Stonehenge Art – The Prehistory collection

3 01 2011
Art of Stonehenge
As well as collecting objects from Stonehenge, Salisbury Museum has an extensive range of paintings, prints and drawings of the monument. These include some of the earliest known depictions of the stone circle, as well as works by contemporary artists.Stonehenge
By John Britton and W. Lowry
Stonehenge, Wiltshire, England (Plans)Britton believed that the romanised Britons constructed Stonehenge at the end of the fifth century AD, about 1500 years ago. Nowadays archaeologists believe that Stonehenge is a lot older. The first phase probably dates from about 5000 years ago and the final phase around 4000 years ago.

Stonehenge: Plan of Avenue
By George Maunoir Heywood Sumner
Stonehenge: Plan of Avenue1916
This image was used in a guidebook to Stonehenge, called Stonehenge Today and Yesterday, by Frank Stevens, O.B.E. Stevens succeeded his father, Edward, as curator of the Salisbury and South Wiltshire Museum. Under his management it became one of the best provincial museums in the country. He was also passionate about education. He taught local school children about the history, archaeology and natural history of the area. Frank Stevens died in 1945.

Stonehenge: The Wheel of Time or The Perpetual Calendar of the Druids
By Martin and Hood
Stonehenge: The Wheel of Time or The Perpetual Calendar of the Druids1851 – 1875
This picture was used in a book written by the Rev. Edward Duke to illustrate his own theories about Stonehenge. Duke (1779-?1849) was born in Hungerford, Berkshire, but moved to Wiltshire in 1805 when he inherited the Elizabethan manor house in Lake. He was a learned man and very interested in archaeology. Sir Richard Colt Hoare helped him to excavate a barrow on his estate. Duke made frequent contributions to the Gentleman’s Magazine, mainly regarding the antiquities of Wiltshire. He published a book, called The Druidical Temples of Wiltshire, which is the culmination of his opinions. As well as being a clergyman, Duke, was a magistrate and helped the poor of the county.

The Borgia Ring
By Unknown
The Borgia Ring1826 – 1875
This image is from the Illustrated London News and it depicts a scene from a drama called The Borgia Ring that appeared at the Adelphi Theatre. The theatre was renamed the Adelphi in 1819. Distinguished actors and actresses appeared in its plays, including Madame Celeste who was the first heroine of what became known as Adelphi drama. It was pulled down in 1858 and then under new management from 1879 it was famous for melodramas, by writers such as Wilkie Collins, for the next twenty years.

The Druid’s Sacrifice
By William Overend Geller
The Druid’s Sacrifice1832
There is no historical or archaeological evidence that the druids constructed or worshipped at Stonehenge. The idea was popularised in the 18th century by Dr William Stukeley. The druids were part of Celtic society. One of their main functions was probably to supervise sacrifices and religious ceremonies. It is likely that they also recounted orally in verse the traditional stories about the tribe as well as upheld the law and acted as judges. Until the 20th century images of druids were heavily influenced by the writings of Roman authors.

The first spring clean
By William Heath Robinson
The first spring clean1921
This cartoon was first published in the magazine ‘Let’s Laugh’. Heath Robinson dated it 1921 BC. The joke in this date is actually quite accurate for dating the monument!





The Front View of Stonehenge
By William Stukeley
The Front View of StonehengeThis image combines two prints that were in a book about Stonehenge by Dr William Stukeley. Stukeley drew them and then Harris engraved the plan and Gerard Van der Gucht engraved the main picture.

The North East Side of Stonehenge

By Edward Rooker
1751 – 1800
The North East Side of StonehengeA copy of this engraving appeared in Hervey’s New System of Geography written by Frederic Hervey in 1785. D.Fenning originally wrote this book and then Hervey edited a revised version. The landscape behind the monument is reminiscent of the bleak downland of Salisbury Plain but errors in the scale of the stones suggest that the artist did not draw this picture from life.

The Stupendous Stones called Stonehenge on Salisbury Plain
By Alexander Hogg
The Stupendous Stones called Stonehenge on Salisbury Plain1794
This simple and clear image shows a very accurate view of Stonehenge. However the scale of the figures in the foreground is completely wrong. They are far too small and serve only to make the stones look bigger than they really are. Wonderful Magazine, from which this picture is taken, specialised in articles on strange sights, creatures and phenomena. It was not beyond exaggeration as is demonstrated here.

Three prehistoric monuments
By W. Hamper
Three prehistoric monuments1806
This image appeared in an issue of the Gentleman’s Magazine in July 1806 (plate I page 600). The three images show Avebury and Stonehenge in Wiltshire and the Rollright Stones in Oxfordshire. All three stone circles attracted the attention of the early antiquarians.





By Conrad Martin Metz and James Heath
Unknown1776 – 1825
This image has been clearly influenced by Italian Renaissance art. The stones have been portrayed quite accurately but the setting, particularly the shepherd in the lower left corner, is classical in style. This is typical of the fashion for artworks during this period. It also reinforces the emerging idea that Great Britain was becoming the most important empire in the world and therefore, the new Rome.

Large Stonehenge
By David Charles Read
Large Stonehenge1830
This is a beautifully atmospheric picture that shows off the skills of the artist very well. The sketchy effects of etching have been cleverly used to control the light in the image. The darkness increases the impressive size and presence of the stones, whilst enough moonlight is allowed through the clouds to reveal the people. Perhaps they are lovers, perhaps they are travellers. Either way, the picture has the feeling of an episode from a romantic novel.

Grand Conventional Festival of the Britons
By Samuel Rush Meyrick and Charles Hamilton Smith
Grand Conventional Festival of the Britons1801 – 1850
This picture is a low quality reproduction of Meyrick and Smith’s Grand Conventional Festival of the Britons. Until the 19th century all images of druids were heavily influenced by the illustrations in Britannia Antiqua Illustrata, written by Aylett Sammes (published 1676). Then in 1815 Meyrick and Smith issued a book, called The Costume of the Original Inhabitants of the British Isles. Their drawings were influential as they introduced British prehistoric ornaments as costume accessories. However, the authenticity of their images is questionable as they combined elements of dress from different periods of history, such as Early Bronze Age, Late Bronze Age, Celtic and Medieval.

External links:

The Stonehenge Stone Circle Website



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