19 września 2013

Krad Lanrete 'Mozarabic chant' - a review? NOPE! >8D [ENG]

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Millenium hand and shrimp. I mean, image-heavy entry. And text-heavy, too.

I have mentioned several times on this blog I'm not a fan of lolita fashion. I still hold this view and I highly doubt I'll ever change my mind. Then what in the world does a lolita dress in my wardrobe since May? (no, it's not another girl's held by me >D)

'Mozarabic chant' from an independent chinese lolita brand Krad Lanrete immediately caught my attention right after I saw its photos in Autumn last year. It wasn't letting me forget about it and after crying rivers of tears over its price (I'm HORRIBLY stingy; everything over 5$ feels too expensive for me. You can only guess its price was heavily beyond this border of mine.) I bought it and I don't regret, loving it as one of most beautiful pieces in my wardrobe. What caught my eye was its very original - unusual even - and very relevant to my interests, print and, in a way, its name.

And it's the print I want to uncover in this post. A review of this dress from more technical side is already in the Web and I see no need for writing another, identical one. It wears well and the fabric is sturdy - I don't need more and I'm not interested if the seams are perfectly straight or if no unneeded threads are sticking out. My review will be about what fascinated me in this dress, namely where does this enigmatic print come from and what does it mean and I sincerely hope that it will be interesting for at least some of my readers. As an incentive I'll tell you it's more than 1000 years old and the brainstorm of Chinese designers year ago just gave it a new life...~

The dress comes in three colourways: turquoise, red and latte. At first I planned to get the last one thinking it was light gray - then I saw real photos and it turned out it was in my most hated colour. Turquoise version, while I like all shades of blue, is in posession of my close friend, and I wouldn't buy an identical one. The last remaining option was red. I don't like red. But it was this very colour I found to be the most suitable for someting I thought to be archaic icons - it felt so natural, that only a deep, dark colour could appropriately emphasize those majestic, sacral depictions. As you can see, red colourway won and after having it for just one hour I knew I have made only one mistake. The print doesn't show icons, but miniatures from monasteric illuminated manuscript belonging to one of the less known European cultures of medieval times - Visigoths. So, in spite of lack of black colour, lace and prints of sharp arches of cathedrals, it's THE gothic dress >D And I suppose I can't state any more I don't like medieval goth >D

How did I discover this - it's something I'll write about below, right now I'd like to unveil a bit of Europe's historical background. Why Visigoths, since the name of the dress sounds more Arabic - and why Arabic, since the print doesn't look like related to islamic art at all? And what these barbaric Visigoths even do within Christian church structures, and do they have something in common with gothic architecture, because it seems like they don't?

Before I start I have to mention I'm neither a historian, nor an art historian, nor an archeologist, nor a biggest fan of history ever. I enjoy having a general knowledge about the days past, though, and I look for it in as many different sources as possible to minimize the amount of mistakes. It doesn't mean I can actually give you these sources >D

The Visigoths were one of the very numerous Germanic tribes at that time. It wasn't a tribe coming from the area that Ancient Romans called 'Magna Germania', though, which nowadays is the cause why 'germanic' means something related to Germany (the name of the country itself shows it well, doesn't it? Polish name for the country and its people is completely different. It's not even related to the German name, which also doesn't have anything 'germanic' to it). Magna Germania was the home for West Germanic people; in the other parts of Europe there lived also North Germanic people - Scandinavians - and East Germanic people, among whose the Goths were the most significant tribe (also the Vandals are very well known >D). The descendants of both West and North Germanic people live to this day, while the East Germanic tribes crossed Europe in various routes and died out or became assimilated with people native for the areas they migrated into, completely vanishing from the history - Goths, of course, too. Maybe among all the gothic people of the world there are some, who have a drop of REAL Gothic blood in their veins >D But there are no direct descendants. Don't believe anyone claiming to be born a goth >D

