Grim, ungainly, ghastly, gaunt

Ludwig Vordermayer Heubach

raven rossetti
The Raven – pen and ink drawing on paper by Rossetti.
ca 1848, V&A, London
It’s that time of year again with Halloween fast approaching that thoughts turn to the bleak and morbid and ravens. Famously, this ‘Grim, ungainly, ghastly, gaunt’ bird inspired the poem, The Raven, by Edgar Allan Poe. A poem which in turn inspired the Pre-Raphaelite Dante Gabriel Rossetti to draw an intense, slightly creepy illustration.

Ravens also prompted the German sculptor, Ludwig Vordermayer to create the above dramatic ceramic piece for the Heubach factory in Koppelsdorf sometime around 1908. This hard-paste porcelain raven can now be seen lurking on a top shelf within the ceramics display at the V&A Museum.

The amazing genus Corvus gives us a group of birds that the derogatory expression ‘bird brain’ does a gross injustice to. Evidence suggests that crows, rooks, jackdaws and ravens are top of the avian intelligence pecking order. These birds have been observed constructing tools, using bait and even possibly exhibiting self-recognition. As a child I remember being amazed by the size of the ravens at the Tower of London and being bewitched and entranced by the way they stared at me. But this morning I had to make do with a common, but clever crow on my neighbours television aerial.

Crow-not-Raven

Author: agnesashe

Artisan, blogger and passionate East Anglian working from home.

4 thoughts on “Grim, ungainly, ghastly, gaunt”

  1. I always think that the haunting, fading craw of our crows at home in Oz as the souls of the departed. And I am not sure which relation a magpie is, but they are very clever and great thieves. They often mistake golf balls as another bird’s eggs and you can see them dropping them from a height to try to smash them open on the ground.

    1. Without getting too technical crows etc including magpies are in the family corvidae, but crows, ravens, jackdaws are in the genus corvus, and ‘regular’ magpies are in the genus pica. However, there are four different genera for magpies – don’t you just love scientific classification takes me back to being a very confused school kid! Lesson over. 🙂

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