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Knotwork from Durrow

Object number: ROMGH.1998.18.2

Type: Poster

Technique: Drawn

Material: Ballpoint pen, Paper, Watercolour

Width: 90.4cm | Height: 53.2cm

Production date: 1946 - 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

George Bain was fascinated by the various geometric designs used in the early medieval Book of Durrow. He couldn’t refer to the original, so he copied the images that were published in 1908 in Celtic Illuminative Art.  Here Bain draws out the complex knotwork elements from the ‘carpet’ page that precedes the Gospel of St Luke. His fine use of watercolour aids the reading of what should be a continuous strand.

Bain was clearly immersed in the sophistication of the overall design. But he finds that the detail isn’t perfect. He discovers that there is no continuity. The knotwork is formed of three different strands when it should be just one. He then analysed them to find out where the design had gone wrong. 

He identifies two places in the small connecting element at the centre right of the design where mistakes have been made.  Then he works out how to correct the error, restoring a single, continuous strand. Bain was clearly focussed on perfection.

See FSH Robinson 1908 Celtic Illuminative Art

See Bain's Celtic Art, Methods of Construction page 52 Plate I and page 53 Plate J

Author: Alastair Morton

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