Monday, May 10, 2010

Sharpening Scythes in Art

Let's examine more of the scythe-related artwork found in the extensive database at  Many of these works feature scythes being sharpened, perhaps because the subject is conveniently standing in one place or sitting.

In this 19th-century painting by Deyrolle, titled "Repos des faneurs" (rest of the haymakers), the mower is peening his blade while his two co-workers with hay forks are waiting nearby.  The man has the blade removed from the snath and is using a peening anvil that is stuck into the ground.  The field appears to consist primarily of crimson clover in bloom.  Notice the wooden clogs.
(Source:  Theophile Louis Deyrolle, "repos des faneurs",, Hay in Art Database ID: 686)

This 1887 painting by L'hermitte also shows a clog-wearing man peening his blade in the field.  A child is carrying what looks like a double-sided hay rake and a hay fork.
(Source:  Leon Augustin L'hermitte, "Haymakers",, Hay in Art Database ID: 588)

This 1890 photograph by Peter Henry Emerson is titled "In the Barley Harvest".  Two workers are resting while the third is sharpening his scythe.  Emerson once said, "No machine will be invented which will do the work as well as the scythe."  
(Source:  Peter Henry Emerson, Pictures of East Anglian Life, 1890, plate 7.  J. Paul Getty Museum  Hay in Art Database ID: 6142)

An unknown photographer shot this British "Mower sharpening his scythe at Wilcroft, Herefordshire" around 1890.  Note the technique used for sharpening such a long blade.
(Source:  Winter, Gordon. A country camera 1844-1914. Penguin, 1973, p. 42. From Hereford City Library.
 Hay in Art Database ID: 5271)

Another long blade in this 1848 painting by William Sidney Mount titled "Farmer whetting his scythe".  This scene is located in New York.  Note the left hand position and the long sharpening "rifle" (made of abrasives bonded to a handle) instead of a solid stone.
(Source:  Frankenstein, Alfred. William Sidney Mount. NY: Abrams, 1975, plate 31 [color]
 Hay in Art Database ID: 133)

Yet another long blade on an American-style scythe in John S. DeMartelley's 1938 lithograph, "Old Man Towne bought a new scythe".  (Old Man Towne was neighbor of the artist.)  Note the technique for steadying the blade with the left hand.
(Source:  North, Bill. The prints of John S. DeMartelly, 1903-1979. East Lansing, MI: Kresge Art Museum, p. 45.
 Hay in Art Database ID: 954)

An upcoming post topic will be "Women with Scythes in Art".