Historic and Mythical Imagery


So what is this blog all about?  Well its called The “Historic and Mythical Imagery group” because it is made up of a group of creative people who love Historic and Mythical themes.  I know that a few of them probably wish they had lived in a different time.

As a group our aim is to recreate either famous works of art, or to make an interpretation of something mythical where we can find locations, make costumes and enjoy the whole creative process.  The people involved and who will star in the images are mainly local to Newcastle upon Tyne.  We will on occasion invite guests to either help make up the numbers or even take centre stage.  So why do this?  What is the point of trying to recreate something that can not be improved?  Well they do say that copying is the sincerest form of flattery.  We are paying homage to great works of art from around the world and not hurting anyone.  Everyone we talk to agrees it a great idea so why not.   The process involves reverse engineering the lighting.  What does this mean?  Well an artist will decide where the light is going to come from when a painting is being prepared.  To make it beautiful the light may spill from a window which is also part of the image.  The important consideration is that the light appears to illuminate parts of the image that are in line creating shadows in areas that are not.  to make the light look natural then an angle that would be true to the sun light is also important.  In some cases the light introduced to a painting is clearly from an artificial light source such as a candle or fire.  The same rules apply, they are introducing tonal variation or, light and shade.  The term painting with light is often used in relation to photography and in truth it is a fact that the quality of light and angle of light can be what separates good image from great image.

So in terms of photography when the natural ambiant light is not good or when it’s just not where you want it, we can introduce artificial light and recreate anything we want.  We are now effectly painting with light.   So the term reverse engineering simple refers to the process of analysing an image and working out how the artist effectly placed the lighting.

So to return to the original question the motivation behind this blog is to try and produce beautiful creative images that people enjoy.  There is no financial motivation to this endeavour.  Sometimes as a photographer I want to simply be creative and enjoy setting up an image.  I enjoy experimenting with lighting and seeing what can be achieved.  The group is made up of a number of very interesting and creative people.  Some are actors, some simply fascinated by history and love to work with mediaeval food and costumes.  The names are going to be listed within this blog.  Without the input of these people there would be no group so they are very important to me.   Up for a real challenge the first image we recreated was Leonardo da Vinci’s The Last supper our version created on 23 August 2017.

Thanks in particular to David Silk manager at the Castle Keep in Newcastle upon Tyne.  David kindly allowed access to the castles large hall to recreate the image below.

What I learned from this first try to was that reverse engineering the lighting to recreate the mood of the original painting was not too difficult.  Getting people into the correct position was a different story.  So here is the first image hope someone out there likes it.

The Last Supper

Leonardo da Vinci’s

Judith Beheading Holofernes

By Artemisia Gentilesch 

The dying man is Holofernes, an enemy of the Israelites in the Old Testament, and the young woman beheading him is Judith, his divinely appointed assassin. Yet at the same time he is also an Italian painter called Agostino Tassi, while the woman with the sword is Artemisia Gentileschi,

The painting is relentlessly physical, from the wide spurs of blood to the energy of the two women as they perform the act The effort of the women’s struggle is most finely represented by the delicate face of the maid, who is younger than in most paintings, which is grasped by the oversized, muscular fist of Holofernes as he desperately struggles to survive. Although the painting depicts a classic scene from the Bible, Gentileschi drew herself as Judith and her mentor Agostino Tassi, who was tried for and convicted of her rape, as Holofernes. Gentileschi’s biographer Mary Garrard famously proposed an autobiographical reading of the painting, stating that it functions as “a cathartic expression of the artist’s private, and perhaps repressed, rage

This is our second image in our set of historical masters.  This image was created within a school meeting room with a black background although this image looks straightforward it was surprising difficult to set up and took a number of attempts to get close to the original painting. 


