Friday, April 23, 2010

Drinks & clothing & stuff

Photos are still forthcoming. I actually didn't take many photos at Slavic University because I was busy doing other things. You can go to the photo gallery mentioned at the end of the previous entry if you really are curious. Most of the pictures I've still got on my memory card are of various steps in the process of making five margučiai last month.

Yesterday someone asked me (on my LiveJournal account) whether I'd been able to find any documentation that Lithuanians made and drank krupnikas in period. Krupnikas, of course, is that dense honey liqueur that Sfandra was offering to fellow Slavik University attendees.

I responded with various links that I picked up from various Web searches. To summarize, I found some online claims that Lithuanians invented krupnikas during the SCA period, without any evidence to back it up, and I also found claims that viryta (another variation on the honey-liqueur theme) was dreamed up by Lithuanian-Americans in Maryland and Pennsylvania.

As I told my correspondent, I have a hard time believing that the immigrants of a century ago invented honey liqueur out of the clear blue sky. I suspect it was a recreation of something they had drunk back in their homeland. (And of course, all the recipes for krupnikas and viryta are a little different from each other, because families individualize the stuff the way they do with meatloaf, spaghetti sauce, and whatnot.) Now, there is no guarantee that Lithuanians were drinking that stuff back in the Middle Ages and Renaissance -- a lot of "folk music," "folk dress," "folk dancing," etc. turns out to be way post-period. (Side note: I have no idea whether this honey krupnikas is at all related to Polish raspberry krupnik, which is basically berries marinated in vodka.)

I can't resist delving into all things Lithuanian, so I decided to do a little Web surfing to check out some of the claims in one of the articles. Long story short, I ended up on a Web site with high-resolution scans of the city maps from the multivolume atlas Civitates orbis terrarum, published between 1572 and 1617. It turns out that collaborators Georg Braun and Franz Hogenberg included Vilnius in the third volume of the atlas (1581). Here's what their bird's-eye view of Vilnius looked like:

Now, at this point in my research I'm not so worried how the streets were laid out -- I'm much more interested in the people in the foreground. The site "Working-Class Images" has a close-up view of the man and woman in the center of the foreground. At last -- a period idea of what very ordinary people looked like, not just the fancy Elzbieta and Barbora! Something I might actually be able to sew for myself with my limited skills, too.

The map of Riga, Latvia, also published in 1581, has much less detailed images of people -- nothing for the clothier to take note of there. However, the map of Gdansk from the second volume of the atlas (1575) has several women in the foreground. Their gowns look more detailed and seem to have more German influence than their Lithuanian cousins, but again, they look like ordinary folk and not royalty.

I'm really, really glad I found these resources, because even though I can buy a pattern to make a Cranach-style gown, modifying it and encrusting it to look something like this portrait of Barbara Radziwill would be a bit beyond my skill level. Now I can set some realistic garb-creation goals.


  1. Have you seen this:

    (I know I've seen the last two women on the bottom row before, too, in a costume book. Darned if I can remember where, though.)

  2. By the way, there's a 2010-2011 calendar with gorgeous, full-color photographs of reconstructions of Lithuanian costume from the 1st through 16th centuries! is carrying it for $40 plus $3.95 shipping (they claim it takes 2-3 weeks for delivery). Pearl and I were discussing it here: