Lady Drury’s Melancholy Pines

Of all the 61 painted panels that originally covered the wall of Lady Drury’s closet at Hawstead House, only one panel was painted without an emblem or a motto. This ’empty’ panel, consisting of a hilly background and two Scots pines, offers a melancholy scene.

The Reverend Sir John Cullum did not discuss this particular panel at all in his eighteenth-century account. Perhaps he simply considered it an unfinished section. However, the twenty-first century scholar, H L Meakin, suggests the ‘blank’ panel may have been deliberately left empty to encourage spontaneous meditation.

It is also possible to read the two, stark, thin pine trees as visual metaphors for Lady Drury and her husband. They’re standing mature, living apart from each other within a dark and hilly landscape. After all they had existed in a world of challenges and grief following the loss of their young daughters.

Bottom panels painted with herbs and flowers.

More generally, in her summary of Lady Drury’s closet, Meakin offers ideas from Seneca and Montaigne as well as current research considering the lives of early modern women. She suggests there was not a simple division between the public and private spheres, and proposes this tiny, private room offered a space to both think about as well as retreat from the wider world.

Despite the gloomy appearance of the ‘pines’ panel, I find the silhouetted trees make a compelling composition.

Scarlet pimpernel and wild pansy

And, I also admire the painted herb and flower decorative panels displayed at the bottom of the panel collection.

Deadly nightshade and dandelion

These panels show bugle, corn marigold, speedwell, dandelion, deadly nightshade, honeysuckle, scarlet pimpernel, wild pansy and a wild strawberry plant.

Wild strawberry
Bird’s eye speedwell, corn marigold, bugle

Overall, the panelled room is both intriguing and inspirational. So inspirational I decided to paint a series of neckerchiefs using the two pines, the scarlet pimpernel and the corn marigold. Here’s the first of the series showing how the scarlet pimpernel rapidly morphed into a larger, less delicate flower to balance the composition.

Painting finished and now ready for steaming.

Author: agnesashe

Artisan, blogger and passionate East Anglian working from home.

17 thoughts on “Lady Drury’s Melancholy Pines”

  1. I really like how you have taken the inspiration of the earlier paintings and turned them into something with meaning to yourself, and updated it. I also love the idea of the continuity of ideas, that a person from so long ago inspired you.

    1. Oh I so agree about continuity of ideas and when I work up designs from these old paintings and really scrutinise them I notice much, much more in the dark details. We are lucky these days that we are able to take loads of digital photos in museums and galleries.

      1. Yes, in the past, no photos, and film was limiting because you didn’t want to waste it and take lots of photos in the hope one or so came out. I like the idea of reaching back to “work with” the earlier artist that you are expressing in this post.

    1. Thanks – I have now painted five different colour combinations. I think they are getting brighter as I go along, but that may have more to do with it being spring!

    1. Thank you. It was interesting for me to use a kind of secondary source, that is somebody else’s visual interpretations for the flowers rather than using my own flower photos.

    1. Well in all honesty I didn’t particularly like this first attempt, but a couple yet to be posted I think do work. I’d like to think that maybe Lady Drury would recognise the link to her.

      1. To my eye, they are a big departure from the more recent designs you have been posting, (based on rood screens and so on) so is it perhaps that they are simply less familiar to you?
        For my personal taste, I preferred the colour in the second to last photo. The eye was drawn to the floral centrepiece. It was a little overtaken by the strength of the blues in the final shot. But that’s simply one opinion, you know I admire all your work.

      2. I think I agree with you. When I am doing these I am torn between trying to bend the historical works to my ideas or just letting go. You are right they are a departure in that it looks more like a picture, but of course it’s to be worn and that changes . . . well, it changes it all really because you just don’t see the ‘picture’. I will be posting some photos of this lot being worn when my daughter returns from her overseas field trip and makes a visit home.

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