Monday, February 10, 2014

Artz of Gallows

While I was researching paintings by William Gilpin two weeks ago I came across a piece he did called "Execution". It was haunting, and eerie and I did not use it. However, my curiousity was aroused by who was left there hanging, why, and were there other works of art that depicted a hanging or a gallows.
                                                          "Execution" William Gilpin

A gallows is a frame of wood used as a means of torture before during or after an execution by hanging. The gallows came into use shortly after Constantine the Great abolished crucifixion.
                    The execution of Oliver Cromwell, Henry Ireton and John Bradshaw in 1661.                   

The French word for gallows is potence from the Latin word potencia meaning power. They were errected as a grim reminder of the pwer of the judicial system or the whims of a king.
During the Fifteenth and Sixteenth Centuries gallows were permanent structures and the bodies would remain hanging until they decompsed. These structures were built large and in very conspicous places. They were meant to be seen from far and wide and were a common sight. Since they were a part of the landscape, castle grounds, city squares they were included by artists.
                             Gallows near Kampen: summer view 1620-1625, by Hendrick Avercamp

Place names often contained the word gallows because of the frequency of use of the place. Gallows Corner in Havering, London, England. Gallow Hill, Huesbreck, Dunrossness, Shetland Island. Gallows Glen, Kildare, Ireland.
The inscription reads:  "The best preserved three-sided gallows in Germany - built in 1550 refurbished in 1597 - It served justice for the court of Beerfelden.  The condemned stood at the stone cross under the linden to receive the last rites.  The last execution was carried out in 1804,  a gypsy woman was executed for stealing a chicken and some bread." Lee Waite

This week we present the Artz of Gallows.

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