“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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