Notes and Queries, Number 56, November 23, 1850

by: Various

Language: English
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The highly interesting collection of pictures at Combe Abbey, the seat of the Earl of Craven, in Warwickshire, was, for the most part, bequeathed by Elizabeth, Queen of Bohemia, the daughter of James I., to her faithful attendant, William, Earl of Craven. The collection has remained, entire and undisturbed, up to the present time. Near the upper end of the long gallery is a picture which doubtless formed a part of the bequest of the Queen of Bohemia, and of which the following is a description:—

Three quarters length: a female figure, standing, with long curling light hair, and a wreath of flowers round the head. She wears a white satin gown, with a yellow edge; gold chain on the stomacher, and pearl buttons down the front. She has a pearl necklace and earrings, with a high plaited chemisette up to the necklace; and four rows of pearls, with a yellow bow, round the sleeve. She holds in her hands a large highly ornamented gold horn. The back-ground consists of mountains. Underneath the picture is this inscription:

"Anno post natum Christum 939. Ottoni comiti Oldenburgico in venatione vehementer sitibundo virgo elegantissima ex monte Osen prodiens cornu argenteum deauratum plenum liquore ut biberet obtulit. Inspecto is liquore adhorruit, ac eundum bibere recusavit. Quo facto, subito Comes a virgine discedens liquorem retro super equum quem mox depilavit effudit, cornuque hic depictum secum Oldenburgum in perpetuam illius memoriam reportavit. Lucretio de Sainct Simon pinxit."

The painting is apparently of the first part of the seventeenth century. The ordinary books of reference do not contain the painter's name.

The same legend as that contained in this inscription, though with fuller details, is given by the brothers Grimm, in their collection of Deutsche Sagen, No. 541. vol. ii. p. 317., from two Oldenburg chronicles. According to this version Otto was Count of Oldenburg in the year 990 or 967. [The chronicles appear to differ as to his date: the inscription of the Combe Abbey picture furnishes a third date.] Being a good hunter, and fond of hunting, he went, on the 20th of July, in this year, attended by his nobles and servants, to hunt in the forest of Bernefeuer. Here he found a deer, and chased it alone from this wood to Mount Osen: but in the pursuit he left his companions and even his dogs behind; and he stood alone, on his white horse, in the middle of the mountain. Being now exhausted by the great heat, he exclaimed: "Would to God that some one had a draught of cold water!" As soon as the count had uttered these words, the mountain opened, and from the chasm there came a beautiful damsel, dressed in fine clothes, with her hair divided over her shoulders, and a wreath of flowers on her head. In her hand she held a precious silver-gilt hunting-horn, filled with some liquid; which she offered to the count, in order that he might drink. The count took the horn, and examined the liquid, but declined to drink it. Whereupon the damsel said: "My dear lord, drink it upon my assurance; for it will do you no harm, but will tend to your good." She added that, if he would drink, he and his family, and all his descendants, and the whole territory of Oldenburg, would prosper: but that, if he refused, there would be discord in the race of the Counts of Oldenburg....