Danse Macabre Game, Coptic Tunic and Persian Calligraphy

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By Adrianna the Fierce

WIP: Danse Macabre Glaukhaus Game

What This Is

This is an Applied Learning project (using the same materials, techniques, but changing the graphics to suit). It is a painted object (not woodworking, as the wood was purchased.)

This game, presentation of design, style of design, and game play is based off of the extant boards from Germany, 1580.

The goal of this project is to make a Glaukhaus game, in the style of the 1580 National Museum extant board, but switch out the art. Instead of badly aging paint and the bucolic scene shown, the new theme would be the Danse Macabre.

Glaukhaus translates as “house of fortune” and is a gambling game. You either place or take coins from the board, with special actions on 2, 12, and 7. Seven is the wedding and you always leave a present (coin) there. They will stack up. Two is the lucky pig, take everything on the board except the wedding. Rolled a twelve? That’s the king’s tax, take the whole board. Played with two six-sided dice and two or more people and “coins.”

The Danse Macabre, in brief, is an allegory of the dance of death, trying to remind everyone that everybody dies, no matter what your station. It is first seen in art around the late 1400’s and all through to the 1600’s. (This overlaps with our extant game board.)

For more thorough information on the Danse Macabre (sometimes spelled Dance Macabre), see the attached documentation. It also includes notes on how to play the game and make your own board.

Tools and Materials Used

The steps in creating a painted game board.

The base game board itself is wood, approximately 3/4″ – 1″ thick. Any wood will do, since you are covering the entire surface with paint. There are very few examples from this time period where the wood shows through the design. This makes it easier to gesso and prep the entire surface.

Acrylic modern paint, with plastic components. A few tubes of this are about $10 – $20 and will last a decade on the shelf. You may need to mute some of the colors to match medieval palettes (depending on the culture and time period).


I would recommend acrylic paint. It’s cheap, you can mix the colors to match the period palette, and it lasts well if you actually play the game. You can wipe or brush lacquers right over it (no spray needed). It cleans up fast. It also dries fast, so if you’re going to wet-mix your colors, you need to do that right away or use a solution designed to slow down the drying. Shelf life of approximately 10-14 years.

Cost to do a 12″ x 12″ board = $4.00

You could also use guoache, the same watercolor paint we use straight on for scribal, but it’s very expensive and it would take many tubes. Shelf life is approximately 4 years.

Cost to do a 12″ x 12″ board = $100.00 and up

The period answer was egg tempura, like the brand Sennelier from France. Unfortunately, it’s very very expensive, and it doesn’t allow for brushing on any protective lacquer or waxes, and it doesn’t layer either. It will pick up the bottom layers of paint when you put on a detail. It’s so tricky it frustrated my professional art teacher, who worked at Disney with watercolor for over 20 years. So not recommended. Due to the egg content, it only has a shelf life of 6 months or so. You can tell when it expires – the paint exudes a rotten egg smell and won’t bind together properly.

Cost to do a 12″ x 12″ board = $150.00 and up

Sennelier French Tempura set, failing from 2 years on shelf, cost $279.00.

Process / Assembly

I followed the steps for creating an image on the board first. Sanding, measuring to make sure my grid layout for the game would fit, then gesso coat, sand that, gesso again, sand that again.

Game grid penciled on a purchased maple-wood board with white gesso base of three coats.

Once the basics were in place, then I did thumbnail drawings (sketches that are about 1″ by 1″ in a sketchbook) to play with ideas about what to put where. The request was to make a glaukhaus board like my Gaston Phebus-themed one, but with her colors (red, gold, white, and black) and with Danse Macabre.

The sketches to understand the diapering patterns in the backgrounds of the illumination for the Gaston Phebus hunting book. These will be leveraged/borrowed for the backgrounds on the board.

When painting, I learned that you do the big stuff first, details last. Big to small. You block in things and then you go back with the subtle internal colors and put in the detail. The catch? This is all very tiny. I’m not as young as I used to be, so the only way I can actually see all this detail is take out my contacts and put the game board about 3″ from my nose. So here’s the montage of the progress so far. It is not completed yet – it is taking over a year to do and I am solving new problems with it as I go.

1 year ago, Aya the kitten helping me with the game board painting.

When painting around cats, I recommend a screw-on lid for your paint water. Aya, pictured above, loves to dunk her entire front leg into water glasses and then shake it. This will cause water spots in acrylic paint, which is very delicate from water or light damage until sealed. It will ruin sennelier tempura.

It’s also helpful to have a lot of towels handy and be able to lift your painted object above the damage level.

Cat hair can also get caught in the paint, so tip your board in the light to see if any hairs got stuck in there. When sealing a board, especially if I’m spraying it, I go outside.

