Well, it’s actually Hedgehog Awareness Week, so I feel that I need to do my part. I always decorate with animals, and generally it’s a seasonal cycle of snails/foxes/deer/rabbits with a few individual oddities, but just recently I bought a cute ceramic hedgehog so I was thinking about about expanding my menagerie…..and then came Hedgehog Awareness Week! Interesting and historical images of hedgehogs are not difficult to find: medieval illustrators often inserted urcheons/urchins into the margins of their manuscripts and there are also several tales to inspire images: Aesop’s Fox and the Hedgehog ( a title that was adapted by Isaiah Berlin for his classic essay on types of thinkers, inspired by the observation of Archilochus that thefoxknowsmanythings, butthehedgehogknowsonebigthing), the Grimm brothers’ Hans-my-Hedgehog and The Hare and the Hedgehog, and a host of other hedgehog stories penned (and drawn) more recently. There are hedgehogs in Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland and Peter Rabbit: they are a cute and easy addition to any illustrated story. So it was difficult to narrow down my collection of hedgehog images, but here goes.
Medieval Urchins (hence Sea Urchins!):
British Library MS Harley 3244 f. 49v (13th c.); MS Egerton 1121 f. 44v (15th c.–the hedgehog mocks the goat admiring his reflection in a stream); MS Additional 39636, ff. 13 (15th c.–St. Benedict and a hedgehog); Royal 15 E IV f. 180 (15th c.)
Some early modern hedgehogs: because of his voracious appetite and hibernation habit, the hedgehog often represented gluttony, as on the flag below, and his round silhouette was made for mockery:
British Museum engraving of the Vices by Heinrich Aldegrever, 1552; engraving after Marcus Gheeraerts’ illustrations of Aesop’s Fables, c. 1630; satirical print of “Miss Hedgehog” published by Matthew Daly, 1777
Whimsical and utilitarian hedgehogs, 19th-21st centuries:
There are actually several Welsh Salems, but the most iconic is both a place and a painting: of the interior of a small Baptist chapel in the village of Pentre Gwynfrun, near Llanbedr in North Wales, by Sydney Curnow Vosper (1866-1942). The focus of the watercolor is an elderly (even ancient) woman in traditional Welsh dress, surrounded by several other members of the congregation, most deep in prayer. Salem was painted by Vosper in 1908, a time when local Welsh traditions appeared vulnerable, and the painting reads tradition, faith, calm in an increasingly industrialized world. It also became the most accessible of images when it was incorporated into an advertising campaign for Lever Brothers’ Sunlight Soap, the first packaged bars of soap in Britain: for £7 of soap, consumers were entitled to send in a voucher and receive a color print of Salem. Many did so, especially in Wales, and consequently it adorns many Welsh walls. The painting has been the focus of a book and a recent exhibition, and Salem Chapel has become the object of many a pilgrimage.
Salem, Sydney Curnow Vosper, 1908, Lady Lever Art Gallery, Liverpool Museums; a framed color print, BBC Wales
I saw my first Salem print when I was around 20, in a Welsh bed and breakfast, appropriately. Within a week of my first sighting, I saw several more. I had no knowledge of traditional Welsh clothing at that time, so I thought that this Salem pictured a seventeenth-century Salem, Massachusetts church and that the woman depicted was an ancient accused witch, being cast out by her congregation. I heard “Salem” and thought Salem Witch Trials. Believe me, I was quickly corrected! There is, however, a vague diabolical connection here: many people see the devil in the folded sleeve of the woman’s shawl–on the right, near her bent elbow, and her bible–as well as a mysterious face in the window. I have to admit that these visions elude me, but clearly there is more to Salem than meets the eye.
I’m rather depressed about my garden: I think I lost a lot of perennials–including many dear old friends–over this past bitter winter. This is generally the week–or even earlier–that my favorite spring plants pop up, but so far all I see is trillium and pulmonaria in the “woodland garden” out back. Notably missing is my all-time favorite, the almost-magical Jack-in-the-pulpit (Arisaema triphyllum), which should definitely have popped up by now. I think my Jacks are dead, although several of my gardening friends tell me to not give up hope as we are as much as four weeks behind this year, but there is not a single little sprout to be found peeping through the mulch. I fear for my Lady Slippers, but they come up a bit later so I have not given into despair quite yet. The center perennial beds seem to be in better shape than the shady back, with the exception of the germander edging border that I’ve been slowly developing over the past few years: quite a few of the individual plants have been lost, breaking the uniformity of the border. I’m tempted to just rip them all out and start fresh with a hardier plant, and so I would really welcome suggestions for low-lying, traditional, hardy, front of the border alternatives.