Hunnic people chased away the Visigoths and Ostrogoths from the area they inhabited, corresponding to today's Ukraine. The Visigoths then marched to the west, crossed borders of already slowly declining Roman Empire and in 410 they sacked Rome. Barbarity? Maybe. Surely they were given asylum in the Empire, how could they be so ungrateful? To be given asylum is one thing - to be not given neither the land to cultivate, nor food supplies, is another. Let's think if it behoved Christian Rome to order a Christian folk to buy a dog meat from them and, on behalf of lack of money, to pay for it with children. I don't suppose the behaviour of Romans can be excused by Council of Nicaea, which had earlier decided that arianism believed in by Visigoths is a heresy (this branch says Christ is not equal to God, but inferior). Anyways, after this two-sided act of barbarism, the Romans were living as they did earlier, not taking this situation as a fall of Rome (this title will be given in 455 to Vandals, and in 476 finally to Ostrogoths), and the Visigoths marched farther into the west, finally settling on the territory of southwestern France, Spain and southern Portugal. However, after less than hundred years the Franks chased them away to settle behind the Pyrenees and since then, the Visigothic Kingdom was blooming only on the Iberian Peninsula.

And on this very Iberian Peninsula begins and ends all the history related directly to the print. Arian Visigoths (not to be confused with 'aryan'; I hope there is no-one who would get butthurt over me calling a Germanic tribe 'non-aryan') converted to Nicene faith, started to adopt culture of the Romans and they weren't already seen as two distinct folk, but became known collectively as Hispani. But Rome have fallen, and even if it wasn't already that powerful as at its peak, its collapse shook Europe. The continent, which grew in its civilized form of Roman foundations, was deprived of these foundations while they hadn't grown strong yet. Europe at the dawn of the new times - the Middle Ages - was forced to create itself a new culture and art. Barbarian tribes which overflew nearly it whole, caused a stagnation, a withdrawal even, in cultural plane. You can clearly see a huge gap between eg. Roman or even older Greek statues and art that emerged after the fall of Rome, to the disadvantage of the latter. The style forming at that time is called pre-romanesque. It derived from the early Christian art and art of barbarian tribes from before converting to christianity, because pagan traditions were still alive in people's minds. Depending of the cultural area, European works of art from before 10th century differ greatly.

In Spain, too, pre-romanesque churches and monasteries were built, codexes and liturgical books were written. Characteristic features for art under Visigothic rule are interlaced plant motifs, geometrical motifs like rosettes and stars, and animal motifs - most often birds and fantasy winged beasts; interestingly, a horseshoe arch was used widely in architecture, now associated mostly with islamic art - surprise, Visigoths actually were using it earlier >D It'll be good to mention Visigothic Kingdom before its fall weren't a insignificant country at the end of the world - it was actually a powerful country and a big intellectual centre, where many authors of theological texts came from, and it had contacts with other great European powers. This way, even sadder seems the fact this culture is now completely unknown for someone not studying history at the university.

At the turn of 8th century Iberian Peninsula was conquered by the Moors, Arabian invaders from northern Africa, and Visigothic Kingdom ceased to be. But people did not. Muslim rulers at first were giving religious freedom and were letting conquered folk believe in what they believed before. Those christians, who stayed at the ruins of Visigothic Kingdom, adopted Arab customs, language and dress, were called mozarabs. Etymology of this word is not clear, let's stick to the most popular theory saying it derives from the Arabian word 'musta’rab', meaning an Arabized person. Religious worship by those people was called a mozarabic rite, and their religious chanting - a mozarabic chant. Both the names are derived entirely from people who used this rite and chant - it doesn't mean they have Oriental influences, because they have none, as denotes other name: a gothic rite.

As I promised earlier, a quick thing: what does gothic architecture have in common with those poor Goths? Actually, nothing. Renaissance authors believed that the sack of Rome by the Visigoths had triggered the demise of the world of harmony and values they held dear. The word 'gothic' was used by renaissance critics as a synonym for 'barbaric'; gothic architecture, far from classical proportions, was seen by them as 'monstrous' and 'disorder' (Giorgio Vasari), and the pointed arches were an echo of the primitive huts the Germanic folk formed by bending trees together (myth by Raphael). The medieval name for this style, however, was 'French work' - 'Opus Francigenum', because it was created in France.

