Setting the scene for illustrations of late antique life

A key part of the VLAC project is the creation of images, informed by academic research, of scenes of everyday life in late antique cities. As part of our collaboration with illustrator Graham Sumner, several project members travelled with Dr Luke Lavan from Canterbury up to York to spend a day staging scenes that will form the basis of his illustrations. The set and props for the day’s activities were provided by John Conyard from Comitatus, the late Roman re-enactment group, who along with several of the group’s members, kindly agreed to dress up and populate the scenes. These were then photographed by Graham to provide an image from which he could then work.


Graham photographing the sausage making scene

There were 10 scenes in all, ranging from private domestic interior scenes to activities in public spaces, such as bars, to places of industry, such as workshops.


The reconstruction of a thermopolium (bar)

Joe, Faith, Ellen and Luke spent a significant amount of time prior to the trip setting out the cast list and details of each scene. This included things like location, time of year, male or female cast members, activity depicted and tools used. It drew information from a variety of sources including visual depictions, textual descriptions and archaeological remains. Armed with this information, they could then advise John and the other members of Comitatus as to what objects or outfits would create the most authentic impression.


Joe discussing a scene with John Conyard

John has an extensive collection of clothing and objects inspired by primary sources of the late antique period, and these were put to use to create scenes that Graham could then use as a starting point. Faith Morgan and Joe Williams were on hand to advise the actors, to ensure the images created were as accurate as possible.


A selection of replica knives

It was a successful day and we look forward to seeing the final results of Graham’s work.