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The Swaine Family – Arthur Devis 1749

Posted by on September 26, 2012

Arthur Devis (1712-1787)  Yale Center for British Art, Paul Mellon Collection

What do you think that is open right by the boys foot?   And Kevin thinks he is reading Izaak Walton’s “The Compleat Angler”.

Detail: children , boy , girl , men , women , water , reading , fishing , fence , fichu , mantua , hat , petticoat , portrait , book , dog, fish, net, fishing pole, bucket, snuff box, Fishing Treen

13 Responses to The Swaine Family – Arthur Devis 1749

  1. Andrew Shelden

    It almost looks like a case with a folding rule (very important if a fisherman is to establish the size of his catch). It has a tether chain, yes? – to keep it from getting lost? Perhaps ’twere entrusted to the lad for

    Other possibility – a quick googlysearch showed some surveyor’s tool kits were cylindrical/semi-ovoid, and included folding rules, compasses, protractors, etc. Perhaps the wee ones were taking geometry lessons in between the casting of the lines?

    Just some thoughts…

  2. mrstalbott

    perhaps a second folding fishing pole? The one the boy is holding has segments about the same length as the cylindrical case.

    • Jon Townsend

      I thought something similar it just seemed that the case was a bit short especially for the handle segment. Maybe it is a smaller pole. The contents seem to be the same color as the pole. If I was pressed I think that is where I would go.

  3. Kevin Carter

    And of course, the recumbent reader is reciting from Izaak Walton?

  4. Neil Sorenson

    It appears to be a traveling ink well
    though it’s a strange place for one.

  5. Keith H. Burgess

    Excellent post. I agree, it appears to be a cylinrical container with sections of dowl or rod. I must edit the image for a closer look.
    Regards, Keith.

  6. Jon Peterson

    If we’re looking at what I think we are – the small dark cylindrical container – it is FAR too small to hold a fishing pole in segments. An 8-10 foot would pole made up of 6 inch segments impossibly stiff. Worthless as a fishing pole. If it has anything to do with fishing, it probably held leaders, line dressing or the like.

    • Thomas McGrath

      I do believe the small cylinder could be holding wooden floats for fishing. Both fishing rods have wooden floats attached to the lines but they seem to be well shaped/whittled and painted where as the pieces of wood in the cylinder are not. The fishing rods appear to be bamboo rods and as such not segmented portable rods.

  7. Laura Myers

    Who cares what that little device is, I can’t take my eyes off the lady’s beautiful quilted petticoat and the frothy “best dress” sheer apron she has on over it – just for show not protection because she wasn’t about to cook a meal!

  8. Thomas McGrath

    Just a possibility on the small tube. I have done a bit of research into fishing tackle of the period and the only thing missing in the painting is the Line Winders used to hold the line and float and hook. They are usually two 4-6 inch long sticks with a peg between them at both ends that the line is wrapped around and eventually the bobber and finally the hook end. The lines, bobbers, and hook were pre tied and stored on Line Winders. They were not left attached to the bamboo poles. Looking closely at the tube it does appear that there are groups of sticks with a gap between them in the tube. My only concern with this possibility is that Line Winders usually cam in groups of 4 to 6 pegged together and in a box and not individually in a tube but that does not mean this isn’t the case.

  9. Thomas McGrath

    Here is a link to a period version of the Line Winders from the UK:

  10. Thomas McGrath

    Last post! It is actually called a Fishing Treen or Fishermans Companion and they are very rare. They have a line winder inside and a place to store hooks and weights etc. A google search for Fishermans Treen will show one with a 5-6 inch case and inside is the treen and line winder. This is most likely what that is and it is really exciting tracking things like this down. Thanks for this opportunity. Some links to similar treens with and without the case:

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