If you are using any “leaf” like metal, like I do here, also do that outside or in an extremely well ventilated non-living area. That warning label talks about melting your brain from the inside out. Also a gentle reminder that toxins in paints and sealers builds up incrementally over your lifetime.

The board also features, in the center, the newest character in the skeleton world of Danse Macabre, Fetch the dog. He’s very popular. He’s shown bringing his master’s arm back in his mouth.

This is the latest picture on the progress of this piece (at time of publication). I still need to finish super tiny gold/white checky boxes, put the silver on the gray acanthus leaves, diapering in the back of every game square, second coat of purple on the border checky, second color in the border checky, and seal the whole thing.

Dice and Dice Box Accessories

This Glaukhaus game requires two 6-sided die, and to provide those (and extras), I bought a box of the appropriate size (basswood). This was sanded, gessoed, and paint started. You may also need gambling medium; I highly recommend food, small trinkets, life savers, pennies, and the like. You’ll need about 15-25 “gambling medium” per person.

Rules of the Game

Glaukhaus, House of Fortune, is a dice game with gambling. You can use anything as a gambling medium; beautiful period coins, candy, small trinkets or “jewels,” beads, or pennies.

You need two 6-sided dice. You roll both die at the same time, taking turns:

  • 3, 5, 6, 8, 9, 10 or 11: If there is a coin in that spot, you take it. End of turn. If there isn’t a coin in that spot, you put one there from your supply, end of turn.
  • 7, Wedding: Always leave a coin as a present for the Wedding.
  • 2, Lucky Pig: Collect all the coins on the board EXCEPT the Wedding.
  • 12, King: Take all the coins on the board.
  • 4: There is no 4 on the board. House rules. I usually use the House Rule of the owner of the board gets the coin, or, if they are not present, the maker of the board.

Sources and Documentation

This project is built upon the A&S Gaston Phebus Glaukhaus board research:

This game is also spelled Gluckshaus, Glucksschwein, House of Fortune, Lucky Pig and Glaukhaus. There are not many references to it other than some museum pieces.

Additional Glaukhaus links:

Glaukhaus is not mentioned in H.J.R. Murray’s “Games Other than Chess.” It is, however, a super popular German game in the Middle Ages. RUMOR (unproven) has it that during the wars, boards were collected and destroyed because of the gambling aspect.

House of Fortune’s retail site for Glaukhaus: https://www.thehistoricgamesshop.co.uk/onlineshop/prod_2950023-House-of-Fortune-Glckshaus-Lucky-Pig.html

Dagonell the Juggler’s original notes on Glaukhaus: http://www-cs.canisius.edu/~salley/SCA/Games/gluckshaus.html

Medieval York site with Glaukhaus painted on lid of box: https://medievalyork.com/2019/07/16/medieval-games-box-with-painted-gluckhaus-board-lid/

Medieval York link to the rules (which are pretty universally the same across the few sources we have): https://medievalyork.files.wordpress.com/2019/07/7ce46-gluckhausparchment.pdf

For $17 you can get the Historic Enterprises version: https://historicenterprises.com/index.php?main_page=product_info&cPath=103_143&products_id=1520

Best ref: Leiden Medievalists Blog, on “Lucky Pigs and Protective Boars.” They include, as I do, the extant image from the German museum. Very well done: https://leidenmedievalistsblog.nl/articles/lucky-pigs-and-protective-boars-the-medieval-origins-of-the-gluecksschwein

Links on Dance Macabre:

Wikipedia entry: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Danse_Macabre

A Brief History of the Danse Macabre: https://www.atlasobscura.com/articles/danse-macabre-david-pumpkins-art-history

And from the Britannica: https://www.britannica.com/art/dance-of-death-art-motif

Cat acquisition ref (yes, I get asked this a lot):

Norwegian Forest Cats: Ask me, as the breeders picture is changing.

Where Aya the FlerkinKitty was adopted from: https://fafseattle.constantcontactsites.com/

WIP: Crazy Coptic Ermine Spot Tunic

Closeup (larger than life) of one of the 8 panels of ermine spots being hand-painted onto linen fabric.

What This Is

I found these images of a child’s Coptic tunic online, from the country of Egypt (during the Roman occupation). It seemed like a great idea to use to decorate a tunic. The original was pretty small and the broadhead designs were sewn on, but I figured I could paint the designs on, and use ermines instead.

This is an Applied Learning project (content changed but idea intact). Also swapped the sewing for painted (not stamped). I didn’t opt for embroidery because I want to wear it in my lifetime.

