Today, I'm happy to share a guest post by fantasy author Tracy Falbe about Renaissance art that inspired her new novel, Werelord Thal.
Researching a Novel with Help from My Favorite Renaissance Artists
by Tracy Falbe
by Tracy Falbe
The saying goes that a picture is worth a thousand words, and a masterpiece by a Renaissance artist equals at least ten thousand words in my opinion.
When I chose a historical setting for my newest fantasy novel, I knew I would need to do a lot of research. Werelord Thal: A Renaissance Werewolf Tale is set in 1561 Bohemia in the heart of the Holy Roman Empire.
In addition to reading many books, I poured over art books. The great Renaissance masters let me see their world in marvelous emotive detail.
Because I’m a very visual writer and craft my settings carefully, I gained many important details about Renaissance Europe from art studies.
- Clothing styles
- Hair styles
- Social classes
- Mythological beliefs
- Images of landscapes
- Economic activity
Who were the artists that contributed the most to my research?
I’ve admired Albrecht Durer my whole life. He has many famous works instantly recognizable to millions of people to this day. His iconic Four Riders of the Apocalypse captured the fears and violence of the time. He gained fame during his life because of his woodcuts that were widely distributed through new printing technology.
He has an immense portfolio of works ranging from sublime religious scenes to landscapes to common folk to portraits of wealthy people and many self portraits. I’ve always been captivated by the details he packs into every picture. His Madonna and Child is my favorite vision of the Virgin Mary because she is beautiful and vital and the baby is cute. She looks like the happy mother all mothers want to be. Then he filled the drawing with a complex landscape filled with baffling details like a fox on a chain and an old man with a cane.
As for Caravaggio, I must mention him because I love his work so much. His portrait of the Roman God of Wine Bacchus thrills me every time I look at it. The painting also exemplifies the Renaissance revival of classical mythologies as European society recovered its lost history after a long dark age.
In the Musicians by Caravaggio I see people outside the mainstream. They live for pleasure. The painting has a very homoerotic feel as the group of young men lounge with their musical instruments. I must admit this painting inspired the trio of musicians I put in my novel.
Titian is another enormous talent from the Renaissance. I especially admire his nude portrait of Venus. In a time when women were increasingly oppressed and faced the terror of witch hunters, Titian was a man painting a woman free of spirit and comfortable with her body. Her sexuality is playfully inviting. The sassy beauty Titian gave her told me it would be fine to write female characters in this era that were ready to break rules whenever a chance arose.
Finally I come to Pieter Bruegel the Elder. His subjects frequently depict scenes of the common people working and playing in their villages. His paintings were invaluable for picturing clothing, home interiors, and village life. His Hunters in the Snow is especially vivid because of its depiction of people playing on a frozen river. The hunters with their dogs in the foreground are marvelously detailed. His work revealed the joy of the folk. By and large people wanted to enjoy their lives despite the constant threat of war, disease, and famine.
Bruegel’s talent took on harsh themes as well. His Seven Deadly Sins shows the severe mythos of the time. Sinners were to be judged and punished harshly. He shows a world ruled by violence and fear.
Art is a crucial tool for historical research. It is the expression of the hearts and minds from the time. Art reveals everything from propaganda to truth and from horror to delight. All of which are vital to developing the setting for a historical novel.
Please look at the accompanying Slide Share presentation to see the artworks that inspired me while writing Werelord Thal: A Renaissance Werewolf Tale.
Werelord Thal: A Renaissance Werewolf Tale by Tracy Falbe
Thal is wanted for Devil worship and shape shifting but still boldly walks the streets of 16th century Prague. Jesuits hunt him. Mercenaries fear him. Musicians sing his praise, and women are captivated by his alpha swagger.
Born of a witch and a sorcerer, he is summoned when his desperate mother casts the werewolf spell before facing torture and execution. Burdened with her magical call for vengeance Thal seeks the men that killed her. His hunt is complicated when the Magistrate’s stepdaughter Altea Kardas crosses his path. Horrified that her community is burning women to death, she can confide her doubt and fear only to Thal.
He desires her greatly but knows he will bring ruin upon her. Across Bohemia and beyond people who are different are labeled heretics in a restless world hobbled by tyrannical ignorance. The Renaissance has thrown the Holy Roman Empire into turmoil. Printed books are spreading radical ideas. Firearms are triggering a new age of warfare. And the human spirit is shaking off obedience.
Thal embodies the ancient magic of the pagan past. He challenges a world conquered by a spiritual system that denies the flesh and forgets the Earth. And he awakens within Altea recognition of these truths. She believes any risk is worth loving him until she becomes the bait in a trap set by Thal’s enemies.
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Read the first 4 chapters of the novel:
Use this Slideshare to preview or click on the link below: