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Details: beard-pullers detail

Beard-pullers together

Object number: ROMGH.1998.114

Type: Table cloth

Technique: Embroidered

Material: Textile

Width: 140cm | Height: 140cm

Production date: 1920 - 1968

 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 amazing design was drawn by George Bain and embroidered by a pupil in a Kirkcaldy High School sewing class. It must have taken hours of work.

There are four sets of two, slightly different, kneeling men facing each other. Their beards join each pair together in a single interlaced strand. Their long hair links each man to one in another pair – it’s incredibly complicated. Bain took his inspiration from the Book of Kells. Within the intricate Chi Rho page of the Gospel of St Matthew there are two pairs of beard-pullers (also known as beard sages) .

We can’t see how the design was transferred to the cloth for the embroiderer. Perhaps a soft pencil was used and it has washed away. But two shades of blue thread have been used, apparently randomly except for the ankle spots. Maybe the embroiderer ran out of the lighter blue thread before completing the work. The outlines of the men are in stem stitch and the background is fly stitch. Satin stitch marks most of the ankles.

The narrow border is also very accomplished, with its repeated motif of three-coil spirals (triskeles) and their elegant trumpet ends.

See: The Book of Kells, TCD MS58 folio 34r, Trinity College Dublin (detail centre left)

See Bain's Celtic Art, Methods of Construction page 115 Plate 14

Author: Barbara Pritchard

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One comment on “Beard-pullers together

  1. Perhaps the differing shades of blue embroidery thread could indicate that more than one embroider was involved?

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