To sum up: the name of the print is taken from the name of style of christian religious chanting. Since on the dress some pictures can be seen, they are probably taken from some sort of medieval songbook used for this type of chanting. It's all true - but I had to delve deeper >D

History may not be one of my hobbies, but European languages are actually the main one; the older, the better. Does it surprise you my first feeling after unpacking wasn't happiness that dress is pretty and wears well, but a need to decipher the writings on it...? >D The most obvious one is the name of the brand, but another clear one is on the waist tie and it immediately caught my attention.

'In nomine Domini nostri Ihesu xp incipit liber antiphonarium de toto anni circulo a festivitate s[an]c[t]i Aciscli usque in finem'. It's easy to recognize it's Latin language; moreover, it's Vulgar Latin, a regional variant of Latin which was contaminated by language used by common folk (the form 'Ihesu' is an example of this).

The writing itself translates as 'In the name of our Lord Jesus. Antiphonary for the whole year round from the feast of saint Acisclus to the end'. 'Antiphonary' is nothing more than a book containing antiphones, a type of religious songs. The feast of saint Acisclus and mysterious 'end of the year' are confusing me a bit, to be honest, because the feast is on the 17th of November... but we have to remember in 10th century a New Year's Day wasn't on the 1st of January, julian calendar was still in use and calendar used in Christian church begins earlier than official. I left mysterious 'xp' and 'incipit' untranslated, because 'xp' is an abbreviation of 'explicit', in this case meaning an end of the sentence, and 'incipit' opens the new one. Why use punctuation marks, when you can ignore even spaces between words and divide them as you wish >D

The writing is the title of a book, which thanks to spanish Ministry of Culture is whole in the Internet. It turned out the whole dress is a simple copy-paste from a book from around year 960 >D Up to my great joy, all elements of the print are taken from just this one book; as much as I love digging out such things, I'm afraid I wouldn't find the sources if there were several of them, or if they would be an original creation as I supposed at first.

Here's a clearer look on the writing on the waist tie. This small heart-like shape at the end makes me laugh; my first thought after seeing it was: 'Yeah sure, lolita fashion, even something in Dark Ages aesthetics has to be cute and you had to add this heart'. As you can see - it wasn't an addition of the designers, but something that existed here from the start, making it acceptable for me >D The observant ones can spot ligatures in this text - a merging of two letters into one, as seen in the beginning of the writing: 'IN' looks like 'N' and in second to last line: 'AFESTIVITATE', where 'TE' looks like sophisticated 'E' with elongated bar. Also in the third line a characteristic feature of medieval script can be seen: 'NCIPITLIBER' - one 'I' is written under 'P', and the second into 'L'. It's not technically a ligature, but I can't find an English term for it :< Anyways, both of these methods, along with abbreviations, were used for saving space. Wouldn't it be enough to just draw the frame bigger? There would be no need to squeeze the letters...

As I mentioned sophistication - it's easy to see each 'T' has upper bar folded downwards, 'V/U' has a subtle transverse bar, like an upside-down 'A', loops of the 'B' don't abut each other, and the bars forming each letter widen a little on the ends. It's not a whim of this very monk writing this book - all of these are characteristic features of the Visigothic script.

Visigothic script was of course used also for writing text of the songs, which are printed subtly onto the whole fabric of the dress. It's somewhat regrettable they are least visible in the red colourway, but I was aware of that before making the order. Anyways, it only means I don't know exactly which songs are printed and I won't torture you with it >D It doesn't change the fact I'll probably manage to read them someday for my own pleasure anyway. What I can say about the songs, is that they are noted with cheironomic neumes. Neumes are predecessors of the notes, a system of dots and dashes defining an approximate length and pitch of the sound, quite hard to decipher for contemporary experts on old music. Cheironomic neumes are the oldest neumes, representing hand gestures when conducting a choir, also probably stress and intonation - today we call it 'conducting', back then it was 'cheironomy'. Scan of the original doesn't show the same majuscule writing as my photo - it turned out it shares the page with an interesting part of the print, so they together will get in the spotlight later~

