Saturday, 2 May 2015

Brentford: an example of early British Celtic Art

Brentford an example of Early British Celtic Art

Often the term 'Celtic Art' evokes, first and foremost, the intricate and detailed knotwork designs, geometric patterns and entwined zoomorphic shapes derived from the Early Medieval Art of Britain and Ireland, expressed partly in the illuminated manuscripts such as the Book of Kells. In art history this type of artwork is classified as 'insular art.' An earlier form of artwork, that later influenced the Art Nouveau movement, was the La Tene culture, and 'Brentford' is based on an artefact from this beautiful period of artistic achievement.

The motif I worked from decorates a cast bronze Iron Age Chariot fitting, known as the Brentford Horn-cap, dated 100Bc - 50AD and part of the Thomas Layton Collection, now in the Museum of London.

Thomas Layton was an avid antiquarian collector who lived in Brentford, Middlesex between 1826 and 1911. Unfortunately he didn't record the provenance of his finds, many of which were collected from the mudlarks of the Thames, although it is believed that the vast majority of the collection was found locally. Upon his death he left over 20,000 items to the people of Brentford.

The Wandsworth Shield Boss: Source Wikimedia
The Wandsworth Shield Boss:Wikimedia 
 CC by SA 3.0

British bronze mirror, 50 BC - 50 AD, showing the spiral and trumpet decorative theme of the late "Insular" La Tène style : Wikimedia
Late La Tene Style: British bronze mirror Wikimedia PD

The design is a form of British Celtic Art (imaginatively known as 'British Celtic Art Style II) which is classified as deriving from the second of three cultural periods making up the La Tene cultural phase: a continental style known as 'Waldalgesheim,' after a site in Germany. It is also known as 'continuous foliage pattern' where ornament is "typically dominated by continuously moving tendrils of various types, twisting and turning in restless motion across the surface." (Barry Raftery, "La Tene Art.") - a great description!

I love this style of artwork, with its satisfyingly intricate and ornate motifs. As Iron Age 'Celts' had an oral, rather than written, culture, we still known very little about them, and the meanings or original inspiration of their art work, although much is said of it. I have seen this particular design described variously on the internet as 'celtic knotwork,' 'a design incorporating symbolic horses' heads,' and as 'celtic triskeles.' I love the idea of the symbolic horses' heads, particularly considering the importance of horses within the Celtic culture, and as the design formed part of a chariot. If you look in the centre of the design, it is possible that the three 'curls' could have been designed as representative of animal heads, but I am fairly sure that we will never know....

'Brentford' has been hand burnt onto birch wood and mounted into a 16 cm polished oak frame - every stage of the process has been done by me, by hand.

Early British Celtic La Tene Art plaque

Hand burnt celtic viking and anglo saxon designs
Three of our 'Dark and Light' Plaques
It is currently available as one of nine designs in 
our 'Dark and Light' range of hand burnt plaques.

Thanks for reading!


Justbod Team

Early British Celtic La Tene Art plaque

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