Animals > Doves
High up on the sounding boards of pulpits in Eastern France and Flanders hang doves with outstretched wings and raised feet; some are painted, some are not. They flutter above the priest as he preaches to the congregation showing that the Holy Spirit is present in his words. Just as a dove chooses the best grain, a preacher chooses the best scriptures.
The dove of the Holy Ghost appears in art in other poses. In scenes of The Annunciation a ray of light emanates from the dove as it swoops down towards the Virgin. In scenes of The Baptism its light shines down onto the head of Christ.
Late-Gothic oak carved upright from a coffer or cupboard, with a spurious date of 1774 crudely scratched at the top. The carving is English or Northern French. At this period it is difficult to differentiate, though the naively-carved bird suggests an English origin.
The bird is likely to be a dove as it is perched on a branch of a vine pecking at the grapes. In Christian art the vine stands for Christ who likened himself to a vine with the church as a vineyard. The dove eating the fruit represents the human soul reaping the rewards of religion.
The curling tendrils of the vine amongst the large leaves and grapes make a useful artistic motif that crops up all over the fabric of early church buildings and furniture. The design is particularly enhanced by the inclusion of doves, noted for their gentleness:
Be ye wise as serpents and harmless as doves.