John Piper

(13) Figures from a Cretan Seal

  • Signed (lower left) Painted in 1954
  • Oil on canvas
  • 10 x 14 ins


Myfanwy Piper
W. S. Mitchell Esq, thence by descent

Piper was introduced to ancient Minoan cylinder seals from Crete by his friend Victor Kenna, who was
cataloguing them for the Ashmolean Museum at Oxford. These cylinder seals served as a mark of ownership or identification and were often made of precious stones. Subjects included naturalistic portrayals of human beings and animals, as well as cult practices; confronted goats and a single bird were common motifs.

In December 1954, Piper began to make sketches of the cast impressions of these seals in the display cases at the Ashmolean. As David Fraser Jenkins has written, 'They are readily identifiable, but with a lot more movement and flow than might be expected. It is likely that these spindly, busily active figures also reminded Piper of the Hesiod etchings of Braque, which were only then becoming known, despite having been made in 1932His enthusiasm for these Cretan seals resembled his earlier love for Anglo-Saxon fonts' (David Fraser-Jenkins and Hugh Fowler-Wright, The Art of John Piper, Unicorn Press, 2015, p. 279).

Please note the price of this work is subject to Artist's Resale Right