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Inverurie’s Pictish horse

Object number: ROMGH.1998.30

Type: Poster

Material: Ballpoint pen, Paper

Width: 50cm | Height: 63.4cm

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

Bain was always looking for connections between the insular art of the British Isles and artistic styles beyond our shores. He knew that elements could be seen in the designs used in Roman, Greek and earlier classical worlds. Here, he seeks to connect the study of a Pictish horse’s head with one from Knossos, Mycenae (in today’s Crete). There are around 2,000 years between the two.

Both are incised into smooth, flat surfaces. One is on a large granite slab, the other a small clay tablet. Both horses seem to have braided manes. Only the horse from Inverurie, Aberdeenshire, has a defined jaw line and muscles. The curved lines enabled the Pictish craftsman to show the horse’s form.

Bain comments that in Celtic art ‘the leg-joints and rib-forms of the animals in ornamental rendering have spiral terminal treatments’. Here, as on other Pictish stones, these spirals are simple scrolls. In the Book of Kells scrolls are also used. Some therefore wonder if a Pictish scribe might have had a hand in the creation of the great book.  Bain was very drawn to the Inverurie slab and used adaptations of the Pictish horse in other designs of his.

See Bain's Celtic Art, Methods of Construction page 113 Plate 10

Author: Alastair Morton

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One comment on “Inverurie’s Pictish horse

  1. This is great to see Bain’s original sketch of the Inverurie Pictish horse. I have only seen it in the ‘Methods of Construction Book’ before. Anyway, it was very inspirational in giving me ideas for creating many of my brush and ink drawings/paintings of various animals.

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