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Historically Accurate Esmeralda by Wickfield Historically Accurate Esmeralda by Wickfield

Being the history geek that I am, I guess it is kind of surprising that I haven't really done a "historically accurate" animation series before, but after seeing that awesome Buzzfeed Disney Princess video, and of course all the amazing art on here, I was inspired to make my own.  I guess it is better late than never!

As I've said before elsewhere, from an artistic standpoint, I'm not at all bothered by the animated designs of the characters in Disney and Dreamworks films. They weren't documentaries after all so in most cases they didn't need to be accurate, and in animation in particular, it is more important to convey character and style in the designs.  I am not trying to "fix" anything because I don't think there is anything to fix!  That being said, it can still be fun to learn how your favorite characters might have looked if they had existed in real life.  :) (Smile)  

For my series, I am trying to be as accurate as I possibly can.  I'm taking the country of origin, the social class, the culture, and the specific decade into mind (instead of just a general sweep of multiple decades), and also adapting the colors and styles to fit what was available and worn everyday.  I will try to keep the characters recognizable where I can, but I want to make my pictures realistic and so some elements of the original designs might be altered in the process.
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I really wanted to draw Esmeralda, and I had a fun time researching her culture for this project.  The “Gypsies,” a.k.a. Romani people, first started coming to France in the 15th century from India, although they were believed to be from Egypt (thus Gypsies).  Some studies think that the Romani came from the same area as Rajasthani Indians, so I used those people to design Esmeralda’s appearance here.

The Disney version of The Hunchback of Notre Dame is set in 1482, so I used the earliest depictions of Romani when designing Esmeralda’s historical look, based on this and this.  15th century Parisian accounts said that "most or nearly all had both ears pierced, and in each ear a silver ring, or two in each....as only dress an old blanket, very coarse and fastened on the shoulder by a band of cloth or cord, and underneath a poor shift for all covering."

In fact, almost every single historical depiction of the Romani show the women wearing a turban-like headdress (even female children wear this covering), and some kind of cape or blanket draped over their dress.  Apparently those garments were pretty much mandatory, so Esmeralda has to wear them here!  (Ironically, I think this makes her look more like a stereotypical Gypsy fortune teller.)  Underneath the women wore a loose dress.  A lot of images show this as a plain white, but earlier depictions show these dresses in color, so that is what I went with for Esmeralda. 

Now, we’ve all heard that purple was the color for royalty, and in fact, religious dictates in Catholic countries like France would have discouraged peasants and lower classes from wearing bright colors as being against their humble natures.  However, plenty of period images, like this one, show garments in grayish-violet, probably some combination of madder and indigo dyes, so that is where I got the inspiration for Esmeralda.  (EDIT: I think both "purplish" colors were actually achieved by using madder by itself for the pinkish and with copper/iron for the violet shade.)  The church also forbid earrings among Christians as a form of body modification, but “heathens” would have worn them.  As in the description above, I gave Esmeralda silver jewelry instead of gold – only the wealthiest had gold jewelry at the time, but silver was easier to get.  Lastly, I wanted to draw her with her trademark tambourine.  Before this picture, I didn’t know that medieval tambourines were so huge!

