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Tony Grist

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An 18th Century Headstone With A Rare And Elaborate Design [Apr. 30th, 2016|10:39 am]
Tony Grist

Headstones with Biblical scenes are rare. Here the Risen Christ- carrying a spade- appears to St Mary Magdalene- who initially mistakes him for the gardener.  Behind her two figures in loincloths are paddling in shallow water- at least I think that's what they're doing. I don't know why they're there. There could be a reference to Baptism or- possibly- to crossing the river of death. The date on the stone is only partially legible. I'm guessing at 1781.

So far as I know this particular design is only found in Kent. This example is at Woodchurch and I know of another in the churchyard at Hadlow. There are others at Stone in Oxney and Boughton Monchelsea. The last of these also seems to have the two mysterious paddlers- though the image is badly eroded- and they may just be attendant angels. All of the Christs carry spades. The images are sufficiently similar for a common source to be likely.  I'm thinking village stone masons may well have got their ideas from popular prints- and if we could identfy the original it might explain the paddlers. It was not unusual for artists to give the risen Christ a garden implement- most commonly a spade but also occasionally a mattock. There are examples from the Middle Ages onwards. In some of them he also wears a hat- as in this famous painting by Rembrandt.

[User Picture]From: michaleen
2016-04-30 10:08 am (UTC)
Jesus the navvy. How odd.

I wonder why this got started?
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[User Picture]From: poliphilo
2016-04-30 10:33 am (UTC)
The Bible says Mary M mistook Christ for the gardener- so I suppose it began right there. I don't know when artists began kitting him out with gardening tools but I suspect it began early. I've been trawling the web and finding examples from the late middle ages through to the 18th century. In quite a few of them he's also wearing a hat.
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[User Picture]From: michaleen
2016-05-01 11:00 am (UTC)
Fascinating and thanks. You enrich my life in such subtle and unexpected ways.
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