“the earth the colour of a hare” Picture Six

Picture six

This picture in my series, “the earth the colour of a hare”, contains a lot of allusions. The impetus for the montage came primarily from reading about the early eighteenth century antiquarian and scholar, Thomas Hearne. He found out about a find of Roman coins and a tessellated pavement at “Stunsfield”, Stonesfield, in Oxfordshire, at the end of January and the beginning of February, 1712. Hearne soon walked across from Oxford northwest to Stonesfield to see the remains for himself:

“This Day at five Clock in the Morning I walk’d over to Stunsfield, 8 Miles from Oxford, & return’d to Oxford in the Evening.” (Feb. 2 Sat., Vol.III, p.297)

Hearne later decided that the mosaic was Roman, and considered that the central figure was Apollo, holding some sort of dart, beside a large animal. Contemporaries held that the figure was in fact Bacchus. Hearne also believed that there had been a Roman camp there, and that the pavement was from the home of a Roman officer; the Roman road of Akeman Street is nearby.

Thomas Hearne walked over from Oxford repeatedly to view the antiquity; Graham Midgley says of him: “the great walker of the first decades of the century was undoubtedly Thomas Hearne, visiting and noting monuments, inscriptions and antiquities, but not neglecting the pleasures and adventures of the road”. (University Life, p.106)

Hearne was still writing and thinking about Stonesfield years on. There were other Roman finds in the area too. In 1724, Thursday, 26 November, Hearne notes in his diary that Mr West of Balliol College told him that there had been Roman coins found and some other antiquity at Wilton, within three miles from Witney and one of Stonesfield. (Vol. VIII, p.299) By the nineteenth century, the Stonesfield mosaic had disappeared, prey to people taking away fragments as well as to the weather. In 1813, there was an excavation of a Roman villa in the vicinity, at North Leigh.


In this picture, I have used two large white scraps: one is the flint arrowhead, and the other is the classical torso. The flint may remind us of the antiquarian world of John Aubrey too. Here, it has become part of an abstract landscape. The scraps lying on top of it come from a picture of a classical mosaic, and suggest a road or a bridge. By the side stands a labourer, with a hammer, ready to do stone work, or to chip away a piece of the precious tessellated pavement.

Around the torso are subtle indications of Oxford and of Hearne. Hearne’s college was St Edmund Hall, and I have put in its blue sundial. Hearne was second librarian in the Bodleian Library, and a tiny representation of it is there too.

The face to the left is another part of the classical mosaic picture which I have cut up. On one side of the face is a leg with an Aescupulian rod, and on the other side is part of a wine bottle top and wrapper. In this way, we can satisfy ideas of Apollo (Aesculapius is his son)and of Bacchus. The grapes around the torso emphasis the wine of the Romans, and of the area!

Today, you may get excellent wine produced very close by, at Bridewell Organic Gardens at Wilcote; and, a little further south, by Bothy Vineyard, at Frilford Heath.

If you would like to support my artwork, you can find a print of this sixth picture in the series on my prints page.

Picture six

Ed C.E. Doble. Remarks and Collections of Thomas Hearne, Vol. III, Oxford Historical Society, 1889, p.297

Ed committee of the Oxford Historical Society. Remarks and Collections of Thomas Hearne, Vol. VIII, Oxford Historical Society, p.299

Graham Midgley. University Life in Eighteenth-Century Oxford. Yale University Press, 1996

Joseph M. Levine. The Stonesfield Pavement: Archeology in Augustan England, in Eighteenth-Century Studies , Spring, 1978, Vol. 11, No. 3 (Spring, 1978), pp. 340-361

M.V. Taylor. The Roman Tessellated Pavement at Stonesfield, Oxon. Oxoniensa, VI, 1941, pp.1-8

“the earth the colour of a hare” Picture Five

Picture five

In this picture, my thoughts were on the rural and domestic aspects of the diary of Parson James Woodforde. The large component, which I made first, has a frame of cutlery, and fruit. Inside, we have the wildlife of the countryside, or the game for the table, depending on how you look at it. This component encapsulates a part of rural life, with the suggestion of a larder.

