Treasury loose stone 3 (relief with birds)

Image of the feature "VI. Loose Sculpture: 3. Bird relief" at Berkeley Castle.

by Ron Baxter.

The relief is carved on a slab of dark grey, fine-grained sandstone, apparently identical to that of the bust described above, and set into the wall of the Treasury.  It is irregular in shape, like a shoe in right profile, and no edges of the original block survive.  As it is set, it depicts parts of two birds; one above and the other below a flat, straight or slightly curved fillet that runs diagonally from the heel of the “shoe” at the lower left to halfway up the instep on the right.  All of the upper bird survives except its tail.  It is in left profile with wings folded against its body.  The head has a down-turned hawk-like beak with which it pecks at a fruit like a raspberry or a pine cone, an almond-shaped eye with a drilled pupil, and a neck that curves downwards.  All this is undecorated, but the wing feathers are shown as overlapping scales, with longer flight feathers indicated by parallel grooves.  The fruit is borne on a stem that emerges from under the bird’s body.  No feet are shown.  Below the fillet, only the wing and tail of a second bird, also in left profile, remain.  The tail is like a dove’s; long and scaled at its root with a fan of tail feathers indicated by grooves.  At the toe of the “shoe”, under the bird’s tail, are the remains of two fruits similar to the first.  Above the bird’s wing is part of a curved stem.

As it is exhibited the stone might well be the right way round.  The other possibility may be seen by turning it clockwise through 90 degrees, when both birds would be turned to a vertical disposition.

Dimensions

Max. height of block 0.15m
Max. width of block 0.28m