The child’s tunic on the far left was the specific model picked for this project. It’s currently located in the Yousef Jameel Center for Islamic and Asian Art, referred to as the Ashmolean for short. They say it’s from the Mamluk period of 1250 – 1516. Wider than they are long, with a characteristic slit in the neck. Individual parts were joined with “run and fell” seams.

Tools and Materials Used

I decided the decorations would be on panels, not sewn directly onto the tunic, and I’d use linen for both. The panels would also make it easier to wear a white tunic in the summer (modesty panels).

The base pattern would be my St. Claire / St. Assisi Fierce Variant pattern, which blouses nicely but still has sleeves that work well for archery. It’s also rectangular so it saves a lot of fabric costs (entire tunic in 1.6 yards and linen is roughly $10 a yard).

I’ll sew this with a machine for the base tunic, then attach the panels by hand, and put down black braids on the borders as I go.

Materials for Embellishment

The ermine spots I chose for this project are too tiny and too delicate to be carved from stamps, so I opted to handpaint them all. I may live to regret this decision. The broadhead/arrow shape would be carvable into a stamp, but the tiny dots above it, not so much – too tiny. I checked with my local stamping artist, and they agreed with me. Paint and paintbrush it is.

The original paint I started with was acrylic black paint mixed 50/50 with iron on fabric medium, a formula that held up for over 20 years on my black tunic with the white ribbon-like paint. Then I discovered black paint used for stamping, which is more fluid and may not require the medium. I am switching to that.

Photo showing the inks and mediums used to paint on the tiny ermine spots. The acrylic paint is paired with the Fabric Medium (50/50), OR use the Dynaflow black stamping ink.

Process / Assembly

I sewed the base tunic first, to see how big the panels would need to be. the panels on the chest and sleeves (and the back) are half the width of that area. I carefully created more panels to fit over that tunic, and kept the panels, the paint, and the materials in a plastic bin together.

And then the base tunic went missing (it was not in that bin). I will keep looking, or just make another base tunic out of white linen. Lesson learned. Put ALL of it in a bin together. UPDATE: Tunic found!

Note all the panels are too wide (better for cropping later) and the tunic is WAY too long so it can be trimmed up. There will be trimming.

Tunic Hits the Spot

Before I started painting the spots, I needed to pick a spot design. Ermine spots changed based on the country and the time period, so there are hundreds to pick from.

Pardon my mess. These are the three styles of ermines I was picking from.

Once I picked my spot, I needed to know how big the spots would actually be, life-size. So I took a picture of the extant piece and blew it up to life-size, using seams as a guide.

Sizing the ermines to match the height and density pattern of the extant piece.

Then I made a paper grid with the correct spots on them and used a light table to see them through the fabric and paint them on, with a tiny brush, onto the linen.

Action shot of my sewing dummy with the latest panels on her. The panels were deliberately made too wide, so that when I trim to fit and fold the edges under, the spots will fold with it.

I’m going to tack down the panels onto the base tunic and then add black tiny braids along the seam to imitate the Copic tunic. It’s an experiment, it could be flashy, and it’s going to take a while.

Also the entire ensemble was made a while ago and doesn’t fit now, so I will be trimming things down extensively.

Future thoughts:

Love this tunic styling. They were very creative about decorating the basic tunic shape. I want to study the little designs, such as the broadhead shape and other embroidered shapes, and get more ideas for more tunics. It’s a fun exploration.

For more information

These are links to some subjects on the tunics:

The specific tunic used as a model here, in the Ashmolean, is a Child’s Coptic: http://jameelcentre.ashmolean.org/collection/3/per_page/25/offset/0/sort_by/date/category/textiles/object/10780

Coptic Tunic, general info: http://housebarra.com/EP/ep01/07coptic.html

Pinterest of hundreds of images of Coptic work: https://www.pinterest.com/linengarb/coptic-tunics/

Tunic of Saint Menas: https://copticliterature.wordpress.com/2017/12/07/the-coptic-tunic-of-saint-menas/

Coptic tunics in the Metropolitan Museum of Art (article): https://www.jstor.org/stable/1522750?seq=1

Comitatus on coptic tunics, Roman: https://www.comitatus.net/romantunics.html

Books I am going to get when I plunge down this rabbit hole (but have not acquired yet):

Ellis, Marianne, Embroideries and Samplers from Islamic Egypt (Oxford: Ashmolean Museum, in association with Greenville: Curious Works Press, 2001), no. 17 on p. 30, pp. 24 & 26, illus. pp. 30-31

Barnes, Ruth and Marianne Ellis, ‘The Newberry Collection of Islamic Embroideries’, 4 vols, 2001, Oxford, Ashmolean Museum, cat. vol. iii, vol. i pp. 14-15, illus. vol. i

My base tunic

The base tunic was made from this pattern for St. Clare / St. Assisi / Fierce variant rectangular dress or tunics, with how-to instructions:

Persian Calligraphy for Aquaterra Charters

What This Is

I’m serving as Aquaterra’s scribe, currently, and half the Baronial charter designs are Persian. I’ve never drawn or done Persian before, and I’m the calligraphy as well as the illumination on this project.