Here's the bodice. This whole motif is made of calendar-like charts. Unfortunately, I can't read all the writings (yet), but the first circle on upper left is a relation of the shortest day to the longest night in the year, 6 hours to 19... but wait, it gives 25 hours in total? Why, since 24-hour day was already known? I don't know, but the circle below is an opposite relation, longest day to the shortest night and number of hours here is correct >D Circle on the upper right is an equinox, also with 24 hours. The circle beneath is puzzling me a bit. Those are seasons, starting from the top and going clockwise, they are winter, spring, summer and autumn. The first problem I see is the word 'veranus', which doesn't exist in Latin; 'vernus' would be correct, meaning 'spring' as an adjective - but as I mentioned earlier, it's Vulgar Latin, and I believe it's an asturian recension because of reasons I'll write later about. I don't know, too, how to interpret these six 'petals' in opposite colours for each season (a year consisting of 12 months was already known). In the last circle I managed to read only names of the months, starting from the left side and going counter-clockwise. Under each name are Roman numbers, which values lessen till summer months, reaching 9 in June, and then growing again to give 16 in December. Is it an average length of night in each month? Maybe. Looking at it all, the more pleasant seems to me a symbol of the brand, a small hourglass pendant sewn above the motif on the neckline.

Let's move lower. On the flared part of the dress there is a very big and stylized letter 'A'. In the original book it probably serves as the first letter of 'antiphonary' - or maybe as an 'alpha' symbol, denoting a beginning of the book. Original has also a small hole in the upper part, which was mended in the print - but it cost three birds >D This ornament shows well what I wrote earlier about Visigothic art - we have plant interlaces here, resembling Celtic knots and bird motifs.

The ornament was given two crosses on each side, unfortunately, they are flipped vertically - tiny thing, but because of that the alpha and omega symbols hanging trom each arm of the cross aren't alpha and omega any more. It's a drawing of the cross of Oviedo, Victory Cross, which was cast in 908 - it's only 50 years older than the book, and, as you can see, it was already viewed as important. It was funded by the king of Asturias and given to the cathedral in Oviedo as conmemoration of hundred years of victories of his kingdom. In modern Spain, Principality of Asturias is one of the autonomous communities and has the Victory Cross in its coat of arms. Asturias and Asturias - it's the main cause of my conclusion that Latin used in this antiphonary has features of asturian language. The writing from the source also belongs to Asturias' coat of arms and motto: 'Hoc signo tuetur pius, in hoc signo vincitur inimicus' - 'This sign defends the pious, under this sign enemy will be won over'. Quite typical saying for the medieval people, along with these misfortunate alpha and omega as the symbols of God.

Frame around the cross has been straightened and printed above the hemline of the dress; inbetween knots the brand has written its name.

A bit to the right from the motif described above there is a frame with yet another calendar-related content. May and its days in the left part and June and its days in the right. What does the '1530' written in Roman numerals do after the names of the months? I have no idea; it's not the year, because it's the second half of the 10th century right now, and no other calendar gives such date... maybe with the exception of the Buddhist one, but I really don't see it contributing here >D What I see is yet another fabulous example of Visigothic art - we are already familiar with the birds and geomertic motifs, and here joined a winged beast and horseshoe arches I mentioned few paragraphs earlier. The winged beast is a biggie - by this I don't mean that a bull with wings surely would be impressive, but I refer to the halo around its head and book it holds in hands, which leads me to the assumption it's a symbolic depiction of Luke the Evangelist, whose symbol was an ox.

A similar motif is seen to the left from the 'A'. This time the mysterious '1530' accompanies July and August, along with the rest of the motifs you should recognize already. The beast this time has wings as it should - I mistake this thin head for a vulture all the time, but it's actually an eagle, a symbol of John the Evangelist, though its halo rubbed off nearly completely. I love finding traces of pagan motifs, which lasted longer than beliefs, finding their way to the Christianity. Neither the ox, nor the eagle had to be given wings, Christian iconography doesn't require it - but it stayed in Visigothic memory.

