The book that I immediately thought of, on reading Cornflower's post, was The Herb of Grace, by Elizabeth Goudge (my copy has its American title, Pilgrim's Inn). At the heart of the book is the discovery of a fresco in the ancient house to which the Eliot family have moved from London, the Herb of Grace, at Buckler's Hard on the Solent. The painting, discovered by the charmingly naughty twins Jerry and Josie, tells the story of St Eustace, here called Placidus,
a rich fairy-tale knight, riding out from the pages of an illuminated missal on his great while horse with its gay trappings, his spurs on his heels, his hunting horn slung over his shoulder, his hunting knife in his belt and his spear in his hand, his garments all bright and gay and richly furred, his dogs bounding about him.Pisanello's famous painting of the scene is mentioned, and this, of course, is the picture I have tucked away in the book's pages - long one of my favourites.
The legend of Placidus is woven into the story of the Eliot family, creating a bond between family and home that will sustain each member. The meticulous tenderness with which the animals are painted becomes part of a greater image of love and protection, nurturing and restoring those who seek sanctuary at the Herb of Grace. Goudge, a devout Christian, has a rare ability to express a very English mysticism, so that her books sustain her readers as well.
Because such pictures have become a feature of my personal library, I thought I might take up this topic as an occasional series - when I pick up a book that has a picture slipped inside, or find a new picture/book link that seems right to me, I shall post about it here. Thank you, Cornflower, for the idea!