Sculpture to Hold 1930 (LH173)


yew wood
length 33cm

photo: Anita Feldman

Near where we lived in Castleford there was a quarry, and we used to play about with the clay and make what we called touchstone ovens, little square boxes with chimneys and a hole at the side, and we’d fill these with rotten wood and light it and blow on the fire to warm our hands in winter. And sometimes we’d decorate them with drawings. All our games had seasonal rotation – whip-and-top time lasted three weeks, for instance – and one of the games that came round was called “Piggie”. For this, you took a round piece of wood and shaped the ends of it till you could hit it with a stick and make it jump into the air. I very much enjoyed carving the piggie, and of course I was carving and modelling the clay all the time too.

Henry Moore quoted in Henry Moore by John Russell, Penguin Books, London, 1973, page 18.

As well as Moore’s sensory experience of carving for the game Piggie, influence on the piece Sculpture to Hold can be traced to the traditional game, much played in Yorkshire, known as Knur and Spell. This cricket-like pastime that was played with a stick, the spell, fashioned into a shape similar to that of a garden hoe and this was used to pommel a small ball, the knur, as far as possible. Though later versions were mechanised using springs, originally the knur was served into the air by the player.