The Land of Lyonesse



The Disappointed Tourist: Land of Lyonesse, Ellen Harvey, 2021. Oil and acrylic on Gessoboard, 18 x 24″ (46 x 61 cm). Photograph: Etienne Frossard.

Lyonesse was a kingdom which, according to Arthurian legend, consisted of a long strand of land stretching from Cornwall in England to what is now the Isles of Scilly which was lost after being swallowed by the ocean in a single night in an act of divine vengeance for an unnamed crime. It was the home of Tristan (of Tristan and Iseult) whose father was its King but he was unable to take up its inheritance after it was lost while he was at his uncle King Mark’s court in Cornwall. Local Cornwall tales tell of a Trevelyan who escaped the inundation while riding a white horse which lost one of its horseshoes in the flight. Several Cornwall families have adopted the motif of three horseshoes as part of their family crests. The Vyvyan family claims to be descended from Trevelyan and their crest features a white horse riding a wave. This event is supposed to have taken place on 11 November 1099 or 1089. The painting is just made up, using photographs of Tintagel as a point of departure.

Requested by Catriona S.