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Lindisfarne birds

Object number: ROMGH.1998.139.12

Type: Greetings card

Technique: Commercially printed

Material: Card

Width: 15cm | Height: 15cm

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

It seems likely that Bain’s ‘unknown artist of the Book of Lindisfarne’ would be extremely surprised if he was able to see this greetings card. He created this design as part of the highly decorated, opening words at the beginning of the Gospel of Luke. Here, the scribe’s design now covers the surface of a large twin-handled gold trophy.

On the page in the Lindisfarne Gospels the twisting interlaced birds fill the awkward space to the left of the long descender of the letter q. A linear series of birds then form the lower and right side borders to the page. Bain takes the main panel, creates a mirror image, and puts the two together. He then adds the gold border with its spirals and bird’s heads to create this trophy-like design.

Did the trophy-like shape suggest early metalwork to Bain as he designed the card? His upside-down birds heads that support the handles certainly look reminiscent of the backward-looking birds’ heads on each side of the bosses on the Sutton Hoo belt-buckle.

See: The Lindisfarne Gospels Cotton MS Nero D IV folio 139r, British Library

See Bain's Celtic Art, Methods of Construction page 105 Plate Q

Author: Jo Clements

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