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Christmas angels

Object number: ROMGH.1998.139.1

Type: Greetings card

Technique: Commercially printed

Material: Card

Width: 11.4cm | Height: 6.4cm

Production date: 1946 - 1952

 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

The drawing on this multi-coloured card is adapted from a detail on the Chi Rho page in the Book of Kells. Bain studied this page from St Matthew’s Gospel in great detail. It features the first three letters of Christ’s name when written in Greek ( a curved X, the letter chi = Ch; P, the letter rho = R; and I, the letter iota = I). This abbreviation is often seen in early medieval illuminated manuscripts. No wonder Bain chose the angels from this specific page for his Christmas card.

He has redrawn the pair of flying angels on the left edge of the ornate letter X that almost fills the Kells illumination. Around the angels, with their rolled scrolls of the word of God, Bain has added his own border. It is decorated with interlace and spirals.  He has filled the upper part of the card with very loose, stippled strands on a background of pale and dark blue dots. The stippling must have been very time-consuming and repetitive. Perhaps this is why Bain, unusually, hasn’t made it clear how these knotwork strands are interlaced.

Bain designed a number of greetings cards for commercial printing. We’re not sure when he did so, but it was probably while he lived near Inverness.

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

Author: Mary Smyth

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