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 Yes you can     No you cannot
View this picture on the internet for enjoyment and inspiration Yes
Share, download and use this picture No
Use the picture for commercial purposes without the permission of the Copyright holder No
 Yes you can     No you cannot
View this picture on the internet for enjoyment and inspiration Yes
Share, download and use this picture No
Use the picture for commercial purposes without the permission of the Copyright holder No
Details: man and beast detail

Interlaced man and beasts

Object number: ROMGH.1998.138

Type: Poster

Material: Ballpoint pen, Crayon, Paper, Pencil

Width: 52cm | Height: 63cm

Production date: 1948 - 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

Bird, serpent, beast and man fill a small square on a page in the Book of Kells, created over 1200 years ago. Bain made this large detailed drawing so his students could see the skill of the original scribe. He even shows the original size of the drawing so that the amount of enlargement is clear. It looks as if it is about 20 times that in the manuscript. The monk who created this complex image did so without the use of a magnifying glass or artificial light. It was too dangerous to use candlelight in a scriptorium. 

The scribe used interlacing to connect the figure to the entwined creatures in the design. He also interlaced the man’s long golden hair, with a strand wrapping around his waist like a belt. But this isn’t just art. The beast makes the letter C, the man forms the letter I. They are part of the Latin words IN PRINCIPIO (‘in the beginning’), the opening words of St John’s Gospel. Grappling with the beast represents the Christian message that good will overcome evil.

Bain’s notes around the artwork show that he wanted his art students to understand its intricate craftsmanship. He encouraged them to think for themselves and share ideas as to the meanings of the images.

See: The Book of Kells, TCD MS58, folio 292r, Trinity College Dublin (detail centre left)

Author: Mary Smyth

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