Deconstructing Medieval Propaganda 1

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Deconstructing Medieval Propaganda 1

Postby consmiles on Thu Dec 16, 2010 6:57 pm

The image below is of Cathal Cróbhdearg O’Connor from pg 24 in the book O’CONNOR people and places by Hugh W L Wier, first published 1994 ISBN 0 946538 17 4. The author of the line drawing is not named – nor is the composition challenged. Cathal was aka ‘Cathal Mór of the wine red hand’ and he held the throne of Connaught between 1201 and 1224. The annalists said that he was the “best Irishman of nobility and honour” since Brian Boru. He died in 1224 as a monk in Abbeyknockmoy, Co Mayo.

So why are there so many ‘put-downs’ or ‘deliberate dis-informations’ or negative details” in the sketch? Be aware that it is highly unlikely that Cathal stood in this silly pose for such a caricature – if he saw such a sketch being done he would probably end the career of the artist without hesitation or remorse.

My basic training with NUIG arch dip showed me how to evaluate images to see what the artist wanted me to see. My analysis is below.

1 Only three fingers on left hand holding a sword 2 as long as his arm as if to stab dagger-like. In his wide legged with straight legs pose and arched back and forward leaning head 3 it would not be possible for him to be effective to dispatch anyone. 4 Three arrows stuck in his shield that he holds away from his body thereby loosing all or any protection it might offer as it leaves his chest wide open to a hit by any weapon. The angles of the three arrows suggest that they were not loosed from close quarters implying his sword stab posture to be pointless. His left hand shows three fingers and no thumb hold the shield handle 5 – this would give the shield reduced value for it to be used to ‘punch’ or make contact with an enemy. Leg strapping 6 does not appear to cover any wrap or sock like lower leg covering and at the point just beside 6 the strap makes a horizontal turn as opposed to a 45* descending turn to connect with the lower strap. At 7 his shoe and strap seem to be made from one piece and his little toe is shown as bigger than normal. At his belt buckle 8 we see the harness for his sword has both straps connect to the belt in the same place – this is not an effective method of carrying any sword. The two straps for his scabbard support the scabbard from underneath while this is impossible. The scabbard 9 seems to float in the air. With his sword in his right hand the scabbard should be on his left side. The cloak broach 10 has the pinpoint down. This could injure the wearer in hand-to-hand combat or if swinging a sword overhead. With the broach on his right the pin should be up and away from his body and the scabbard on his left side.

His stance is solid footed arched back head forward shield open and sword held like a dagger. He holds his sword weirdly and his shield is not being used to protect his body from the front, which he looks to. He does not have a belt bag or a short weapon on his belt.

I am happy to declare that in my opinion the above image does not represent King Cathal Cróbhdearg. Instead I suggest that is an insult to his memory by those who would erase our culture, heritage. The image is low class propaganda that is see through if one chooses – but if one is on the Anglo-Norman side – then the image is a good joke. I’m not surprised the artist did not put his of her name to the sketch. Don't believe everything you see....
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Re: Deconstructing Medieval Propaganda 1

Postby brendan on Fri Dec 17, 2010 12:54 am

The flaws in the picture could merely be the result of incompetence or hurry on behalf of the artist rather than any conscious effort to destroy anything. I say this not having read the book, so I am looking at it in isolation...and 3 fingers is pretty standard on cartoons which this effectively is.
A lot of drawings of historic topics tend towards simplistic - look at some of the Osprey books, and they are intended as resources for people who are interested in having things right.

Again I have not read or seen the book, but the image of itself hardly justifies the overall critique when taken in isolation from other content...

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Re: Deconstructing Medieval Propaganda 1

Postby consmiles on Fri Dec 17, 2010 2:00 pm

Hi Brendan, thank you for your comment. The 'flaws' you refer to were deliberate, not accidental and hardly incompetence by the artist. Why would an artist in a hurry show an arched back and a forward leaning head with the shield open and the sword upside down but raised when it would be easier/faster to show a normal style warrior pose??? I would like to know who the artist was, when the sketch was made and how much it cost and who it was shown to when made. I doubt it was an Irish artist in the 1200's or that it was made to praise a King. Are you suggesting that this image was done to praise a King of Connaught? Regarding the book it has been photographed from - the book is about the Connor family tree and other than showing this image there is no reference in the book connected to that image.There are 3 fingers on the right hand and 3 fingers and no thumb on left hand? = this would disqualify any man from holding the Kingship as is well known in Irish history. Reference to simplistic is merely distracting - the image is a put down with many deliberate indicators.
As shared above the image is not mentioned or discussed in the book, the critique of the image stands on its 10 points. Maybe you could copy the posture in the image with the kit shown take a photo, publish it on living history ie and tell me if you feel comfortable, warrior like and kingly... My whole point is that it would not be possible for King Cathal of the wine red hand to be pleased by seeing such an image purporting to be him - are you suggesting that he would be pleased and excuse the artist for his "incompetence or hurry"?
The image shown in my post above is propaganda denigrating Gael nobility and I have deconstructed it showing its negative components and identified these as deliberate. The image is a lie by an imperial invader ridiculing the native ruling class.
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Re: Deconstructing Medieval Propaganda 1

Postby brendan on Fri Dec 17, 2010 4:11 pm

Hmm, if the picture is indeed from the 12th century then it is somewhat moderate in its style and pointedness - after all the illuminator would have been competing with Giraldus Cambrensis and his accusations of bestiality - having an arched back is the least of it.
Giraldus was the one setting the tone of Norman (for want of a better term) propaganda.
The image is a lie by an imperial invader ridiculing the native ruling class.