Parson Woodforde, as the Folio Society edition of his diary makes clear, took a big interest in the pond in his garden, which supplied him with fish. Not every animal is to be eaten, however, and the owl (headless), in the bottom left, is part of the fabric of that world. It often happens that when I use scraps of people or of animals, I do not use the whole shape, and, in particular, you get a different effect by using the head, on its own, or the body, without the head. I feel that when headless, the creatures stand for more than one individual.

Both James Woodforde and John Aubrey mention dogs, domestically or for hunting. There is a man with a barrow, too. So far, I have not managed to get a female figure on my pictures. This was a very difficult picture to glue up, partly because of the minute alignments, and partly because there were several layers and textures of the pieces, with some being thick and slippery! The positioning is very close to the original in the finished version, but not identical.

Although I mentioned Parson Woodforde and his household as my leading thoughts, in fact, the world which this picture conveys, seems to me to be more widely relevant. It might also evoke Reverend Gilbert White, or even the slightly earlier time of the scholar, Thomas Hearne, or of the antiquarian, John Aubrey. But really, it could evoke something of seventeenth and eighteenth century life more widely.

I did not plan the component with the candle; I made it on the day after the first component, and when I added it, I felt that the picture was finished. The brown, cream, and yellow swoosh is the spout which I cut out from a picture of an eighteenth century coffee pot.

If you would like to support my artwork, you can find a print of this picture, and of the others in the series, on my prints page.

“the earth the colour of a hare” Picture Four

Picture four, Salisbury plain, John Aubrey, and Elias Ashmole

In this latest picture, I was thinking initally about the seventeenth century antiquarian, John Aubrey. I fortuitously had a small picture of him from somewhere, and some scraps of Stonehenge, which he investigated. Aubrey liked to record information in case it might be useful to posterity. When he was visiting the prehistoric monument in 1666, he recorded holes in the ground. In the 1920s, when Robert Newall in an investigation run by Colonel Hawley, found pits at Stonehenge, he named them after John Aubrey, and they are called the Aubrey holes. Whether or not the holes which Aubrey and Newall spotted are the same, and they may well not be, this shows the attention to landscape and the energy to record which Aubrey had.

In my picture of Aubrey, which is not exactly a cartouche, I hoped to capture something of his freshness and openness.

In fact, Elias Ashmole crept on to the picture as well. Elias Ashmole was a contemporary of John Aubrey, an intellectual with varied interests from antiquarianism to alchemy and astronomy. Today, he is very much remembered for the donations which he made, of his own and of the Tradescant collections, to the University of Oxford, which led to the founding of the Ashmolean Museum there. There is also an ox in this little image, an animal which belongs to the landscape of the time, and which is also the symbol of Oxford. John Aubrey too had studied at Oxford.

These pictures were taken before I had glued up the components, so the little pieces will have minutely different positions. This was one of the hardest pictures to glue up ever. The pieces are minute, and I also briefly lost a scrap on the carpet.

The main component is the one which I made first. A cherub sits atop a column and watches the scene. The bottom part of the landscape comes from an old eighteenth century painting, and the stones themselves have a different order to their actual one. I like the way that they appear to blend into the landscape. I was rather surprised to find the flaming colour of the halved apple bush, but I did make this component on 22 June, 2021, close to midsummer, so maybe it is not inappropriate. There is a labourer on the landscape with a tiny spade, who is perhaps digging agriculturally at the foot of the apple bush, or even aiding an antiquarian investigation.

The little beige scraps, which appear as fans or as leaves on the pillar, the frame under Ashmole’s chin, and the roundel to the left of Aubrey’s head, have all been cut from a picture of the ceiling of the divinity school, at the Bodleian Library, at the University of Oxford. The grey column itself has been taken from an old print of the Ashmolean Museum.

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