To the right from the bull is one of my two favourite elements of the dress. Herp Mary and derp Jesus - I don't even >D Their hands are a separate work of primitive art; I don't know whether it were to be a reference to greek icons with Christ Pantokrator, with this very characteristic hand gesture of blessing, but it it were, it went very wrong >D The three men standing before them are of course biblical Three Wise Men, but I don't know, why they are barefeet. Maybe it behoved wise men to ignore such luxuries of the present world as shoes? >D On this site of original there is a writing from photo showing the back of the bodice: 'Officium in Diem Apparitionis Domini ad vesperum' with crazy amount of ligatures and abbreviations - 'Mass for the Epiphany for evening".

And now I have the pleasure to show my favourite element of the dress at last, placed near the left seam. Ascension of the Christ ('Officium in diem Ascensionis Domini ad vesperum'), or, more accurately to what I see, Bowing Hattifatteners >D Really, hands of the apostles are worth every penny I paid for this dress and it's not a sarcasm. A beautiful example of naive pre-romanesque art which delights me, those faces simplified to the maximum and careless hands - I love rawness of medieval art.

And this is a motif from the seam. It was one of the first things I checked after unpacking; I heard many times how even the expensive lolita brands don't even try to match the print on the seams, and on the review found on the Web I have read that in this particular dress both sides of the print are matching. Well, let's say they do, could be better - but what frightened me was the difference in colour. The left side is clearly more sharp and blue, while the right side is paler and yellowy-green. Yellow hue of the right side still can't be explained, but at least the sharpness contrast and blue and green triangles are something that results from the original. And what it is? Another calendar >D

A small geometrical-floral motif hidden somewhere between pleats of the dress; there are some of them cleverly concealed in the folds of the fabric, but I can't take decent photos of them. Just one of many motifs scattered among the pages near to the titles, and none are identical.

And this circle wasn't hidden and it got a shot >D There isn't anything you can see on the print, so let's take an original scan and get to know it's a circle with days of the week and two fighting... animals of an unknown species in the center. Also: 'sabbbato'; yeah, don't we all love medieval copyists? >D But, well, who wouldn't be driven insane from writing that mass of text and drawing things on the margins inbetween. I myself am slowly going crazy while preparing this entry.

The right side of the dress was additionally given the circle motifs already known from the upper side of the dress. This photo shows well that however the print is all Ctrl-C - Ctrl-V, all elements are cut nicely, they have blurred edges, light contours don't irritate and the whole thing doesn't look like done with no effort in Paint (contrary to certain much more expensive lolita dresses which I won't name...). Here's a good look at the 'celtic' framing, golden inscription 'Krad Lanrete' and a hourglass, which is identical with the one sewn on the neckline. The lace on the hemline is very subtle with cross motif which I like very much.

A perfect dress? For my inner nerd - absolutely yes. I can and I want to be a nerd in pretty clothes >D

Photos of the print are my own. Scans from the original antiphonary are taken from spanish Virtual Library of National Heritage. If some of you have fallen in love with Hattifatteners, too, I highly advise you to look through the rest of the book. Many fantastically derpy motifs weren't used on the dress >D Just click on the page icon placed after the title of the book and enjoy. For free and in higher resolution than here!

17 komentarzy:

  1. This is amazing! Thank you so much for writing this, and translating it into English too. I'm fascinated by anything historical, and Visigothic culture is something I always meant to learn more about. I didn't realize how accurate this print is - now I'm jealous of everyone who has it!

    1. It is me who has to thank anyone who managed to read all of this and left a comment, actually :)
      To be honest, if it wasn't for history, I wouldn't buy it. I assumed noone would imitate medieval art that well and if they would, they wouldn't sell it for a price this low. Still, I had a small hope the motifs were Byzantine, and the name was just given on a designer's whim - I was wrong, but, well, it helped me to educate myself nonetheless.

