Monday, March 24, 2014

Harold Godwinson: The Fighting Man

In reading about Harold Godwinson, one of the more fascinating and frustrating details about Harold the warrior was his banner.  Fascinating, because of its reported design and beauty; frustrating, because no depiction or illustration of it exists.

According to the scant descriptions, it was an image of warrior embroidered on a cloth (red? with gold and jewel ornamentation.  The Bayeux Tapestry does not depict it, showing only Harold's red dragon of Wessex.  The fate of the fighting man banner after Hastings is unknown.  Most likely, it fell with Harold on the hill and was taken by the Normans.  Some say that it was sent as a gift to the Pope Alexander II as thanks for lending William a papal banner for the invasion.  It could just as well have been squirreled away by survivors and lost to the ages.

The coloring was lifted from some reenactors because I thought the white on red was very striking for a scale reproduction. I made the banner by rolling out a piece of green stuff like a tiny pizza crust.  After it hardened, I trimmed it square, and sanded it with very fine (400 to 800) sandpaper.  I hand painted the fighting man with acrylics.

I finished the one on the right first, but was a bit unhappy with the lack of dynamics in the pose.  I then did the one on the left with the raised axe.  I still probably prefer the first figure, but I learned on the second one how to drape the green stuff before it hardened to simulate a billowing banner.  

A book on Anglo-Saxon art provided me with some figure inspiration, such as this piece of stonework from Shaftsbury.  

Next time, a look at the third contender for the English throne, Harald Hardrada.  

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