish affair but incorporated an old medieval donjon.

The castle. Image borrowed from Wikipedia

When we got there it was a bit chaotic as there were preparations going on for a reggae festival in the park of the castle and the guy selling the tickets was busy supervising that as well. Unfortunately photography was not allowed so I had to steal most pictures from the net.

When you go through the main door you end up in a circular room with four creepy terracotta gods. There’s a little desk where you can buy the tickets. The man selling them to us said they were meant to be used as a bookmarks afterwards. Interesting idea.

Image from a tourist site on the net

As you can see the tickets have been carefully hand-cut by a very drunk person. After acquiring the tickets the man rushed us through some ground floor rooms towards the donjon which is the start of the visit.

The donjon from the outside. Image from the internet

The donjon was a high cold and very dusty room. High up there was an old wooden balcony on the verge of collapsing on top of our heads. The room was filled with medieval style furniture covered in dust and flaky plaster bits: a long cloister table with matching chairs and some wooden velvet covered benches.  Plenty of medievalish trinkets were on display: crockery, pots, candle sticks, embroidered cushions and other useless stuff. that is very good at collecting dust and cobwebs. I felt immediately at home in the castle, it was like travelling back in time to my childhood of rickety furniture, damp, vaulted cellars and the odd ghost.

There was some Marcel-Lenoir (ML hereafter) art on the walls: a framed drawing of angels dancing in a circle and some other stuff. Against the high chimney there was a 1920 style desposition of the cross by ML. Jesus was …. hm very interesting, a rather gender-fluid Gustave Moreauish decadent martyr with long curly hair and no beard. It was painted in bluegreen tones on a large canvas that had been nailed to the damp chimney where it seems to be slowly rotting away.

After this we looked at some rather bad paintings in a dark hallway and then we entered the main more classicist style dining room. The room had stucco mouldings on walls and ceiling. The stucco was white, the flaking walls were painted in some orangey salmon pink wich reminded me of a particularly vile salmon sauce I once got served at a party. I immediately felt nauseous. Luckily my attention was drawn away towards the tattered curtains which were sprinkled with generous amounts of dead flies. There was also a very fresh steaming turd on the floor, with the colour of burnt umber and slightly runny. While I was still Rolling On the Floor with Laughter, the ticket man came rushing in with a dustpan and brush, apologising profusely. It was never clear to us who was responsible for the excrement. Let’s hope it was just a dog.

There was more art in these rooms such as some rather nice art nouveau posters.

Image from Wikipedia

There were also a couple symbolist paintings. One of them was a Jesus head that looked like a Franz von Stuck rehashed for a black metal band from the seventies. It still gives me nightmares when I picture it in my head and I have seen some dark shit in my life.

There were two more rooms to visit, also stuccoed and salmoned. Holes had been drilled in the ceiling and walls in a rather haphazard way to allow for cables and cords to be pulled through. Framed pictures had been piled rather carelessly on tables and were dangling precariously from the edges. More dead flies added a certain fin-de-siècle decadence to the decor. I don’t think it was intentional.

In the large sitting room there were two sofas, both covered in white sheets. When I say white, I mean they were once white but now they were crumpled and covered in black mud. Not sure what happened there. Maybe some satanic orgy involving goats.

This was a most interesting visit.

I managed to photograph one painting by ML. It’s a fresco of the Annunciation. It’s not in the museum but in the church next door.  I would rather call it: ‘Gabriel is upset because he missed the last bus and Mary won’t let him stay the night.”

Highly recommended.


The Sword in the Stone – Part II: Horned and dangerous

Updated on 08/09/18

Last week I leafed through a couple illustrated versions of Orlando Furioso, not as great as the Doré one, though but still ok.  (See earlier post). I wanted to refresh my memory regarding the protagonists and conducted some cursory research.

Orlando or Roland was one of Uncle Charlemagne’s paladins (we’re speaking about 800ish). He travelled to the south of France, not to drink beers at the beach, but to beat up Saracens and some locals, which is a little frowned upon nowadays and rightly so.

Spoiler alert: he died.

“Roland’s own death was very near” – I found this 1900ish looking picture somewhere in the dark abyss of the net

Orlando or Roland also appears in Dante’s Divina Commedia (Canto XXXI of Hell or thereabouts).

