Some Notes on Shepherds’ Staves

Some Notes on Shepherds’ Staves

Salzman, L.F.

Agricultural History Review, Volume 5 part 1 (1957)


It is probable that most people if asked to draw a picture of a medieval shepherd might be rather hazy about details of his costume, but would have no hesitation in equipping him with the typical shepherd’s crook, associated with Dresden shepherdesses and found in most Folk Museums. I have examined many scores of representations of shepherds in illuminated manuscripts, paintings, and carvings and have so far found only three, or possibly four, English and one French instances of such crooks before about 1475: to these instances I shall return later. Shepherds were not common subjects for classical artists, and the few examples that I have found seem to carry nothing more functional than a plain stick. In Christian art they occur frequently in scenes of the Nativity either greeted by the angel in the fields or in adoration at the crib; David, and more rarely Abel, are portrayed as shepherds; and there are occasional pastoral scenes.

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