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04 Nov

How to See the Devil in The Welsh Lady's Shawl - Salem Painting

Posted by Becca Hemmings

Have you heard about the iconic Salem Painting? You may have seen it hanging in a Welsh home. It is a depiction of Welsh piety, an illustration of traditional Welsh costume and perhaps something quite sinister; a portrait of the devil himself!

Salem Welsh Lady Painting

Source - Wikipedia and http://www.liverpoolmuseums.org.uk/ladylever/collections/salem.asp  

The 1908 painting by Sydney Curnow Vosper is called Salem as it is set in Capel Salem in Pentre Gwynfryn, Gwynedd (nothing to do with the witch trails of the 17th century)

The Welsh lady is Siân Owen, a real person. She was 71, a widow, and lived in an isolated farmhouse. Siân died in 1927 and is buried in Llanfair churchyard, near Harlech.

There are a few hidden meanings to spot in the painting.

  • Can you see the ghostly face in the window? Whilst the artist denied he had deliberately painted the devil - he did admit to adding this spooky character
  • The time; it is a few minutes to ten, indicating that as Siân is walking towards her family pew she is late. She has arrived during the traditional silence before the morning service begins, naughty Siân!
  • Her bright shawl is in contrast to the modest dress of the congregation. Perhaps this highlights the sin of vanity. Did she made a fashionably late entrance to show off her shawl? 
  • The Devil himself! See how to in the below diagram by Wales Online:

 Source - Wales Online

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