Find Shorthampton on a map
According to the legend, the main source for which is the apocryphal Gospel of Nicodemus, the child Jesus, playing one day in the mud, took some of it and modelled it into birds. When he clapped his hands, they came to life, and flew away. In some other accounts, various peripheral flourishes are added - one, stressing the infant Creators demonstration of power, has Joseph reprimanding Jesus for playing on the Sabbath, and witnessing the miracle as a mute rejoinder. Another recounts how angels brought the Child golden toys, which he rejected in favour of the humble clay birds he then brought to life.
At Shorthampton, the infant Jesus is held on his mothers right arm, holding out one of the clay birds to the child, probably his half-brother James, on her other arm. According to ET Long¹, there was once a third child kneeling in front of the group, presumably at the left where some dark yellow pigment is visible under a patch of plaster.
Mary and the children advance towards the onlooker from within a rectangular painted frame, and as the south aisle is known to have been altered in the 15th century, this painting, like most (but not all) of those at Shorthampton, dates almost certainly from then. The painting of St. Zita, one of only two in England, is now on the site, and others will be in due course.
¹ ET Long, Medieval Wall Paintings in Oxfordshire Churches, Oxoniensia, Vol. XXXV11, 1972, p.86ff
Website for Shorthampton All Saints
Links to other Infancy Scenes
|Annunciation to the Shepherds/Nativity, Ashampstead, Berkshire||Nativity, Corby Glen, Lincs||King Herod, with two Magi and other Nativity scenes, Corby Glen, Lincolnshire||Nativity/Annunciation to the Shepherds, Wissington, Suffolk||Adoration of the Magi, Black Bourton, Oxon.|
|Adoration of the Magi, Edstaston, Shropshire||Nativity/Annunciation to the Shepherds, Faversham, Kent||Adoration of the Magi/Presentation in the Temple, Faversham, Kent||Adoration of the Magi, Heydon, Norfolk||Adoration of the Magi, Pinvin, Worcs|
|Adoration of the Magi, Salisbury (St. Thomas) Wilts||Adoration of the Shepherds/Magi, Thornham Parva, Suffolk||Adoration of the Magi/Dream of the Magi, Wissington, Suffolk||Three Magi, Burton Dassett, Warwicks.||Massacre of the Innocents/Presentation in the Temple, Kelmscott, Oxon.|
|Flight into Egypt, Croughton, Northants||Miracle of the Clay Birds, Shorthampton, Oxon.||Baptism of Christ, Black Bourton, Oxon.||Infancy Cycle, Brook, Kent||Nativity scenes, with Annunciation to Shepherds, Hardham, Sussex NEW|
© Anne Marshall 2001