Down the Rabbit Hole

Last month amongst other things I began to do some new research, my starting point was Renaissance Scotland, in the book Glory and Honour I became fixated with an embroidered hawking pouch made for James VI c.1610.

An embroidered hawking pouch made for James VI, c.1610. It has beautiful embroidery with brambles and mistletoe.
© Burrell Collection

I make low relief carvings in lime and had thought I could use this as a starting point for new work. According to the book’s text ‘The elaborate, twining pattern includes blackberry and mistletoe, which were believed to have protective powers’. There was something about the scale of this motif that after consideration I couldn’t envisage working for me in wood and instead a little odyssey began, initially thinking about James VI and his mother through embroidery.

Detail of an embroidery mainly in greens. The main image within a cross is of 'A Rhinoceros of the Sea', it looks like a cross between a dragon and a shark, it has 2 front legs. There are decorative red loops of embroidery around this main image and above a flower with 5 petals.
© Victoria and Albert Museum, London. On display National Trust, Oxburgh Hall, Norfolk

This is a detail from the Marian Hanging, which Mary had a hand in making as well as Elizabeth (Bess) Talbot, Countess of Shrewsbury and members of the household, it was completed around 1585. This detail shows ‘A Rhinocerote of the Sea’, which to me looks like a cross between a dragon and a shark. The majority of the embroidered motifs were copied from woodcut illustrations of volumes called ’emblem books’ by well known authors such as Conrad Gesner. I’ve long been interested in these…

Monochrome historical image of a hedgehog (Gesner)

This is Gesner’s Hedgehog from Historia Animalium 1551, wheras the postcard at the top of the post and the image below is The Hedge-Hog from Topsell’s History of Four-Footed Beasts 1607 (a postcard from the Library of Innerpeffray) illustrating the need for and use of research material.

Selection of postcards and fridge magnets, from top to bottom and left to right; hedgehog, shell, boar, rhinoceros, fox and 2 bears

Glory and Honour, The Renaissance in Scotland
Andrea Thomas, Birlinn 2013, Edinburgh

Cultures of Natural History
Edited by N.Jardine, J.A.Secord and E.C. Spary
Cambridge University Press, 1996


More from the blog

Framed granite samples, each is a rectangle and has a window cut out of a card mount, the window has a gold rim, the names and where they are from are hand written in capitals below each sample. The top four images are of Aberdeenshire granites, including second from left Kemnay and at the end of the top row Corennie.

Granite Gallery

Newcastle University Arts building with Anthony Gormley sculpture on left, it has a purple sticker with an arrow on it.


Image of a section of a historical map of an area around Strathmartine Road in Dundee.

Historical Etch