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A lesson in pencil

Object number: ROMGH.1999.33

Type: Drawing

Material: Card, Pencil

Width: 255cm | Height: 316cm

Production date: 1930 - 1950

 Yes you can     No you cannot
Use the same Celtic patterns in your art and craft work Yes
Use this design for commercial purposes without the permission of the Copyright holder No
Commercially reproduce this object without the permission of the Copyright holder No

This is the only pencil draft in the George Bain Collection that relates to his publications of Celtic Art, Methods of Construction. It’s fascinating to see how he prepared his drawing before inking in a final version. We can see the layout lines for his texts, panels and each stage of the design.

It is based on a detail in an illuminated page in the Book of Durrow, created between 650AD and 675AD. We don’t think that Bain ever saw the manuscript. He used reference books for his studies of this, the Lindisfarne Gospels and the Book of Kells. The few photographs in the source Celtic Illuminative Art, printed in 1908, were soft and sepia-coloured. But they did include details from certain pages of the original gospel books.

Bain was almost obsessed with the importance of such a panel being created from a single strand, symbolising eternity. His text across the bottom mentions that there is a similar panel on the Pictish Collieburn stone. Perhaps a drawing of that stone was intended for the lower half of this illustration.

TCD MS57 folio 85v Trinity College Dublin (digital link MS57_178)

Author: Alastair Morton

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