This is a Practical Application object, as it’s only found in the SCA.

I pulled up references of actual Persian calligraphy, and noticed a height pattern in the letters, as shown below. The tallest letters help mark the beginning and ending of phrases and even lines.

The primary source book for the calligraphy shape and flow. Awesome book.

I then referenced the Persian dictus (alphabet) that was used for faux persian writing in An Tir. I noticed that some letters were repeated – tall or short. So if I imitated the spacing and the height, it would look more Persian.

I also realized they kept a running line connecting their letters in their words on the baseline, so I copied that too.

Tools and Materials Used

I didn’t have much time to work on this as I had dozens of charter designs to finish up, so I used a calligraphy cartridge pen instead of a dip pen, and pencils to line the guides on. My paper for calligraphy is separate from the design so I can add it in and then photocopy the master copy.

The Persian calligraphy block. I picked only low letters for the middle of the lines, stayed consistent in my letter choices, and even tweaked a few to look a bit more Persian-like.


And the book I used for real Persian illumination, which is gorgeous, is here:

Other Subjects of Art

Like most of us in the Hobby of a Thousand Hobbies, I have more irons in the fire than I had time to explain on a WordPress site. However, I’m super happy to talk about what’s in the studio:

  • Oil-painted fabric flags (of silk and linen)
  • Ancient board games, like Senet, Hnaftafl and Goose
  • Medieval board games, like Alquerque, Glaukhaus, Asaulto, Fox and Geese and many more
  • Heraldic art
  • Rectangular construction
  • Hoods! I love hoods.
  • Leatherworking (like quivers, sheaths, pouches, etc)
  • Reasonable facsimiles of period game pieces (like rock crystal, amber, and ivory
Corwin, my huge Norwegian Forest cat, approves of this board.

If you also love oversized huge cats, such as my Norwegian Forest cats, then yes, we need to chat each other up.

Thank you to my Laurel and best buddy, Countess Mistress Aryana. Black unicorns forever.

And hugs and thanks to my Inspirational best friend and liege knight, Duke Sir Thorin Njallson.

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10 Replies to “Danse Macabre Game, Coptic Tunic and Persian Calligraphy”

  1. I love the detailed process you laid out for making the board. It reminds me to be more patient with how I lay out my painting projects. I also enjoyed the functional wisdom you included about working around cats and not melting your brain.

  2. Omigosh, I always love seeing your work, but the coptic tunic embellishment really caught my eye! The extant example is way past my period, but I’m going to hazard a guess similar things might have been done. I look forward to seeing the finished garment!

  3. Thank you for sharing some of your projects. I agree that this is very much a hobby of hobbies and I always love seeing the various ones that an individual has. I can’t wait to see the board when it is completed.

  4. I thoroughly enjoy being completely astonished by your artistry, talent and hard work! You are amazing! Please continue to fill the world with art! It makes me smile!

  5. Fetch is very handsome in his space on the board! We may have to talk small flag.

    I still think you were crazy to hand paint those tunic panels with the little bitty ermine, but understand your process in attempting to recreate the actual density and size as well as your dedication to achieving the aesthetic. Hope to see it finished and worn to an event sometime.
    The Persian calligraphy form for scrolls is exotic and practical all at the same time. Brilliant work. Makes me proud and looking forward to whatever your next work happens to be.

    We will talk more in person. More boxes! Carry on!

    Aryana Silknfyre, Your Laurel and Pelican, AnTir

  6. The embroidered child’s tunic is an example of a thing we see in so many garments – someone, or a team of someones, stitched that dense embroidery project by hand. I admire your skill and steady hand to paint the ermine spots all by hand. Did you do any experiments with stamping the ermine spots before you determined to paint them?

    1. I did learn how to carve an ermine spot stamp out of wood prior to this experiment, and the spots were very problematic, as they project upwards from the base of the stamp in delicate tiny columns you have to carve around. The size of these dots for these ermines would be possible for a lasercutter but probably not by hand, as agreed upon by other stamping experts.

  7. I wish I had a Glaukhaus gameboard like that, there should be Dance Macabre everywhere!
    Also, nice to see you working with Persian calligraphy. It has such pretty and graceful shapes.

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