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Snakes and spirals

Object number: ROMGH.1998.9

Type: Poster

Material: Ballpoint pen, Paper, Pencil

Width: 46.1cm | Height: 141.8cm

Production date: 1961

 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

This large drawing by George Bain is one of four that he made of the Pictish sculpted cross-slab at Nigg in Easter Ross. The two panels with bosses surrounded by snakes particularly fascinated him. He probably wanted to draw them out at full size in order to understand the design details.

Each panel has 20 snakes, but the overall results are quite different. This panel only has four large circular bosses. It uses the remaining space for a complex design of interlaced snakes and spirals in three dimensions. When drawn, as here, the different heights of the small sculpted bosses (the spirals) are not obvious. They lie around and within an oval form that is divided saltire cross-wise into four. The shapes are all defined by the snakes bodies.

Bain specifically comments about details of an interpretation of this panel, drawn by A Gibbs to accompany an essay by FC Diack published in 1944. Unusually, the notes do not reveal whether or not Bain agrees.

See: Diack, FC ‘The inscriptions of Pictland. An essay on the sculptured and inscribed stones of the North-East and North of Scotland’ edited by Alexander, WM & Macdonald J in Third Spalding Club, vol 13 (1944)

Author: Alastair Morton

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