Tessa Traeger’s series ‘The calligraphy of dance’ – combining arcane calligraphy with family portraits from the Boughton House in Northamptonshire to express aspects of a music collection in visual terms.
In 2011 renowned British photographer Tessa Traeger was appointed to give visual expression to a rare collection of many little known works by English and French composers, discovered recently at Boughton by musicologist Paull Boucher.
At first she looked through the exquisite books and manuscripts but nothing seemed to inspire her. Then she started to study the family portraits in the House and there she found her interest.
Hands and feet are an essential part of music making and by taking away the face from the paintings, which is usually the most compelling element, the details become much more vivid. Next she photographed tiny dance symbols in extreme close up and reversed them so that they were white on black, as are most of the backgrounds of the paintings. Finally she combined all these appropriations, using the dance notation very freely and even playfully.
“My idea was to try to show the symbiotic nature of the French and English influences in the House. I tried to combine the French love of dance and fashion, as seen in such details as the red high heeled shoes for the men… an innovation of Louis XIV … with the existing English tradition.”