My thanks to Alice Nunn for these new additions to the gazetteer from The Loire in France. The disgorger above is from Place Pommeraye and the rustic chap below is from Chateau Serrant.
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There’s an interesting new series hidden away on BBC FOUR at the moment. Writer Richard Taylor’s “Churches how to read them” on Wednesdays at 8:30 and then repeated a number of times before the next episode. Last week Richard visited early medieval churches to find out why the Anglo-Saxons and Normans continued to fill their sacred buildings with pagan images.
He visits the 12th Century church of St Mary and St David’s in Kilpeck, Herefordshire and highlights the Famous Green Man on the doorway. He correctly points out that there are over 1000 green men in British churches but that he only knows of two records of green men that are not in churches (I am assuming that he means from this time period). Images are then shown of various green men including: The stained glass at Holy Trinity in Long Melford, Suffolk (15th Century) and Seton Collegiate Church in East Lothian (15th Century). He explains the ”pious” Adam and the seeds of the tree of good and evil theory of the green man which he describes as not holding much water as an explanation and notes that the green man of Kilpeck is thoroughly vividly alive. This looks to be the beginnings of a thoroughly enlightening series.
Just before Christmas came the opportunity to buy a green man or two. Or three. Although even if I’d added a decade’s worth of Christmases and birthdays together I’d still have come up well short!
Covetable pieces were offered by Sotheby’s as part of an Old Master Sculpture and Works of Art auction. http://www.sothebys.com/app/live/lot/LotResultsDetailList.jsp?event_id=29159&sale_number=L09733 and described in the catalogue as “Richard Wiseman’s comprehensive collection of fantastic medieval architectural fragments of beasts, gargoyles and grotesques.”
Looking at the prices achieved the green men items all seem to have sold except for Lot 3 – a C12/C13 pair of full-face foliage beard and hair examples, perhaps from Rheims. Multiple item lots make it hard to pick out a trend in the prices achieved except for the obvious: later, wood, and less detailed costs less!
The whole catalogue is well worth a look but if you are pressed for time then I think the green men are Lots 3, 6, 8, 19, 24, 26, 27, and possibly 31.
Richard Wiseman’s collection has been noted for its breadth and quality – as well as his skill and generosity in privately publishing a catalogue raisonnée so that other people can enjoy and study the pieces. I recommend this catalogue (IOTA Bibliography #604) for its excellent photographs and scholarly descriptions. I can’t find it on Amazon but I think that copies are available from Celia Jennings at http://www.early-carving.com/
“The sale is concluded by a magnificent set of Roman mosaics acquired by Lord Kinnaird during his Grand Tour in 1823.” Two of these are the (restored) second century “Heads of Tritons” which clearly show the seaweed hair and beards which are often said to be the artistic ancestors of the green man, especially the foliage hair and leaf mask forms. From the catalogue discussion it seems that the C19 restoration
didn’t involve these splendid heads. It also seems that a third from the same original mosaic is currently in the entrance hall floor at Woburn Abbey! Does anyone have a photo of this one so it can be compared with the auction catalogue pictures?
Obviously these pieces are extremely important and The Company of the Green Man would love to be able to keep a track of their whereabouts. If anyone who purchased any of the pieces would like to get in touch with us (we are happy to provide anonymity where requested) we would be most grateful. We would just like to put a note against them in the archive detailing where they currently are. You can contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org