Symbolism and Calligraphy

Personal Work and Post by Megan Webb

This year during SOL testing I was the designated hall monitor for most of the day, but still got to teach 2 classes at the end of the day if testing wrapped up. I used my time in the hall to work on some more elaborate lesson examples, as well as some drawings for fun!

My 4th graders were tasked with doing a design with their name including symbolism. So of course for my example I had to do one for Vera! (my 4 month old ) On the far left I drew the constellation for Capricorn, her astrological sign. Below it are scales and above are goat horns to represent the sea-goat, the symbol for Capricorn. I included a laurel branch curving with the right side of the letter V. This was inspired by the laurel branch on the back of Leonardo’s Portrait of Ginevra de’ Benci, which indicates artistic or literary inclinations (I can only hope Vera with share my interest in this). The top of the E I drew a unicorn’s head, as it is her nursery theme. The R I covered with sapphires, pearls and garnets. The sapphires symbolizes many things, truth being one of them. The name Vera means true in Latin origins. The pearls are included to represent me, Megan meaning pearl. The garnet is Vera’s birthstone, so also included in the design. The A is covered with bees and bee friendly flowers since Vera always smiles if you sing her “Bringing home a baby bumblebee”. Lastly, the top right corner has a pink bow because my girl is always sporting a bow on her head!

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My 5th graders are doing a letter design of their initial, inspired by illuminated manuscripts and decorated letters in fairy tales. The librarian is co-teaching this lesson with me so she shows the students fairy tale books where the first letter is very decorative, often with things that go along with the story. My example is done in colored pencils and inspired more by illuminated manuscripts.
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My 6th graders are creating a personal logo, so again I had to create one for Vera. My example for this was also inspired by some of the illuminated manuscripts I was studying. I did the letter V largest and the rest of her name on a banner. The banner is being held by a unicorn who is looking at a bumblebee. I used pastel colors when I painted it since her nursery is done in similar colors.
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After doing these examples, I decided to do some research on unicorns in artwork. A common theme is the hunt of the unicorn, seen in late medieval and renaissance paintings and tapestries. The story basically goes that a group of hunters are out seeking to capture a unicorn. They see the creature but it gets away. The unicorn sees a young maiden sitting by the river and approaches her, rest its head on her and getting a drink. The unicorn discovers too late that it was a trap when he sees the tears in the maiden’s eyes and is captured by the hunters. While I was researching this theme, I was beyond excited when I discovered that this story made its way into Annunciation iconography! Those that don’t know, I’m pretty obsessed with religious icons. In these images the hunter is Gabriel, who brought Christ to Mary, sounding a trumpet and led by dogs symbolizing mercy and peace. The young maiden in the story is Mary who is shown with the unicorn resting on her lap. The maiden’s sadness while the unicorn rests on her symbolizes The Pietà, where Mary cradles the dead body of Jesus when he is removed from the cross. The unicorn can be viewed as a symbol of the Incarnation, Christ being conceived in the womb of Mary. The hunt of the unicorn can be viewed as Christ’s Passion. Since it was believed that a unicorn’s horn could purify poisonous waters, this would represent Christ dying to wash away man’s sin. Unfortunately this adorable depiction of The Annunciation was banned at The Council of Trent, who decided it was too unrealistic since no one believed in unicorns anymore! I started my own drawing of The Annunciation with a unicorn and yeah, maybe they had a point cause it is pretty ridiculous (but cute) looking!

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Last picture I worked on my first day as hall monitor.
Self-portrait of myself with Vera 
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