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:iconninthtome:
NinthTome Featured By Owner Mar 13, 2018
Fantastic work here! It's good to see real effort put into research and historical accuracy, and especially nice to see this done to one of my favourite Disney characters.
One thing however is that the "G" word is actually a racial slur, and the majority of Romani Nation peoples reject that term and find it offencive. It means both misconception and derogatory usage, and thus it's largely rejected by the modern Romani community (Much like the "Z" word used in Germany, which is rejected as it is from a term meaning "Untouchables" (like in the Hindu caste system), and was used by the Nazis when they referred to Roma and Sinti people during the Porajmos (Holocaust)). A lot of people are still unaware of this, so I wanted to share that.
Anyway, keep up the good work! I'm interested to see more of your artwork now...
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:iconwickfield:
Wickfield Featured By Owner Mar 13, 2018  Hobbyist Digital Artist
Yes, that's why I used the term Romani to describe the actual people in my description, as compared to the fantasy version discussed in history and the Disney film.
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:iconninthtome:
NinthTome Featured By Owner Mar 16, 2018
I appreciate that. Thank you again for your work here, it is really nice to see a historically accurate depiction. :)
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:iconmoonlitinuyasha1985:
moonlitinuyasha1985 Featured By Owner Nov 20, 2017
You made her look very wise here, which is what she is. :D
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:iconwickfield:
Wickfield Featured By Owner Nov 20, 2017  Hobbyist Digital Artist
Yes, Esmeralda's character really has a lot of depth IMO :)
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:iconmoonlitinuyasha1985:
moonlitinuyasha1985 Featured By Owner Nov 20, 2017
Indeed. :)
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:iconscottanthonyadams:
ScottAnthonyAdams Featured By Owner Nov 12, 2016  Hobbyist Artist
I really like your design, she looks very much like what you'd see in real life.
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:iconwickfield:
Wickfield Featured By Owner Nov 12, 2016  Hobbyist Digital Artist
Thanks, she was one of my favorites in the series. :)
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:iconscottanthonyadams:
ScottAnthonyAdams Featured By Owner Nov 12, 2016  Hobbyist Artist
You're welcome :).
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:iconthief-in-darkness:
Thief-in-darkness Featured By Owner Oct 11, 2016  Student Writer
This is great I love the work you put into it
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:iconwickfield:
Wickfield Featured By Owner Oct 12, 2016  Hobbyist Digital Artist
Yes, I love Esmeralda so drawing her was really fun.
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:iconthe-tesla-coil:
the-tesla-coil Featured By Owner Sep 20, 2016  Hobbyist Traditional Artist
Hi! As a Romani woman, I just want to thank you for a. taking the time to use proper terminology to refer to us (most of us don't like being called "Gypsies") and b. researching something way more accurate than what Disney did. Many of us have mixed feelings about HoND, but I love this! Thanks again!
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:iconwickfield:
Wickfield Featured By Owner Sep 20, 2016  Hobbyist Digital Artist
I can imagine that Romani people get sick of being portrayed the exact same way all the time.  :roll:  I admit I didn't know much about the culture before working on this but I enjoyed learning what it is *really* like compared to the Hollywood stereotype, and especially glad to depict Esmeralda more accurately as she is such a fun character!
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:iconaranel125:
Aranel125 Featured By Owner Sep 13, 2016
I like your series, it is very interesting. But speaking of Esmeralda, in all adaptations and illustrations to the book I saw she wears European-style clothes. And not only Esmeralda, but pretty much of fictional heroines who are Gypsies. I have read somewhere that medieval Gypsies couldn't afford making some special clothes and used mostly ones given to them by kind people. In the original novel it is directly stated she wore a light sleeveless dress with a golden belt and bright skirt (I know you do Disney version and not the book one, but Hugo had studied history carefully when writing the book, so maybe he knows things about clothes?).And the clothes on the picture look too heavy to dance fiery dances in them.

And about "only the wealthiest had gold jewelry at the time"- once again, Gypsies are described wearing golden jewellery in pretty many works of art of different times. It doesn't have to be real gold, but just some golden-coloured metal.
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:iconlokita-naky:
Lokita-Naky Featured By Owner Sep 14, 2017  Professional General Artist
Also, it might be interesting to mention that, in the novel, La Esmeralda is the daughter of a French prostitute who was stolen and swapped with Quasimodo by Gypsies. Her mother became a nun.
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:iconwickfield:
Wickfield Featured By Owner Sep 13, 2016  Hobbyist Digital Artist
I would recommend you check out the sources I mention in my description as well as this link, which inspired my drawing for Esmeralda: larsdatter.com/romani.htm
Most depictions of the Romani people (especially since Victorian times) are more fantasy than reality, Europeans drew them in whatever they thought was interesting.  Some of the early accounts when "gypsies" first arrived in Europe are a bit more accurate at depicting their culture.
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:iconmountainlygon:
MountainLygon Featured By Owner Aug 30, 2016  Hobbyist General Artist
I don't suppose you could follow this up with Clopin? :D
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:iconwickfield:
Wickfield Featured By Owner Aug 31, 2016  Hobbyist Digital Artist
Nope, I'm almost done with the series! :D
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:iconjdluvasqee:
JDLuvaSQEE Featured By Owner Jun 27, 2016  Hobbyist General Artist
This is beautiful!
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:iconwickfield:
Wickfield Featured By Owner Jun 28, 2016  Hobbyist Digital Artist
Thank you!
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:iconjdluvasqee:
JDLuvaSQEE Featured By Owner Jun 28, 2016  Hobbyist General Artist
You're welcome!
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:iconchumley12:
Chumley12 Featured By Owner Oct 13, 2015  Hobbyist Writer
She's really beautiful, I also read that wearing the color red was considered bad luck for the Romani. 
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:iconwickfield:
Wickfield Featured By Owner Oct 14, 2015  Hobbyist Digital Artist
Thank you!  I was worried about the plainer peasant clothing at first, but of course Esmeralda can stand out in anything. ;)

