01 June 2011

Pictish warrior

Drawn by John White (1585-1593).  A Pictish warrior holding a human head; nude, body stained and painted with birds, animals and serpents carrying shield and man's head, with large curved sword.  Watercolour touched with bodycolour and white over graphite.
The contemporary English historian John Speed argued that the name Pict meant ‘painted or stained’ and believed that they went naked so as not to cover up their ‘painting and damasking’ which made them look more terrible in war. The Picts took heads as trophies, and they and their neighbours, men and women, bristled with weapons...

It is also worth noting that the paintings and tattoos on this Pict in particular resemble some of the more elaborate sculpted and gilded decorations on court armour of the period, which employed similar fantastic beasts on shoulders, helmets and breastplates.
From the collections of the British Museum, via.


  1. I always enjoy your blog. I often recommend it and send your links to friends and family. Thanks.

    Now then, that Pictish dude looks like one bad hombre!

  2. Certainly ain't one of Pratchett's pictsies.

  3. I've seen this illustration before while researching Pictish history, but I've never noticed the hysterical look on his face. He either looks like he's about to sneeze, or has just recieved a blow to the head.

  4. I love these drawings, but sadly it's more likely than not that they were based more on fantasy rather than any factual information on the Picts.


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