So I am not spending these first precious days of May dancing around my lush, flowering garden (in a flowing white dress) because it is neither lush nor flowering: looking for inspiration (or escape) I am instead delving into the “Enchanted Garden” sub-sub-sub genre of paintings. Of course medieval-esque fantasy gardens are a favorite Pre-Raphaelite theme, but even before their Decameron-inspired images appeared in the nineteenth century, artists were inspired to amplify nature in rather seductive ways. In the later sixteenth century, the popular poem by the Italian poet Tarquinato Tasso, GerusalemeLiberata (JerusalemLiberated), inspired several paintings of enchanted gardens. The poem turns the Crusades into an epic fantasy, in which heroic Christian knights confront all sorts of obstacles in the Holy Land. One particular knight, Rinaldo, is enticed by the beautiful Saracen sorceress Armida to enter her lush garden, and there she keeps him occupied for quite some time, until he is rescued by his comrades. I like the painting by Flemish artist Jan Soens best among several illustrations of Rinaldo and Armida, because it seems to focus as much on the garden as on the sorceress.
Jan Soens, Rinaldo and Armida in the Enchanted Garden, c. 1581-1611, The Walters Art Museum
Several centuries later, Giovanni Boccaccio’s Decameron inspired several pre-Raphaelite painters to depict one of its most popular stories (the 5th to be told on the 10th day): the tale of the besotted Ansaldo, who conjured up a magical May garden in the midwinter for his lady love, Dianora, who had promised him that she would leave her husband and run away with him if he completed this seemingly-impossible task. Ultimately Ansaldo releases Dianora from her promise, and the garden dissolves “like the morning dew”, but it seems to have been a collective aim of British romantic painters to recapture it and other enchanted gardens for posterity.
Marie Spartali Stillman, Messr. Ansaldo Showing Diavola His Enchanted Garden, 1889; John Waterhouse, The Enchanted Garden, 1917, Lady Lever Art Galler, and study for above, Victoria & Albert Museum Collections
Also romantic, in a more naive way, are the paintings of British artist Helen Fielding (1900-1979) who depicted her Lancashire environment in an ever-charming way, including a garden that seems enchanted in all seasons, here pictured, as vividly remembered, in the spring of 1908. I love the inscription on the back, from the Christie‘s catalog: The Enchanted Garden was very/beautiful in April, when Father thought it would be better to send Mother, George and I also the Aunts, Grandma and Miss/Carter (who wore pink) to Grandpa’s at Blackpool/to be safely out of the way of the Suffragettes/in Lees. We saw for the first time the/Wild Cherries in flower and small trees/covered in the palest pink blossoms/which Grandpa said was the Crab apple, George and I had never seen trees/with blossom which covered them like/snow, also in the Enchanted Garden was/the pond which would soon be full of frogs/and tadpoles and the year was 1908/Helen Layfield Bradley 1975. I know just what she means by “trees covered with blossoms like snow”, don’t you? Still waiting for that here.
I was searching for springtime in Salem on canvas yesterday, as the real season has failed to arrive (not unusual for New England). Clicking around artnet, avoiding all the other things that I have to do during this busy time in the academic year, I found a new-to-me “Salem” artist: Sidney Raynes (1907-1968). I’m using the quotation marks because it is quite apparent that Raynes did not live in Salem, but she painted several very interesting Salem scenes in the 1930s or 1940s. A Massachusetts native who was trained at the Art Students’ League in New York, Raynes was part of the Rockport artists community on Cape Ann and a lifelong member of the Rockport and North Shore Art Associations. I looked for as many paintings of hers as I could find on the web, and from this small sample of her work it looks to me like she was more inspired by the streets and buildings of Gloucester and Rockport than the shore: this might explain the appeal of Salem. Both of the paintings below, Salem in Springtime and Salem Street Corner, are appealing to me, but I’ve become quite fixated on the latter simply because Idon‘t knowwhereitis.
Sidney Raynes, Salem in Springtime and Salem Street Corner, oil on board and oil on masonite.
This house might be long gone–it looks like it is on its way out here. But I took a walk to see if I could find it, armed with the two major clues the painting provides: the pediment-topped doorway and the corner quoins (as well its corner location). Lots of houses in Salem have doorways like this, and many have quoins, but very few houses have BOTH and are located on a corner.The boarded-up first story with additional entries indicates that this house served some sort of commercial purpose in its past, eliminating houses in residential areas, although shops and residences were more closely connected in the past than they are now. I narrowed it down to two houses: the Captain John Hodges House (1788) and the Timothy Orne House (1761), both on Essex Street. I’ve featured both of these important houses several times on the blog and I know their general histories: I’m pretty sure the Hodges house never had a storefront. So that leaves us with the Orne house, which has gone through quite a few transformations in its long history. It has the corner quoins (hidden under siding in the 1970s Bowman’s Bakery photograph below) but the last photograph by Frank Cousins (c. 1900) shows a doorway that is decidedly not pedimental.
Captain John Hodges House and Timothy Orne house today, mid- and early 20th century.
So I’m stuck. If Sidney Raynes’ relic house on the corner still exists, I’m not sure where it is. Awaiting suggestions!