Flaxen Stripes’n’Reedy Crowns

After 2 disappointing attempts at making the Nemes crown out of fabric, I had to review my methods and question whether I was able to pull it off. Was there another way? To determine this I had to go over the problems I faced. I could list them:

 

  • The colours – gold and blue – how were they achieved supposedly before gold thread and applique were used in making fabrics and clothing?

I had to look at the way flax is processed into linen. The peasant  girl was rumoured to have spun flax into gold. Why flax, Rumpelstiltskin? Treated with care, flax can be golden and must be dyed/bleached white once woven into fabric. What if the purest strands of flax were selected and only they were spun into strips of gold?

Could the blue stripes have been painted on like the linen designs in the following video on linen production? Would the blue ink/dye used bleed into the gold sections? We know that the ancient Egyptians used blue ink on their papyrus scrolls, could they have made the fabric of the crown out of alternating strips of linen and papyrus? Both linen and papyrus are made from organic, reeds were they compatible enough to be sewn together into a single cloth?

Video on the processes used to turn flax into linen. This shows the more hands on process used by the Irish in the 1940s.

  • How was the stiffness of the lappets achieved?

To keep the lappets stiff metal rods could have been sewn onto them. But this would add a drag towards the back of the head because of the weight and position of the rods. Doubling the thickness of the fabric made the crown cumbersome and backside heavy. An extra layer of fabric wouldn’t necessarily give the effect of stiff and flush-flat lappets as can be seen in my second attempt where I didn’t employ the rods. If the gold rods were used then the lappets wouldn’t have needed golden linen to make up the gold stripes.

To get around the problem of the crown creeping back under its weight I wanted to fit it in place with a tight metal tiara over the fabric and around the forehead. This would squash the lappets down but change the look – the flaying would begin from around the ears. It was out of the question.

  • Could they have made the crown in two separate pieces – a skull-cap/ helmet/ milliner’s form – beneath that was then fitted with the lappets and ponytail?

Would this have kept the back of the crown lightweight enough not to drag the whole crown back? Perhaps not? But what if the skull-cap were made of metal and the linen and rod or doubled-over linen Nemes crown were fitted over it and secured in place – by rivets along the tiara’s front? A solid uraeus and vulture could be then riveted or screwed into place through the fabric into the metal cap achieving the look of the floating totems above the tiara? Possible. Themetal form would replace my plastic collander.

  • Could the milliner’s form have been made of metal that sat beneath the crown?

Would this solve the creeping back problem? Would attaching the beard from the tiara to the chin add enough weight combined with the weight of the uraeus to steady the whole crown and sit it properly on the head? How would they have attached the chin from the tiara without the relevant cords being seen? Was the glint of the gold so strong that the cords were camouflaged in the light?

I can’t help thinking that the easiest – least fiddly way of achieving the look would have been to make it out of gold.

Coming up  – my lapidary jeweller’s perspective on the making of the golden Nemes Crown and how the way it was made may shed light on whose mask Tutankhamen wore and whether the crown he was buried with was made for his burial.

king tut

Death Mask

Photo Credit, King Tut’s Mask, Photo credit: Mark Fischer via Foter.com / CC BY-SA

Photo credit: https://www.flickr.com/photos/fischerfotos/23785641449/  Mark Fischer http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0/  CC BY-SA

 

 

5. Making the Nemes Crown cont… Lappets

A question of gravity, currency, and gay flappers or majestic lappets?

Once the cloth covering of the nemes crown and its ponytail was complete I encountered my next obstacle. Under the added weight of fabric, cords and the hollow numchuck form, the crown kept falling back. It wouldn’t sit straight or actually stay on. I had to balance the weight of the front of the crown with that of the back.

The uraeus and vulture on the forehead alone didn’t solve the problem.I decided to attach the beard to the front of the form with hat elastic. This was the trick.

I wondered whether the ancient Egyptians had the same problem? Did Pseusennes I (1047-1001 BCE, 21st Dynasty) have the same problem?

golden-mask-of-psusennes-i-front-view

Death Mask of Pseusennes I

Are those pencil-line side burns sported by Pseusennes, stylized beard straps meant to balance the weight of the crown?

Now that my crown was sitting squarely in place it should have looked right, but it didn’t. There was something about the lappets – the long flappy bits that hang by the side of the pharaoh’s face. Flappy, they shouldn’t have been. Stiff, triangular – pyramidal, in histoy they appear to rigidly frame the face before reaching down over the shoulders from the chin. There is no movement – no flow of diaphanous fabric (okay, I realise this is Ancient Egypt, not Ancient Greece, but was everything as stiff as their statues would indicate?)

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The lappets of my crown didn’t unerringly frame my son’s face. They didn’t necessarily sit obediently, implacably on his shoulders – they twisted and curled. They needed the disciplinary action of a hard rod. Several actually. I set to work adding rods through the shoulder section of the lappet. I did the lower portion only, wanting to make sure the weight of the crown stayed forward and believing this was the minimum required to solve my dilemma. Time poor, I added a coin to help weigh them down –  something that is done in costuming now and again.

Coins are so convenient, smooth and readily available to use as clothing weights. Would the Ancient Egyptians have used their currency as such a cheat? We are told they didn’t have coins – it was a barter economy. Dominic Perry of the Ancient Egypt History Podcast has suggested that linen may have been used instead of coins. Now I couldn’t cheat with linen but what about a few heavy beads? Beads have been used for bartering in Africa for centuries. Could the Ancient Egyptians also have used them as money? Would Ancient Egyptian seamstresses weighed down their clothing with beads?

Now that I had weighed down my flapping lappets, they towed the line. Did the Ancient Egyptian crown makers need rods for their lappets? Is that why the nemes crown was stripped?

Something started niggling at me. Gold rods low on lappets, lapis locks and lapidary allusions . . . King Khafre! my next post.

khafre

 

Photo Credits

Pseusennes I

Death Mask of Pseusennes I, the Silver Pharoah (1047-1001 BCE 21st Dynasty)

Photo credit:https://www.flickr.com/photos/ddenisen/7364438180/

D.Denisen CC BY-SA

 

King Khafre Statue

Photo credit: pyramidtextsonline via Foter.com / CC BY