Monday, January 28, 2013

A Dutch Bittern in South Kensington..... about as likely as a pair of Bearded Tits wintering in a bucketful of reeds in Hyde Park (hang on a second.....), but that's exactly what welcomed us in the European medieval section at the V & A, as it happens just a few minutes after paying my respects to the aforementioned Reedling sisters.

The Bittern is just one small part of a stunningly beautiful tapestry occupying a huge wall in the museum, created in the mid-16th century in the southern Netherlands, also incorporating (amongst many other fascinating features) a variety of other bird and animal life.

What's interesting is how representative the species involved are of the area the tapestry derives from - an area dominated by fens, wetlands, marshes and low-lying agricultural land - hence, the Bittern, the Mallard (above) and well, the Pheasants (below). Also evident is how accurate the features are, particularly on the Bittern - actually better than many contemporary field guides.....

Several aren't quite so straightforward; the birds below show a mixture of features good for both female Pheasant and also for Corncrake (some more than others), the latter of which must also have been a very familiar bird in the area at the time.

And then there's what appears to be a raptor, shown below:

...... and then it just gets weird. Answers on an acid-drenched postcard to the usual address.