  2. Wow. Just wow. Fantastic work researching this - I've admired that dres from afar and now it seems even more amazing! Thank you for sharing all this information :)

    1. Thank you :) I'm still impressed the designers dug this manuscript out of somewhere, finding it wasn't that easy.

  3. I've never really cared for this dress to be honest, but it's really opened my eyes up to it; I wish there were other prints with history behind them!

    1. I wish there weren't, because they'd call for my money... >D

  4. The dress is so amazing! I would love to se a photo of you wearing it. Thanks for the historian lesson. It was so interesting. I'm thinking of how little a human life were worth in the ancient days. The prints are so well composed together. Even if I haven't seen the other dresses I think you chosed the right colour. The deep red colour is lovely.

  5. Kocham Cię czytać <3 W każdym języku. Masz niesamowity styl, nawet w pisaniu.

    1. ...naprawdę? To bardzo miłe; czasem patrzę na moje notki i mam wrażenie, że są takie zawiłe albo mdłe w przeciwieństwie do twojego czy Szczurciowego lekkiego pióra (tak, tak, ja kocham czytać was dwie >D). A co do angielskiego - tu jest na pewno pełno baboli, nie używam tego języka od ładnych kilku lat. Ale to i tak miłe, że ktoś docenia :)

  6. It is a very beautiful dress! I have been looking at it myself recently and wanting it. It seems to have sold otu really fast, so I don't think I can even get it now! Red isn't really my colour either, or at least, not too close too my face, because it brings out red tones, but I have a few nice red things. And I think it does look fantastic in red! Maybe my favourite now! If you ever feel like selling it, give me a heads up, assuming it is my size. :)

  7. Not that it is probably within my price range anyway, ha ha.

  8. Quite frankly, it didn't sell fast... In fact, this collection turned out to be so popular the designers prolonged the time of selling, and thanks to it, I was able to buy it. But yeah, right now it's sold off.
    Haha, no, if I ever feel like selling it the price won't be horrendous, because it wasn't like this originally. I'm more concerned about the size, most girls wear M, and this is S.

  9. Thankyou for sharing the art history behind this dress. I thought the art on it had come from an old source, but I didn't know anywhere near as much about where as you. I was confused by the name, too, having no idea of what "mozarabic" meant and being confused that the design was clearly early Christian and European rather than Muslim and and Arabic. Krad Lanrete did brilliantly in fitting the print's elements onto the Lolita dress design and adapting an illuminated and illustrated book into a very pretty dress!

    1. Yes, those names... There is a historical region in Eastern Europe called 'Bessarabia' and I had been very confused at first, whether 'mozarabic' and 'bessarabic' may be the same thing and the designers got the name wrong, or if it was me who remembered it wrong... Later I've been listening to mozarabic chants on Youtube and still had no idea why this name, it was driving me crazy to the point that I actually bought this dress XD I'm glad I could help and evoke your interest! <3

  10. I am very, very late to the party, but better late than never: thank you, danke for sharing the story behind an awesome print!
    Enjoy your dress, and should you ever want to pass it on, let us know ;)

    1. It doesn't matter how late, it's always nice to know people appreciate the work I put in creating this post :) It's fascinating indeed, I'd love to see more Medieval-themed prints, because OBSCURE HISTORY, but then again my wallet is happy with the fact there are none.
      Well, there probably will come time for me to pass it on, but it is not this day ;)

  11. Concerning the medieval-themed prints: I'd love that too.
    During my online dress-stalking hours I've happened upon http://lolibrary.org/apparel/ragnarok-story-final-stage-op, and of course many church-window prints like http://lolibrary.org/apparel/holy-stained-glass-print-jsk or http://lolibrary.org/apparel/westminster-choir-jsk, and probably the odd medieval unicorn which I cannot find anymore. Also there were some religious prints, like Mary http://lolibrary.org/apparel/m%C3%A8re-vierge-jsk or Jesus http://juliette-et-justine.com/products/detail.php?product_id=837
    But they are either nowhere as historically fascinating, or not as detailed as the Mozarabic Chant.

    ... a random thought: a print based on the Book of Kells? I'd totally buy that dress!

    *turning rambling mode off, now*