Friday, 16 December 2011

16th December - Christmas Eve

My snow was a no show.  However, the drizzle, cold wind and general hideousness has descended, turning our back garden into the Somme.  There should be snow, red berries and cheery (living) robins frolicking in a jolly manner.  What I have is two disgruntled hens sitting under their pen-roof looking at me accusingly.  What I am in need of is an injection of Christmas spirit, so I turn to this image for inspiration...

Christmas Eve Sir William Allan
Originally titled 'Penny Wedding' and dating from around 1820-1830, it is a cavalcade of Christmas mayhem.  On the Aberdeen Art Gallery website, they have a lovely piece about how Scotland was a little more reticent in the 'feast and play' aspect of Christmas, but Walter Scott became an ambassador for the more fun aspects of family frivolity and fun.  William Allan was a friend of Scott and this is his contribution to the discussion.

Looking at the painting, there is a lot of movement, noise, chaos and laughter.  Centrally, we have a lovely couple, the gentleman lifting his lady up underneath some handy mistletoe.  This young lady looks a little unwilling, but look at the size of that mistletoe branch, the poor girl doesn't stand a chance.  Another couple who seem a little less than in the mood are the couple just to their right, with the girl in pale salmon more interested in the dancing than her lover.  Mind you, she might be keeping an eye out for her husband, if you know what I mean.

Fear not, there are some happy couples in the room.  The soldier and his lady at the front seem jolly, and around the fire on the left are people happily resting together.  Right at the back, in the centre are an older couple who lean in to each other.  It is as if Allan is showing us love in its many guises, both fleeting and true and everything in between.

You can see why it had its original title of 'Penny Wedding'; it would be understandable to think the couple under the mistletoe are a bride and groom, despite her reluctance.  There are notes of red and green dotted around the scene hinting at its Christmas theme, but I also find it to be sort of pantomime-esque and staged.  The roof line lends a proscenium aspect to the framing, and makes you feel like you are seeing something artificial rather than captured life.  In saying that, I don't mean it to be negative, as there is often a staged unreality of expectation in what we think Christmas will contain, and the parts that make the whole of this image can be counted among them.  We expect warmth, companionship, love, romance and family, and hopefully that is what each of you, my lovely readers, will get in your stocking this year.

I don't want the children drinking at the front.  Santa can keep those.

See you tomorrow.


  1. Excellent your command of words is utterly amazing....:))

  2. I'm enjoying your posts! Very entertaining and informative. You are a wonderful story teller.

  3. Thank you Kelley :) I'm having enormous fun doing it!


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