Judith Pat Dunscombe, Holofernes Anthony Sharp, Maid Anna Chouler



The Deposition, considered one of Caravaggio’s greatest masterpieces, was commissioned by Girolamo Vittrice for his family chapel in S. Maria in Vallicella (Chiesa Nuova) in Rome. In 1797 it was included in the group of works transferred to Paris in execution of the Treaty of Tolentino. After its return in 1817 it became part of Pius VII’s Pinacoteca. 

Two men are shown carrying the body of Christ. John the Evangelist with youthful appearance and red cloak supports the dead Christ on his right knee and with his right arm. Nicodemus (Pharisee & member of Sanhedrin) grasps the knees in his arms. The women shown are all called Mary! From left to right they are the Virgin Mary, Mary Magdalene and Mary of Cleophas; the latter raises her arms and eyes to heaven.    

Caravaggio, who arrived in Rome in 1592, was the protagonist of a real artistic revolution as regards the way of treating subjects and the use of colour and light, and was certainly the most important personage of the “realist” trend of seventeenth century painting.

Although this image looks complex getting people into position was surprisingly straight forward.  As always when you study the painting its not perfect but I believe that we captured the mood and feel of this image really well.  It was necessary for Joe (Jesus) to be perched on a hidden chair but considering the time taken to capture the image two people would have required medical attention if they had held Jesus during the extent of the shoot.  Interesting Joe Haydon was with us to make a video of what we were doing but got roped into to being part of the image so had to strip of in front of a group of strangers.  Of course they are not strangers now.

Featuring  Joe Haydon as Christ, Pat Dunscombe as Mary of Cleophas, Jo Brossman as the Mary Magdalene, Anna Chouler as the virgin Mary, Zen Blumenfeld as John the Evangelist, David silk as Nicodemus (Pharisee)

Supper at Emmaus


In the collection of Marchese Patrizi by 1624 and possibly commissioned by him, references by Caravaggio’s early biographers Giulio Mancini and Giovanni Bellori suggest it was painted in the few months after May 1606 when the artist was in hiding on the estates of Prince Marzio Colonna following the death of Ranuccio Tomassoni (see main article, Caravaggio), although it may also have been painted in Rome earlier in the year – the innkeeper’s wife seems to be the same as the model for Saint Anne in Madonna and Child with St. Anneof 1605, although given the almost complete echoing of pose and lighting, she may have been done from memory.

Supper at Emmaus. 1601. National Gallery, London

The painting inevitably invites comparison with the National Gallery version of the same subject: the expansive theatrical guestures have become understated and natural, the shadows are darkened, and the colours muted although still saturated. The effect is to emphasise presence more than drama. Some details – the ear of the disciple on the right, the right hand of the innkeeper’s wife – remain badly drawn, but there is a fluidity in the handling of the paint which was to increase in Caravaggio’s post-Roman work as his brushwork became increasingly calligraphic. The artist may have had problems working out his composition – the innkeeper’s wife looks like a last-minute addition. Neither she nor the innkeeper are mentioned in the Gospel of Luke 24:28-32, but had been introduced by Renaissance painters to act as a foil to the amazement of the two disciples as they recognise the resurrected Christ.


Christ Joe Haydon, Pat Dunscombe, Jo Brossman, Anna Chouler,

Zen Blumenfeld

The Accolade

Edmund Blair Leighton

Leighton  Blair painted in the era of Victorian Romanticism. He was a historical genre painter who painted mainly medieval themes. He often painted elegant and beautiful ladies in landscapes or interiors. Some of his paintings include: Lady Godiva and Abelard and His Pupil.