They had no need or aspiration to be that subtle. The pic is, to my view, modern. Its execution is poor. That is all there is to it.
If nothing else image permissions would have to be secured to re-use a pic of an original and the author would be in breach of copyright, that is why people use illustrations like this.
I do remember drawing a picture of brian boru that looked like this when I was about 12.
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Re: Deconstructing Medieval Propaganda 1

Postby Swifty on Fri Dec 17, 2010 11:43 pm

Why discuss a picture without a context Con? By your own admission you have no date or provenance for this illustration - and unless you do it is irrelevant. You may as well get royalled up about any old children's book illustration from the 20thC. If you manage to get a verifiable provenance get back to us and then maybe we could discuss its merits.
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Re: Deconstructing Medieval Propaganda 1

Postby consmiles on Sat Dec 18, 2010 5:54 pm

Hi Swifty, thank you for your comment. I'm discussing a sketch of an Irish King on an open forum related to history. The context is "Deconstructing Medieval Propaganda" and it is focused on an image of Cathal Cróbhdearg O’Connor from pg 24 in the book O’CONNOR people and places by Hugh W L Wier, first published 1994 ISBN 0 946538 17 4.

Mr Wier used the insulting image without showing date or provenance, not me. If it is 'irrelevant' as you suggest then why did Mr Wier include it? Your suggestion of 'merits' based upon a verifiable provenance didn't seem to bother or prevent Mr Wier from publishing it. References to Osprey or children's books by Brendan and yourself dodge the proposition. The image is in a book and it is insulting an Irish King.

In suggesting that this image is an insult to the Gael Nobility I point out 10 details in the image to support my assertion. Neither you or Brendan seem willing to consider or discuss any of the 10 details in my analysis. By showing the image here I'm hoping that someone may help with identifying the artist and date and who actually commissioned and paid for it - I'm doing this because the author and publisher either didn't have this info or decided not to show it and because I do not have this info. Don't tell me to go away and get a verifiable provenance when that is one of the things I am here seeking help about. If you cant help then that's ok, maybe someone else can, maybe not, time will tell.
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Re: Deconstructing Medieval Propaganda 1

Postby knightofredemption on Sat Dec 18, 2010 10:47 pm

I can comment on only two details.

The sword grip. It is unusual but not unheard of. An accomplished swordsman would be able to switch hand grips of which I know of three. Hammer grip, Thumb grip, and the one shown.

The open shield....could this not be to enable him to show the detail and movement? One would also have to assume if he was in hand to hand fighting, the archers would no longer be loosing into the line. The use of the arrows could just be a way of showing that we have left the long range element of a battle, and are now into the closeup and personal stage.
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Re: Deconstructing Medieval Propaganda 1

Postby consmiles on Sun Dec 19, 2010 2:24 pm

Hi Paul, thank you for your comments.
I agree with the idea of unconventional sword grip having reality - I came up against Andy using two swords in Frans Nov training 3 or 4 years ago. But he did not raise his left hand (sword down) above his chest never mind over his head. I respectfully ask if you might copy the pose and see how it feels?
The open shield could be shown like this to give detail and the idea of movement. The short leine and scabbard both seem to have movement but his legs are straight and his feet are firmly apart = fixed and not movement. The long range battle may be being presented as past and now he is confronting his enemy at closer quarters. But again - I respectfully ask if you might copy the pose right hand sword upside down and over your head, legs straight and feet apart, arched back and head forward and shield open and see how it feels? Your response to this would be valued. I have tried the pose and its just not right.
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Re: Deconstructing Medieval Propaganda 1

Postby Dave Mooney on Sun Dec 19, 2010 3:44 pm

Firstly, How do you deconstruct modern propaganda? :P

Second, I was at Hugh Wier's house two weeks ago, do you want me to wheel over and ask him where the picture comes from? It looks like a modern line and ink copy of possibly something painted so detail could be lost in the shift to monochrome and it being traced. If it is well old then as Brendan points out, comic strip artists of the day were just crap at hands.

As far as this type of thing goes, Brian Boru is depicted with a crown on, which he likely never had. A picture of which is on H.W's book Brian Boru- High King of Ireland 941-1014 (2002). This was written because he was shocked that some people in Ireland had never heard of Boru. It's a pity he regurgitated the Nationalist agenda, in the title, of High King, which wasn't the case. I've listed 4 mistakes in the first chapter, the biggest being his listing 'Sycamore' as a native tree. I'll let you know how the rest turns out when I get to read it. I'm guessing his stuff may well be a compilation of others ideas instead of cutting edge research and possible not worth getting yer knickers in a knot over.

On the plus side for Hugh, he did sell me a hell of a lot of guttering for cheap.

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Re: Deconstructing Medieval Propaganda 1

Postby knightofredemption on Sun Dec 19, 2010 4:50 pm

I see nothing to gain from copying in a static way what is obviously an attempt by the artist to capture a transitional mid flow action shot. Just as trying to hold the stance in say a Talhoffer plate would teach you nothing about the play being shown. They are in large an artists attempt to show the transition from a known (to the students of the time) guard, to its conclusion.
I have puzzled over photos taken of myself during a fight, they seemed to show something happening that I know didn't. Only by knowing the flow of the fight, and knowing what came before and what followed am I able to interpret the exact moment the picture shows. No one without that knowledge could come to a correct conclusion on what was happening, least of all by copying the picture in a static pose.


Another conclusion that could be drawn, is the sword has just been pulled from the scabbard in a sweeping uppercut. Bearing in mind the scabbard is shown to hang on the right hip, It is all conjecture, but there are other interpretations that in the light....or darkness, of no contemporary information. Have equal weight.
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