Lord of the Downs, 1877-1884
oil on canvas
Welsh-born Charles Jones was a London painter of sheep, cattle and deer in landscape settings. He was affectionately known as ‘Sheep’ Jones due to his skilful and realistic portrayal of sheep.
Jones often depicted animals together with their owners. The absence of people in this painting allows the majestic bull to occupy centre stage. The artist’s respect for the animal is conveyed in the title, which likens the bull’s power and authority over the cattle to that of a Lord and his manor.
The Permanent Art Collection, The New Art Gallery Walsall
The children are portrayed as a natural part of the rural landscape here. Although obviously poor, they are unbelievably clean and healthy-looking. The central figure continues the role of the older girl as a mother substitute. Her hat creates an almost halo like effect, inviting comparison with Renaissance ‘Madonna and Child’ paintings. The girls seems unaware that their dresses are falling off their shoulders in a manner which, if they were adults, might be regarded as sexually inviting. It is interesting to speculate whether the artist was aware of the provocation implied by this gesture.
An egg dance is an ancient, traditional Easter game in which eggs are laid on the ground and danced around. The goal is to dance among them damaging as few as possible. The egg was traditionally a symbol of rebirth in Pagen celebrations of Spring. It was adopted by early Christians as a symbol of the rebirth of man at Easter. Performers would dance blindfold to popular tunes such as ‘The Hornpipe’ with complex footwork which forced the dancer to pass backwards and forwards between the eggs at great speed.