I am working on a new picture book, and developing the characters and their personalities is making me nostalgic for my characters in "Magic at the Museum". People think that picture books are simple: after all, they're only 32 pages and for children, right? But that is not the case. So much thought goes into developing each character and each scene. I thought I would share the backstories of a few of my favourite characters.
Elisabeth was born in 1609, the second child of Jan Bruegel the elder and his wife Catharina. Jan Bruegel was a well known painter from Antwerp, the Netherlands. The painting in the Courtauld Insitute of Art which inspired me to include her in "Magic" was their family portrait painted by Peter Paul Rubens. Elisabeth was between 4 and 6 years old when this portrait was painted. She gazes lovingly at her mother.
17th century fashion for children
Elisabeth wear fashionable clothing (contrasted with her parents restrained, but rich, style) and she has an expensive coral necklace. With the advent of trading in Asia (and the foundation of the Dutch East India Company), coral became a highly sought after item. Coral was believed to protect children against evil.
Ribbons of Childhood - Leadstrings
The ribbons the hang from Elisabeth's shoulders were sewn there not just for decorative purposes. They helped her mother (or her nannies) to grab hold of her if she was running away, rather like a modern day leash for children. They were very fun to illustrate, as I imagined that they would fly in every direction when Elisabeth skated or ran.
So there you go, the things no one ever told you about Elisabeth Breugel.