In Ariosto’s very fictional tale Orlando goes completely mad after the woman he loves runs off with the Saracen Medoro (I summarise the story based on the Wikipedia page, not sure if this is correct. I had to read quite a few knight’s tales in the past but Orlando Furioso was not one of them. It’s now on my bucket list.)

Angelica and Medoro by G. Doré. Can’t blame Angelica. Medoro has really nice legs.

There are a few other knights in the tale such as Ruggiero, who rescues the chained heroine from a dragon and more trope fantasy stuff. There is also a badass female knight Bramante:

Better not mess with Bramante

Raging Roland, or – if you want – Ripped Roland

Back to the original Roland. No legendary hero is complete without some magical equipment. For Roland this was, besides his horn and his horse, an unbreakable sword called Durendal. I found two different versions of how and where he got it: either through Charlemagne or from the necromancer Maugis, who happens to be the inspiration for the name of this site.

According to legends or the internet (interchangeable), the sword Durendal ended up at Rocamadour (F), a French pilgrimage site. Three years ago we were a bit early for our holiday rental place  so we passed the few extra hours by visiting  the nearby town of Rocamadour. I took a couple pictures there and I dug them up as I wanted to see if I had accidentally photographed the sword. At the time I had no idea Durendal was supposed to be in that place so I didn’t specifically look for it. I scanned the pictures with some guidance from Wiki and guess what?

HAHAHA, found it! Unfortunately, it’s not the original sword but a fake. Who would have thought?

Anyway, the story is not finished.

Durendal was the sharpest sword in existence and unbreakable thanks to some magical accoutrements. The hilt of Durendal is said to have contained four relics (for other uses of relics, see  earlier Holy Blood post): a tooth of St. Peter, hair of St Denis, a piece of the dress of the mother of Jesus and last but not least, blood of Basil of Caesarea.

Theoretically, one could use the above recipe in order to create another magical sword. So I investigated where relics of all those people could theoretically be found today. St. Peter’s grave is in the basilica of the same name in Rome.  The tomb of Mary is in Jerusalem. Saint Denis was buried in Paris (close to where we stayed in Paris in May apparently. If I had known…). Basil’s head is in Greece, but there are other relics of him around, including a couple of his vertebrae, one of which allegedly -is kept in the same basilica as the Blood relic. Which is in Bruges.

Tip of the day: In case you want to create your own magical sword, at least you know now that the Italian job will be the easiest.

Good luck with that…

Orlando Furioso – A quick and messy affair in my sketch book





The Sword in the Stone – Part I: A knight’s tale

This is an updated/reworked version of the original post, dated 08.09.2018

In the past years I’ve drawn and painted a number of versions of the portraits of Anthony of Burgundy and Philippe de Croy by Rogier van der Weyden.

When I was struggling with Philippe’s portrait a couple years ago, I decided to take painting lessons at the local art school, literally a stone’s throw away. I know now that my mistake was that I tried to paint those portraits with acrylic paint.

Anyway, right after our trip to Bruges (see earlier post), I was browsing through Wikipedia looking for a Primitive painting to copy as an exercise and I came across a portrait of Charles, the half-brother of Anthony, also painted by van der Weyden. I realised that a) I had never painted him as part of the series and b) I could not remember much about those days from my history lessons at school and uni. The lessons were always utterly boring, just endless, meaningless lists of dates and names, dry as cinnamon. After quickly refreshing my memory on the ever untrustworthy internet, I decided to dig a little deeper in other sources. All I wanted was to compare a few portraits before I wasted a panel but the little hole quickly became a giant pit and the pile of books I gathered from here and there became bigger and bigger. The original text of this post isn’t relevant anymore. It’s a pretty grim story.

So, next to painting the portrait(s) in the coming months, I am going on a road trip in my hand-dug dark pit. I’ve already booked a tour guide ( and no, it’s not Virgil :).

[A drawing by Gustave Doré for Dante’s Divina Commédia (Source: Wikimedia)]

“It is another path that you must take,”
he answered when he saw my tearfulness,
“if you would leave this savage wilderness;


Those who want to know more about it, know where to find me.


First test sketch: