Image description for 245.—Saxon Emblems of the Month of May.

[the image described here]

The caption for this figure describes the people somewhat; this image description gives more detail.

The image is a wood-engraving printed in black on white paper, and is composed of three parts, each held in one of three frames. The frames on the left and the right are upright ovals. The middle frame is roughly square, except with insets at the bottom corners and a top made of two arches. There are giant oak leaves and filigree curves making up the tops of the borders and appearing elsewhere.

In the leftmost frame a person, probably male, sits on a horse. he is holding the horse’s reins (as you would expect), with the horse looking to its right, roughly towards us. The man is wearing a long robe with large sleeves; since this is an impractical garment, and since he also has a hawk or falcon on his outstrectched right arm we deduce that he is engaging in the noble sport of falconry. He is bare-faced or possibly has a slight goatee.

In the right-most frame, the other oval one, a man stands working at a plant that’s growing up a sort of trellis or frame made from sticks and posts arranged in a pattern of rectangles. It’s hard to see what plant it is from this engraving. The man wears a long-sleeved garment like a sweater, but tied at the waist and hanging to below the knees like a pleated skirt, bunching out a little at the bottom. He appears to have a small beard, but it couldjust be shading in which case the narrow waist and a possible hint of a bulging chest suggest it’s actually a woman. The hair is neck-legnth and is thick and curly towards the bottom, again suggesting someone female.

In the centre frame are two groups of people in a clearing in a forest. On the left are two men, one seated, wearing a cloak and leggings and holding a shepherd’s crook with one end on the ground so that his arm is outstreched and the crook is upright; the other man stands holding a small lamb in his arms, and wears a tunic or smock like the person tending the plant in the right-most frame. Behind them we can see at least three more sheep laying on the ground. On the right in the middle frame are three more people, one with an open mouth as if singing (I admit it might also just be a misplaced blob of ink from the printing, though). These three people are in shadow; they have ankle-length robes or dresses, and one of the three has an outstretched hand, holding some small object that reaches from the hand back to the upper arm. Perhaps it’s a musical instrument to accompany the singer.

Since you have read this far I will also mention that at least some pages from the manuscript from which this engraving was made can be seen at the Web site for the British Museum, but I do not think they have accessible descriptions, and the high-resolution image viewer requires Flash, so what follows is a description of the manuscript image.

The original manuscript image is rather different in how people are dressed and what they are doing: there is only the central image, and the three people on the right are wearing togas or cloaks inned with a broach at the right shoulder; they have dark blobs on their chins that are problably meant to be beards, and are watching the shepherds rather than singing. At least one of them is barefoot. The left-hand shepherd also wears a cloak, but his tunic stops just over his knees; the right-hand shepherd wears a green tunic that doesn’t cover his knees and that is fastened with a rope or belt of the same colour; it has a V-neck with a wide hem, and his sleeves have perhaps five bands round them as if a sort of decoration. He has orange leggings that I think don’t go very well with his green tunic, and that have silver or grey lines down them for decoration. There are several sheep, both rams with horns and ewes without, one of which is on top of a hill eating a small distant tree in a total denial of perspective! I think there is also a grey sheep-dog, with a long bushy tail and pointy ears.

back to main image page