Welcome to my blog, where I take pleasure in words and pictures, be they my own or those of others. I'm a creative individual, and the crafty side I explore on my 'other blog', Picking Up The Threads, which I hope you'll visit too. I'm sure you understand that I have sole copyright of my original work and any of my contributions, so please ask if you want to use them. A polite request is rarely refused. So, as they used to say on the BBC's 'Listen With Mother' radio programme, many years ago: "Are you sitting comfortably? Then we'll begin."

Thursday, 26 July 2012

The Boy With a Bat


The boy with a bat in the first picture is my husband aged 5 years in 1954. It was actually one of a series of photos taken on his birthday. He points out that, although he is left-handed, this is a right-handed stance. His father taught him to hold the bat, never thinking about the fact that his son was left-handed; the consequence was that he continued to play right-handedly, both cricket, and later, golf.


‘The Boy With a Bat’ is actually the title of a painting in the west Dining Room of Breamore House near Salisbury, Wiltshire. It was painted by Thomas Hudson (1701-1779), and is the subject of a postcard I have.The painting was exhibited in Washington for The Treasure Houses of Britain Exhibition in 1985.

"The background shows the old castle church, houses and bridge at Newark. With a curved bat over his right shoulder and two stumps in his left hand the sitter is Walter Hawkesworth Fawkes of Farnley in Yorkshire. Painted in the middle of the eighteenth century when cricket was still a new game, this painting and another belonging to the M.C.C. are considered to be the earliest paintings of cricketers.” (Breamore House website).


Another boy with a cricket bat is John Opie’s (1761-1807) ‘The Red Boy’, which came under the hammer at Christie’s in 2007. It was exhibited at the Royal Academy in 1794 as ‘Portrait of a boy’, and again in their 1876 exhibition ‘Works of Old Masters’ as “The Red Boy’. The subject was Joseph McDonough and the notes prepared by Viv Hendra for Christie’s, give a useful background to popularity of cricket at the time when Opie painted the portrait.

Notes: This magnificent picture is both an example of Opie's precocious talent for child portraiture and a key cricketing image. Dating to 1793, it was painted at the height of Opie's artistic career, and shows him at his most confident and accomplished.

The nature of cricket changed hugely from its origins in the 13th Century. By the mid-18th Century, it was increasing in popularity and steadily evolving into the national sport that it is today. Matches were often played for high stakes and clubs such as The London Club, formed circa 1701, were evolving to organise and regulate the game. The earliest surviving bats resemble a broad, curved hockey stick. These were replaced by the straight blade, as appears here, in circa 1750, with the advent of bowlers pitching the ball up. On the basis of early depictions of the sport, it appears that the game did not originally require a 'wicket', and when one did appear the early type consisted of only two stumps, approximately twelve inches high, with a third cross-stump, or bail. A third vertical stump was first introduced in 1775, to make the bowler's job less arduous. The two-stump wicket had been completely phased out by the early 19th century. The present picture is therefore a comparatively late example of it still in use.


















The State Library of Queensland via Wikimedia commons, provides another boy with a bat: ‘Master Edward Staunton posing with a cricket bat’. An even younger boy with his sibling comes from the same source.

For more ‘Boys with Bats’ take your seats at Sepia Saturday where two rival sports; cricket and baseball are vying for attention in the picture prompt this week. Why not go and cheer them on?

A Breathless Hush, is my second cricket-themed post, where you can read about a special match with HRH Prince Charles, at which I was a spectator.

18 comments:

  1. I don't know much about cricket. I like the Thomas Hudson painting.

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  2. I know nothing about cricket either, but I've learned a lot today reading this post. John Opie's painting is so charming. I don't recall ever seeing his work in any art appreciation courses or museums, so I'm especially glad to see this one.

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  3. Hello Marilyn:
    Your boys with bats are wonderful. Not the least, the photograph of your husband with his very bold cricket stand!

    We are very fond of portraits which not only capture a sense of a period in history but also a glimpse of the landscape. They really do inform of people and places so intriguingly.

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  4. Oh my goodness your hubby was such a darling little boy! He ranks high on my list compared to the other players! What a fun post and great choice for title again! These pictures are amazing, and I always have such pleasure in seeing your old family photos!

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  5. It just goes to show, no matter what era, no matter what age, sports were always popular. Lovely pictures.

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  6. I was interested in comparing your husband's birthday photo with the other "boys with bats" in paintings. I'm wondering if this is a standard topic for the enjoyment of cricket playing folks. Very interesting.

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  7. What a wonderful post, Nell. Your hubby was indeed a doll, and I enjoyed the other photos and the history. Interesting about the right-handed stance and how that stayed with him. I don't know much about cricket either.

    Kathy M.

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  8. A glorious essay on a theme. Yet again you take us on a tour de force. And what a great photograph to start off with.

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  9. A lovely series of cute cricketers, I'm amused by the twosome in the last one by the thought of a cricket enthusiast for a parent. My partner is a left hander who plays cricket right handed too, must be commoner than I thought.

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  10. Cricket used to be my favourite sport. These paintings are magnificent. I still have my bat tucked away somewhere but I can no longer get in my old school cricket blazer.
    Pleased to see a young batsman keeping his elbow up.

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  11. I, also, don't know much about cricket except to recognize the word and how it is played, basically. Very interesting photos art wise and subject wise. I love the Olympics and this is an exciting time all over the world.
    QMM

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  12. Love the way you have juxtaposed the old with the (relatively) new,

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  13. I hadn't realised cricket bats had changed shape so much. My father brought me up on cricket so I've always maintained an interest but never managed to pass that interest on to my sons.

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  14. I have a suspicion the cricket bat in that last portrait was a studio prop. I don't imagine a two-and-a-bit year old playing much cricket, but who knows ... perhaps that's why I never could develop a passion for the game. I didn't start early enough.

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  15. Not being that familiar with the game myself, I found this entertaining and informative. Your husband already looked like a force to be reckoned with, with that bat. Funny that he played right-handed. People were funny back then about folks being left handed. I know the Sisters of St Ann made sure I quite writing with my left hand. Lucky for me I was ambidextrous as it made no big difference to me. I still do certain things with the left while I do others with my right one.
    :)~
    HUGZ

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  16. Who knew that cricket bat were so photogenic? That photo of your husband is beyond adorable.

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  17. Nice photo of your husband and I like the way you found all those other boys with bats to go with.

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  18. Super post. I'd not seen the paintings of boys with cricket bats before. It's an interesting style that seems unique to cricket. American or Continental youths of the 18th century didn't have any comparable sports equipment to hold when they were painted.

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