Wednesday 10th May, 2006

2 PM Hatfield House, Hertfordshire. The whole of today is set aside to shoot a scene of Walsingham and his brother in the study in his London house on Seething Lane. There are books everywhere, on row after row of oak bookcase, on tables and desks.

Here too are the possessions of gentleman of his day – an armillary sphere, classical statuettes and period maps. On his desk lie the tools of Walsingham’s trade – the piles of letters and reports from his spy network, the ciphers and codes, even Walsingham’s own account book, reproduced line by line, copying his original handwriting, by the props department.
There are also three items that hint at the spymaster’s character, all to do with ways of seeing. Firstly there is a small mirror allowing him to see who is approaching from behind. Mirrors are known from antiquity but it is only in this period that the first silvered glass examples like our one begin to appear. Before this they were simply sheets of polished metal. Then there is his magnifying glass with which he scans his papers, demonstrating his ability to see beyond the apparent meaning of words to their true meaning. Lenses like this are known at the time but ours is perhaps a little large – a necessary fiction to allow it to register on screen. Finally his spectacles suggesting the years his tired eyes have spent searching letters and dispatches.

2 thoughts on “Wednesday 10th May, 2006

  1. Dear Justin
    Thanks for your continuing posts, they’re enlightening.
    Your discussion of the scene set here reminds me of Van Eyck’s painting, The Arnolfini Wedding — there’s an image of it at
    The echoing items (about seeing in different ways, all made of glass) will give special flavor to the scenes made here.
    love, Heather

  2. That’s a fascinating comparison Heather. The Arnolfini wedding is one of those paintings that is filled with the type of symbolism we try to put into Golden Age. A recent theory about it suggests that it is not actually a wedding portrait at all but in fact was painted after the death of Arnolfini’s wife. They certainly seem suprisingly separated for a wedding picture and if you look at the candleabra only one candle is alight (on the male side). Just goes to show how art, like history can be interpreted and reinterpreted all the time.

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