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When I first encountered these illustrations of 8th century Lombard King Desiderius and his world, I wondered where they came from.

Desiderius at Court illustration

Desiderius Lombard camp illustrationAdalgis illustration

Oh, I knew they weren’t historically accurate, but I gave up on that when I started blogging in 2011. Blog posts are better when they have images. They add interest to the text and help when writers are promoting their work on social media.

My problem as a 21st-century author: 8th century artists were more interested in saints and other religious figures. Even contemporary images of Charlemagne are hard to find. Since then, artists have been more interested in the story they’re trying to tell than being true to the facts. The one who created these images is no exception.

These images appeared to be from the 19th century, and it turns out I was right. Thanks to Wikimedia Commons, I finally know their origin. They are indeed illustrations for Alessandro Manzoni’s 1822 tragedy Adelchi (which also take liberties with the facts). The book they appear in was published in 1845. Here is one of the full pages, via Wikimedia Commons, with all its lovely flourishes.

I felt a thrill as I (virtually) turned the pages and beheld the images. At least one mystery was laid to rest.

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