Thursday, March 23, 2017

Jousting on the Seine

While I was looking for pictures of the Tour du Bois I came across this illustration by Jacques Callot. It does depict the Tour du Bois. No it's not the lonely looking tower just left of the center of the picture. That's the Tour de Nesle and its on the Left Bank. The Tour du Bois is hard to see, but it is over on the Right Bank. It too is towards the center of the picture but it is much smaller. More about the Tour du Bois later. Also on the right side of the engraving is the Louvre both what was left of the medieval castle at the right edge of the image and running past it (up and to the left in the engraving) is the Louvre Gallery.

The above engraving by Callot is called "Annual jousting contest on river Seine in Paris" by Jacques Callot in 1630. So here's something I didn't know. They joust on the River Seine in Paris. I had to look at that twice, so I'll repeat that.

They joust on the River Seine in Paris!

How frickin' cool is that? I must know more and I must stick some characters in boats in a chase scene in the middle of the annual joust. It's like some crazy 1630 version of the big budget, special effects chase scene in every single James Bond movie ever! Like I said, how frickin' cool is that?

For the more academically or pedantically inclined I will now continue identifying the Tour du Bois. Here's a detail view from the center area of the engraving with the Tour du Bois circled in yellow.

It's easier to see the Tour du Bois in this illustration by Silvestre. The Tour de Nesle is on the left and the Tour du Bois is on the right. That's the Gallery of the Louvre behind the Tour du Bois.

There used to be another tower called the Tour du Coin. The Tour du Coin and the Tour de Nesle were on opposite sides of the Seine and back around the time of Joan of Arc they had a big chain they could stretch between the two towers to stop boats from passing. 

Now back to the jousting. Here's a painting from 1756 called La joute de mariniers entre le pont Notre-Dame et le Pont-au-Change, by Nicolas-Jean-Baptiste Raguenet. So those boatmen were not just jousting west of the Pont Neuf they seem to be jousting all along the Seine in Paris.

Another thing to notice are all the houses and shops built on top of the bridge. Talk about your crowded real estate market. Eventually the Parisians tore the buildings down. They were a fire hazard. Now I know what you are thinking. You're thinking, Gaston, what about the jousting?

OK. OK. Here's an advertising poster from before World War I which was sometimes called the Great War. But really for the guys in the trenches or the men and women in the field hospitals it really wasn't so great.

Below are several photographs that show guys actually jousting. So you can see how it works. Here's what winning (and losing) looks like.

In this photo I can't tell who is winning and who is losing.

It looks like these guys are using a seat cushion for a shield. You can see the shield clearly in this photo.

I bet I could work this into a Call of Cthulhu scenario too. Watching the boat jousting seems perfect for your visiting dilettante characters from England or for an American tourist wanting to experience some of the quaint customs of the old country. Happening to be in the audience also seems like just the thing to connect a bunch of otherwise unconnected characters.
There are a bunch more boat jousting photos here.

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