Inadvertently Amusing Medieval Art


A real treat for you today. Probably my favourite inadvertently amusing medieval image of all time. The Book of Kells is one of the oldest and most richly-decorated examples of the Insular Art of the British Isles left to us. From the period popularly known as the Dark Ages (unless you are a historian, in which case that name is most definitely Not Popular), it is a remarkable survival of the Viking raids that were fashionable at the time. It is also hilarious.

Look how bored Mary is! “Oh gawd, I’ve been sat ‘ere ‘olding this oddly wizened old Baby Jesus for bleedin’ hours”, she seems to think. “Can we get this painting over with? I’ve got a dreadful cramp”. Then there’s the angels. The two up the top look particularly worried about something, especially the one top left who looks a bit like Joan Sims. Perhaps they are concerned about the fact their youthful Lord and Saviour bears more than a passing resemblance to Albert Steptoe. The lower angels are great as well, peering round her skirts and rolling their eyes and what the heckitty is the one on the right holding? Some kind of carpet beater?

The red-headed fellas with the enormous noses in the little panel are on the most boring day out ever somewhere, but at least they’re doing better than the alarming-looking knot of limbs and faces in the two semi-circular panels. But all that aside, I just keep returning to the look on Mary’s face, poor old girl. She’s completely zoned out now. Someone wake her up and make her a nice cup of tea.

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