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New Year greetings card

Object number: ROMGH.1998.139.2

Type: Greetings card

Technique: Commercially printed

Material: Card

Width: 11.2cm | Height: 7.8cm

Production date: 1946 - 1952

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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
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George Bain was inspired for some of his greetings cards while studying the Book of Kells.  This image is adapted from a small part of the illuminated page of opening words of St John’s Gospel.  Bain is determined that those he sent the card to should realise the expertise of the manuscript’s scribe. His caption notes that the original width of the man and beast is only ‘1½ inches’ (38mm).

This vivid, multi-coloured design is of a seated man wearing elaborate robes and holding a goblet. He’s looking glumly at a sharp-toothed beast. Is it friend or foe? The bible has various stories of lions. This beast could be one of the ‘tame’ lions in Daniel’s den. Or maybe it’s the lion David killed while protecting his sheep. The beast’s long red tongue seems unnervingly close to the man’s face but it’s mouth isn’t open, so perhaps it’s kindly.

Unlike many of the designs Bain uses, this has no interlacing and only a few spirals.  Instead, many of the curving lines end in scrolls.  They represent the lion’s wild mane. Bain adds stipple to various parts of the design. It’s a technique used occasionally in illuminated manuscripts and early medieval sheet metalwork, as on the bowls from St Ninian’s Isle, Shetland.

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

Author: Mary Smyth

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