*© 2010 RC deWinter ~ All Rights Reserved

Mary, Mary, quite contrary,
How does your garden grow?
With silver bells, and cockle shells,
And pretty maids all in a row.

One of my favorite nursery rhymes, Mary Mary always fired my imagination – silver bells, cockle shells – those words held magic for me.

Come too late, I discovered – when studying the history of English literature – that this pretty little rhyme is a rather gruesome allusion to Mary Tudor, or Bloody Mary, as she came to be known.

The garden actually refers to England and the growth in cemetery plots, thanks to Mary’s penchant for killing Protestants.

Silver bells is a nod to the thumbscrews with which unrepentant heretics were tortured; the thumbscrew was tightened in increments until the thumb was crushed.

Cockleshells – ah, there’s a particularly painful thought, especially for men. This dandy little device was a kind of double thumbscrew for a man’s scrotum, and the result was very similar.

Now, what possible evil can we construe from the maids?
Well, it’s a reference to the first practical guillotine – generally called the Maiden. There were many of these primitive versions of the guillotine set up across England to separate heretics from their heads. A beheading with the Maiden was often a long and horrific ordeal. Depending on the condition of the blade, the skill of the executioner and the thickness and position of the neck, it sometimes took repeated blows to completely sever the head.

This having been said, rest assured that my Pretty Maids are simply abstract, stylized flowers and foliage in bud vases,
painted in digital oils and finished with a light cracked-wood texture.*


wood, vase, foliage, textured, stylized, abstract, flowers

Hello, and welcome!
I have been a photographer for over 25 years, using both traditional and digital SLR equipment, with pictures published in print as well as in online publications and galleries. The digitally-composed works are created using a variety of software. If you enjoy my work, please spread the word, and thank you for stopping by.

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  • mmargot
    mmargotover 4 years ago

    First thought : gorgeous sylized work!
    Second thought, after reading : I always hated that nursery rhyme; now I know why.
    Thank you for both!

  • LOL…thank you!

    – RC deWinter

  • pinkyjain
    pinkyjainover 4 years ago

    Whoaaaaaaa, that is absolutely stunning!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! So beautiful.
    Alot of the nursery rhymes had grim meanings

  • Yes, London Bridge Is Falling Down is about a woman being immured in one of the supports to placate the gods…ugh. Glad you like the picture…:-)

    – RC deWinter

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