While I was working on an upcoming post about crowns and hats, I came across something I’d like to share first. Hence, short and to the point post.
There are three similar crowns in the manuscript, all found around a different roundel in the calendar section.
They are different, but still share enough similarity in their design to treat them together. The first is the simplest, just an outline of a stepped crown. The middle one is similar, though the steps are somewhat rounder and some red paint has been applied. The last one is again similar, yet it has the addition of a sphere or bow and a cross on top.
Crowns somewhat similar to these are found all across the world, and many parallels have been proposed. Diane O’Donovan convincingly pointed to the origin of this design in the Persian sphere, specifically the Sasanian kings (the last empire in the region before the Muslim conquest). Below are some examples of Sasanian crowns, some of which are also referenced in Diane’s post:
Not only do we see a range of stepped designs, but several crowns also feature a sphere or bow with an additional element on top. It is perfectly possible that such a feature got reinterpreted or consciously adapted to a cross by the 15th century copyists.
Now, finding a match for the crown is one thing, but if we also compare the figures wearing them, we run into a problem. On the one hand we have bearded kings and stately queens, while on the other we have the Voynich naked ladies. This is why I will now create the Nudity Bonus. Basically this means that a parallel is more complete if it can also explain why the Voynich equivalent is a naked lady. It would lend more explanatory power to the image, so this seems only fair.
So hereby I will reward the first Nudity Bonus to the following statuette:
The bronze on the right is a Syrian Aphrodite from the Roman period (1st to 3rd century CE). Syria was very culturally diverse at this time, and Greco-Roman, Persian and Egyptian influences could be found. Note not only the similar crown, but also the pose and the body. This is Aphrodite, the goddess of beauty, yet her figure is not that of a Classical goddess. Many of her bodily features are very similar to those of the nymphs.
This statuette is, I believe, an important piece in understanding the transmission of the imagery that ended up in the Voynich manuscript.
Because this post was rather short, I’ll add a couple of other comparisons for Voynich headgear. All examples are from the Greco-Roman period in Egypt:
This image also deserves a nudity bonus, since Ptolemaic queens loved going full frontal.
The following are Ptolemaic or Roman period depictions of the Egyptian goddess Isis. Her originally large headdress was made smaller in a variety of ways, which, I believe, may have resulted in the Voynich image. The bronze top left is especially interesting because it is again Syrian and shows a more leafy form of the stepped crown.
Also note how the giant ring held by this nymph resembles the sistrum (ceremonial percussion instrument) traditionally held by Isis and her followers. Especially in the Roman period we see the addition of the gem-like element on top, as can be seen in the below coin.
Also, Nudity Bonus.
Finally, while I was about to finish this post, I found one Isis bronze which had eluded me so far. A wonderful example from the ancient Phoenician city of Byblos. Her crown holds the middle between the leafy type and the Persian stepped type, finding a very close parallel in one of the Voynich crowns. Also, whatever is in her hand looks at least a bit familiar.
EDIT 29/10/2016: after some more research about the last statue (above), I have found that images of this type are known as Ba’alat Gebal, “Lady of Byblos”. For a similar statue, see this one at the British Museum. The object she is holding appears to be a hinged mirror of the type still popular in Roman times. This makes me believe that the “ring” held by the nymph (inset) is also some kind of mirror.