I have a version where Naoise is without a beard.
Well, I have finished at least the heroine and hero of "Deirdre of the Sorrows", a tale about Deirdre, the daughter of the court poet and storyteller of King Conchobhar (Connor) of Ulster. The court druid, Cathbad, foresaw just before Deirdre was even born that she would grow to be the fairest in the land, but kings and lords would go to war over her, much blood would be spilled in her name, Ulster's three finest warriors would be forced into exile and later die for her sake, and the Kingdom of Ulster would collapse. On hearing this frightening prophesy, King Conchobhar's army, the Red Branch Warriors, demanded that the baby be killed at birth, but Conchobhar, wanting to be humane and not exactly thinking with his brain after hearing the description of her future beauty, declared that she would be raised in seclusion away from the eyes of men and that he would marry her as soon as she reached marriageable age, thus mitigating disaster.
Things did not go according to plan (unsurprisingly); Deirdre, a very young woman, only felt disgust for Conchobhar when he came to visit where he was smitten with her. In a vision, Deirdre had seen and fallen in love with a handsome, fearless young warrior with raven hair, snow-white skin, and blood-red cheeks; Leabharcham, Deirdre's nurse and teacher (and effectively her adoptive mother), was horrified by Deirdre's declaration, for she recognized the description of Naoise, a son of Usna. Naoise was Conchobhar's nephew as well as the finest warrior and hunter in Ulster, as well as a gifted singer and harper, and Naoise and his two fiercely loyal brothers were the finest trio of warriors in all Ireland.
Deirdre had begged Leabharcham to meet Naoise and Leabharcham, perhaps because she loved her adoptive daughter too much to give her to an aging, foul-tempered man, even if he was the king, agreed to take Deirdre to him. The young couple fell in love and fled with Naoise's brothers to Scotland for several years... and the prophesy was fulfilled after Conchobhar lured them back to Ireland on false promises of clemency and massacred Naoise and his brothers before taking Deirdre for himself, but she always coldly refused him and soon killed herself to escape him and from her grief over losing her de facto husband and brothers-in-law. Ulster fell into ruin, as Cathbad foretold.
I wanted to show them in their happier moments with their children and Naoise's two brothers at Loch Etive before King Conchobhar lures them back to Ulster with false promises of clemency.
I based the background off of a corner of Loch Etive, a site often associated with them, in the lands of Argyll and Bute in Southwest Scotland (historically, Scotland and indeed the British Islands would have been more heavily forested, not unlike Scandinavia, with abundant pine, oak, ash, and rowan) and I tried for a springtime setting, hence the blossoming wild apple tree behind the couple (apples being a symbol of love and fertility, as well as health) along with a wild rose briar in the background (pink blossoms just under the yellow gorse bush).
In a few versions of the tale of Deirdre and the Sons of Usna, Deirdre and Naoise have a son, Gaiar, and a daughter, Aebgreine, during their years on the run in Scotland; Deirdre could be carrying either of their children in this picture. I give more details in my retelling of their story here: www.deviantart.com/diddles25/a…
I'm returning to illustration after years of absence and the human form is not my strength, so forgive any mistakes that I've made here (I'm imagining them in mid-pose, with Naoise about to place his hand on Deirdre's hand). For the faces, I modeled Naoise after Eoin MacKen and Deirdre after Saoirse Rónán.
I am going with the basic descriptions of the couple in most sources (Deirdre is described as tall and graceful, of mesmerizing grey-green eyes, twisted yellow/golden hair, and foxglove cheeks; Naoise is of raven hair, snow-white skin, and blood-red cheeks, and I decided to give him cornflower-blue eyes) and I am going with comparatively basic designs, never mind that they are both of high status.
It seems that, at least among the Irish Celts, the men and women free population both wore their hair long and in a variety of curls and braids, often very elaborate; Deirdre only wears two comparatively simple tresses here, and perhaps Naoise has not dressed his own hair yet.
Somehow, I wanted to incorporate some red into Deirdre's hair; "buidhe" ("yellow", "golden") until recent years, included shades of yellow that would now be considered orange and when I realized that, I decided on the reddish-golden color of honey (hence her flowing honey tresses).
I also wanted to give Deirdre some muscle-tone; the ancient Celts seem to have valued a healthy, muscular figure and looked down their noses at anybody who was out of shape and I imagine that women as well as men were expected to be in good form. Deirdre might be of an elegant, "graceful" figure, but that does not preclude strength or full, womanly hips.
On that previous note, according to Brehon Law in Ireland and Scotland before the 1600s, marriageable age was 15 years for women and 18 years for men; Deirdre meets Naoise in person when she has only just reached marriageable age and he is already Ulster's finest warrior with two younger brothers who are also stellar warriors, which places his age at about 18-22 years (which I find uncomfortable, even though Deirdre was the one who initiated their romance). Her 15 to Naoise's 20 is uncomfortable, but her 15 to Conchobhar's 35-40 years is even worse.
Well, I hope that y'all like this! So often, Deirdre and Naoise are shown in gloomy times and I wanted to show them in happier times.