Sunday, May 27, 2018

Codex Canadensis Odawa Paddle Replica - Part 2

For the upcoming WCHA assembly display showcasing various historical depictions of decorative paddles, I've decided to carve a reproduction from the remarkably illustrated manuscript, Codex canadensis, dated to circa 1700.

Representing one of the oldest decorative depiction of canoe paddles by an illustrator who actually journey through much of Eastern Canada, the  manuscript is believed to have been by Louis Nicolas , a French missionary who spent 11 years in Canada during the late-seventeenth century.  Nicolas was never trained as a formal artist so the proportions of his illustrations are not to scale. The paddle blades are also crudely drawn and not symmetrical but it is interesting to note that nearly all of his drawings show no discernible grip end. The true ethnographic value however is in the details. Many of the paddles feature lines, decorative dots, zig zags and other elements that echo the full body tattoo featured and described  on First Nations people of the period

The specific  paddle illustration I chose to replicate is depicted on Page 18 of the Codex canadensis. The upper canoe is labelled "Canot a loutaouase" - an Odawa (Ottawa) canoe. It has distinctly sharp ends along with various decorations on the hull. The accompanying paddle features a relatively broad, leaf-like blade with a tapering shaft ending in a pole grip.

p. 18, Fig. 23
Outaouase (Odawa) canoe and paddle

Another wide basswood cutoff short was used for this paddle reproduction. In keeping with the more dated history of the original inspiration, the paddle was worked down with an axe and crooked knife and I was less careful about the symmetry with this one. The tapering shaft worked down to a pole grip and certainly feels strange to anyone used to perfectly round paddle shafts, a pear grip and a beavertail blade.

Basswood of course lends itself to wonderful shading with pyrography so I attempted to mimic Nicolas' original sketch with ink and quill with quick strokes of the heated wood burning tip. However,  In the original a portion of the upper throat is blocked by the bow of the canoe, so some artistic license was needed to fill in the masked areas. Here is the final result.

Reproduction of the circa 1700 Codex canadensis
Outaouase (Odawa) paddle

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