Author Topic: Image research - a cautionary tale  (Read 51 times)

Erpingham

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Image research - a cautionary tale
« on: November 25, 2021, 01:11:51 PM »
As folks may know, I like a good pictoral reference.  I was considering the topic of the "Gaelic bow", the shortbow said to be used by Irish and Wild Scots (i.e. highlanders and islanders).  I came across the first image in reference to it, demonstrating two kern (?) with recurved bows, as sketched from a wall painting in the 18th century.




These looked similar to other pictures I'd seen of Irish archers.  Was this confirmation?  A little more digging and the truth was revealed.  The second picture is a drawing of a wall painting from Abbeyknockmoy in Galloway



This is the origin of the other pictures I'd seen and is clearly a more accurate version of the same picture.  A little more digging and modern photo appeared.



We can see that these are not recurve bows - they are self bows with clearly depicted horn knocks.  As to the dress of these figures, it has to be questioned whether they are wearing a leine with bare legs or a short quilted doublet and leggings.  The figure on the left is sometimes reconstructed with a "Phrygian" cap but it seems possible that some sort light helmet is intended - the pixie effect is rather exaggerated in the sketches.

The cautionary tale, of course, is what would happen if the original hadn't survived and we were reliant on the 18th century copy? 
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Holly

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Re: Image research - a cautionary tale
« Reply #1 on: November 25, 2021, 01:25:01 PM »
and by analogy stretch that to written histories, sources and the like.....
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Mick Hession

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Re: Image research - a cautionary tale
« Reply #2 on: November 25, 2021, 02:24:47 PM »


The cautionary tale, of course, is what would happen if the original hadn't survived and we were reliant on the 18th century copy? 

Very true.

As to the original picture the archers don't look much like later depictions of kern (they wear shoes, for one thing) but then we don't really know what kern looked like before c.1500. The kings don't look very Irish either, for what it's worth. Abbeyknockmoy was within the O'Kelly lordship of Ui Maine and bordered Anglo-Irish Clanrickard. Perhaps the figures represent Anglo-Irish archers (who weren't all Welsh longbowmen - a 13th century bow found in Waterford is actually quite short)?

 
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Erpingham

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Re: Image research - a cautionary tale
« Reply #3 on: November 25, 2021, 02:45:38 PM »
Quote
Perhaps the figures represent Anglo-Irish archers

That is certainly possible.  Another possibility is that the inspiration for them came from a picture of English or perhaps continental longbowmen.  As you say, the kings don't look Irish and they represent a commonplace European theme about worldly power and wealth being transitory, so the original for those could also be non-Irish.

Overall, I think I am tempted to go for these not being Irish but possibly Anglo-Irish.  As you say, shortbows have been excavated in Ireland and there are several medieval and sixteenth century references to Irish bows being powerful but shorter than English ones, so these may be more common in Irish use - cf Durer's galloglas sketch

 
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