The Accolade is a finely detailed painting set in medieval times showing a beautiful red haired Queen knighting a young man. This is a very romantic painting with the fair maiden and the handsome and brave young man. The Knight is bowed at her feet in a position of obedience. To the left of the queen we can see the audience gathered to witness the knighting. They appear to be watching the lovely queen with rapt attention. There is no king on display in this painting and clearly the painter intends for our eye to focus on the beautiful queen. The picture makes one think of the famous Queen Guinevere and Sir Lancelot. One can easily imagine a whole background story to this painting. One has the feeling that the young queen in this painting has feelings of tenderness and even love for the young man at her feet. Most likely she is not able to act upon her feelings for this young Knight. Perhaps because the painting is so reminiscent of Lancelot and Guinevere, one cant help but think that although they probably truly love one another, as with most good love stories they will come to a tragic end. Perhaps the young Knight is about to head off into a battle from which sadly, he will never return.


Queen Rebecca Hilton, Knight Zek Blumenfeld, James Hogg, Anthony Sharp

Chris Dunlavy

Macbeth Witches 

Victoria Francis

Victoria Francés and her popular style are inspired by the Gothic movement, and her work is considered a model to follow in terms of illustration within this genre: ghostly women wearing long dresses with vampirical attributes. Her illustrations tend to depict solitary characters, young women or couples in a romantic or melancholic atmosphere. She is influenced by a number of writers including Edgar Allan Poe, Anne Rice, Goethe, Baudelaire, Bram Stoker, as well as illustrators such as Brian Froud, Arthur Rackham, Edmund Dulac or Luis Royo and bands like Dark Sanctuary, whom she worked with in 2009.

Likewise, a remarkable change in register can be observed in her work, as in Misty Circus or MandrakMoors, in which the author uses a style that may be considered less realistic and which is aimed at a much wider audience. Nonetheless, she maintains the essence of her work as a whole or the melancholy which endures in all her creations.

This image was so much fun to recreate granted style wise not really representative of the image created by Victoria Francis but lets say we were inspired by her work.  To get this right the beautiful ladies clearly spent a lot of time in makup.  We use an upside down compost bin with a smoke generator and quatra light to fire out into their faces always guaranteed to create a spooky effect.  One additional light was fired sideways to add a little more detail in Sarahs face as the book created a shadow.  This was so much fun I have also added a three of portrait images.  Well how could i miss this opportunity?

Featuring left to right

Sarah Lowes, Anna Chouler, Pat Dunscombe

The Desperate Man 

Gustavo Courbet

The self-portrait has long been employed by artists to convey different messages or psychological states in their art. In fact, the exploration of the inner being through self-representation has been well documented among some of the most influential and monumental figures in Western and Eastern art.

Gustave Courbet (1819-1877) can be added to this illustrious group of artists. As one of the most recognized painters of his time, Courbet earned success as a young man, though a period of uncertainty and financial misery pervaded his life until the mid-1850s. Further, letters to family, friends, and patrons suggest that even as late as 1860, Courbet was susceptible to melancholy. Significantly, between the years 1840 and 1850, Courbet produced nearly 24 self-portraits that offer his viewers a glimpse into the formulation of his early identity and psychological evolution. As scholar Dominique de Font-Reaulx has noted, “the early self-portraits are a window into the artist’s early training and development. The visual habits formed in these works would continue throughout his oeuvre.”

We decided to try and recreate portrait images as an alternative to images which are more complex and feature multiple characters.  This should be simpler but it is absolutely not.  When you are capturing a face then there is no where to hide.  Unless one of our group look very like the image you are recreating you have no chance.  The best you can do is try and get the lighting right hand positions etc and hope for the best.  I need to keep telling myself that  if the representation was faultless then the whole idea become a little pointless.  In this first image Joe Haydon defiantly looks like the disparate man but the scaling size of his head was impossible to get right.  We need to remember we are trying to replicate a painting with real people there is no bending or stretching going on so it will never be completely on the money.


Joe Haydon


  1. by Denise Hornby on Monday, 29 October  1:58 pm

    I absolutely LOVE this idea and would be very interested in being part of the group, though I've no idea what value I would bring to it.

  2. by Phil Punton on Thursday, 1 November  10:12 am

    well lets join you Denise sorry it took a while to reply

Leave a reply