“The Travelling Tinker” by John Burr

The Travelling Tinker

The Travelling Tinker

A painting by the Scottish artist John Burr (1831-1893).  Tinkers were originally tinsmiths or “tinners”.  One of many itinerant jobs pursued by a class of casual laborers.  These were mostly skilled and specialized crafts like basket making, shoe repair, leather work, and metal work but many poorer workers were migrant farm labor picking hops and tending the market gardens during the peak harvest.  The fellow in the image above appears to be a fairly well-off repairman mending a seam in a pot.  This from a time when new items were a rare purchase.

I love deciphering images like this for the details of domestic life.  Unlike most photos, there is real intention in what the artist chose to include or not in the painting.  The house is clearly a poor one but a freshly killed chicken hangs from a nail on the wall by some dry roots.  A handmade broom leans against the wall next to a basket that has the tradesman’s coat lying across it.  The oldest daughter tends the infant while the mother stands by the laundry basin with a toddler behind.  All the children look on while the novel worker plies his trade in a waistcoat and hobnail walking shoes.

Romans Loved the Celts

boadicca

Image: from the Texas Coritani Iron Age Living History Group.

“Nearly all the Gauls (Celts) are of a lofty stature, fair and ruddy complexion: terrible from the sternness of their eyes, very quarrelsome, and of great pride and insolence.  A whole troupe of foreigners would not be able to withstand a single Gaul if he called his wife to his assistance who is usually very strong, and have blue eyes; in rage her neck veins swell, she gnashes her teeth, and brandishes her snow-white robust arms.  She begins to strike blows mingled with kicks, as if they were so many missiles sent from the string of a catapult.  The voices of these women are formidable, even when they are not angry but being friendly.”

Ammianus Marcellinus, 4th century Roman (of Greek origin) soldier and historian.

An open-minded scholar for his day with famous observations about both pagan and christian fanatics.  From the Res Gestae that “no wild beasts are so deadly to humans as most Christians are to each other.”  Too true today even.

“Marcellinus writes of Christianity as being a pure and simple religion that demands only what is just and mild, and when he condemns the actions of Christians, he does not do so on the basis of their Christianity as such.”

More Marcellinus in English and in Latin.