And I had read that about red clothes too, although in period artwork they are regularly depicted with some red clothing pieces in their outfits (often a black blanket with red edging).  Maybe it is bad to wear on certain occasions like weddings or something?
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:iconchumley12:
Chumley12 Featured By Owner Oct 15, 2015  Hobbyist Writer
I really don't know, but Esmeralda is my favorite Disney heroine.
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:iconnathanielharris:
NathanielHarris Featured By Owner Jul 27, 2015  Hobbyist Digital Artist
Your art is actually rather painful for me. Knowing that there's someone with more knowledge of history than me out there hurts. lol    
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:iconwickfield:
Wickfield Featured By Owner Jul 28, 2015  Hobbyist Digital Artist
Well really it's just a WHOLE LOT of research and reading.  I can share some of my sources if you want. :)
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:iconnathanielharris:
NathanielHarris Featured By Owner Jul 28, 2015  Hobbyist Digital Artist
Please don't inconvenience yourself. Although it would be nice if you came on over and viewed a few of my works. Again, thank-you for your work!    
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:iconuyr-uka:
Uyr-Uka Featured By Owner Jun 30, 2015
Ah, wow...she looks so lovely, here! :) I really like it!
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:iconwickfield:
Wickfield Featured By Owner Jul 1, 2015  Hobbyist Digital Artist
Thank you!
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:icondaneitadafios:
DaneitaDafios Featured By Owner Jun 21, 2015
You should make a historically accurate Clopin as well! This is all brilliant! :D
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:iconwickfield:
Wickfield Featured By Owner Jun 21, 2015  Hobbyist Digital Artist
I thought about that - maybe someday!
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:icondaneitadafios:
DaneitaDafios Featured By Owner Jun 22, 2015
I'm sure it would look as awesome as all the others you've done - can't wait to see Phoebus and Merida! :D
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:iconkamikaze-djali:
kamikaze-djali Featured By Owner Edited Jun 1, 2015  Hobbyist General Artist
You may be right about the fabrics and clothing, in all likelihood you are. Esmeralda would not be dark-skinned, however. She would be tanned, yet still relatively white, since in the novel she's French and not Roma.
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:iconwickfield:
Wickfield Featured By Owner Jun 2, 2015  Hobbyist Digital Artist
This is not the Esmeralda of the book, this is the Esmeralda of the movie, who is full gypsy with no French.
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:iconwaffle-with-big-arms:
I'm glad that Disney took creative liberties when they designed her.
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:iconwickfield:
Wickfield Featured By Owner May 14, 2015  Hobbyist Digital Artist
Real life's too plain for you, I guess?
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:iconwaffle-with-big-arms:
You could say that. She wouldn't be as hot or dynamic if they were accurate.
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:iconthenewdorothygale:
TheNewDorothyGale Featured By Owner May 6, 2015
*Much* better than the Disney one. Not because I hate Disney of course, but she's so hypersexualized it makes me cringe.
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:iconsekele:
Sekele Featured By Owner May 13, 2015
well, it did help bringing the point across that her good looks ended-up messing with Frollo's mind 
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:iconwickfield:
Wickfield Featured By Owner May 7, 2015  Hobbyist Digital Artist
Hehe, I came to appreciate the design in the movie since I felt it was something that the character herself might wear, but it was certainly not period-appropriate!
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:iconbluegreenprincess:
BluegreenPrincess Featured By Owner May 6, 2015  Hobbyist Traditional Artist
I can't even begin to describe how much I love this. I adore the colouring, I actually really like Esmeralda with this natural, more simple, dark look.
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:iconwickfield:
Wickfield Featured By Owner May 7, 2015  Hobbyist Digital Artist
Thank you!  I agree, I think Esmeralda looks really nice this way.  In the movie her clothes helped her stand out, but if she's just dressed like everyone else then you know she must be really striking to get so much attention!
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:iconladydaliena:
LadyDaliena Featured By Owner Edited Apr 22, 2015
I was actually think something more colourfull for Esme. Since Victor Hugo described her atire as ''extravangant'' (maybe it's the more loose dress that you were taliing about) and If I remeber well, it involved corsets at some point. The last part I don't really remeber.
I need to read the book again.
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:iconwickfield:
Wickfield Featured By Owner Apr 22, 2015  Hobbyist Digital Artist
Hehe, I think Victor Hugo was maybe describing the 19th century popular image of a gypsy, which is similar to how she looked in the Disney movie.  In the 19th century "gypsies" looked more like this: s-media-cache-ak0.pinimg.com/2… , and they could have maybe worn a corset or more spangles, which is probably how Hugo imagined Esmeralda.  But that's not how she would have looked if she'd really lived in the 15th century, which is what I wanted to show here.  :)  
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:iconladydaliena:
LadyDaliena Featured By Owner Apr 23, 2015
Probably. In the Disney movie that must have opted for that option too, because Esme wearing what's she's wearing in your pic wouldn't make her stand up from the cround as much as she does.
But Victor Hugo's problema was probably the lack of internet... xd
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:iconwickfield:
Wickfield Featured By Owner Apr 23, 2015  Hobbyist Digital Artist
That's true, in the cartoon she needs to be really flashy!  (even though those bright dyes wouldn't exist until 400 years later :XD:)
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:iconladydaliena:
LadyDaliena Featured By Owner Apr 23, 2015
Fiction all the way!
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:iconblackparademajorette:
This is lovely. Would you ever do something like this, but based on the novel's description?
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:iconwickfield:
Wickfield Featured By Owner Apr 22, 2015  Hobbyist Digital Artist
Well, really, a historically accurate Esmeralda would look like this whether she is from the book or the novel!
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:iconblackparademajorette:
Yeah, it's just her appearance, certain parts at least, are specifically described. For example, she has braids in her hair and wears sandals rather than walking around/dancing barefoot. She also has this necklace with a big fake emerald sewn on a pouch and colorful beads. She's also much younger, only sixteen.

I'm sorry if I sound finicky. La Esmeralda is one of my favorite book characters, and many thing about her are ignored or overlooked :(
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