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Animals > Sheep

Sheep 1

This is a carved misericord, a choir-stall seat, with a deep apron at the front, which folds up to give some support to the clergy during long services when they were required to stand throughout.  The deep seats allowed carvers wonderful opportunities to carve scenes that would be seen by nobody but the clergy themselves.  All manner of subjects were treated, both secular and religious, some with great humour. Local events were illustrated as were scenes from the bible and medieval romances, and kings, queens, local dignitaries and peasants alike make an appearance. 

At first glance this 16th-century French oak misericord could represent a sheep asleep in a rural setting.  However, the two sheaves of corn indicate that the carving may be read on another level.  In the parable of the sower (Luke 8) the word of God (the Lamb) falls on the earth just as seed drops from the sower’s hand.  If the word falls on receptive ears as seed falls on good soil then the results will be fruitful.  The corn should also serve to remind the person looking at the carving of the bountifulness of God.

 

Sheep 2

 

This is an English carved oak panel showing three sheep walking through the trees on their cloven hooves.  The panel retains traces of gesso but no indication of the original colours used. 

The carving evokes the countryside and highlights the importance of sheep in the rural economy where sheep and men are mutually dependent.  The shepherd tends and nurtures his flock while the sheep provide milk, meat and clothing for every member of society. In carvings sheep appear in scenes of everyday life and in pastoral scenes creating an aura of peace and tranquillity, though there is often an underlying moral point.  

The sheep is a symbol of gentleness and kindness because of what it gives us. The large, round, woolly coats of the sheep on this panel, the tails hanging almost to the ground, emphasize both their worth in a secular context and their spiritual benevolence.  Here they follow one another in a faithful and trusting way as if searching for a real or spiritual shepherd to lead them.