Portrait of a Young Lady exhibition at Buxton

This is a drawing of the skull of a victim of a massacre at the Iron Age hill fort of Fin Cop near Ashford-in-the-Water.

It is part of a collection of bones excavated from the ancient site and on display at Buxton Museum and Art Gallery.

The drawing is by Richard Johnson who, along with his wife, composer Amanda Johnson,was artist-in-residence at the museum for two years with the aim of staging an exhibition of work inspired by the collections.

With such a vast array of Peak District archaeology, art and history to work with the couple were spoilt for choice but it was bones and the horrific massacre that grabbed their attention.

The resulting multi-sensory exhibition, which includes this drawing, entitled Portrait of a Young Lady, is called Lullaby of the Larks and is a commemoration of the massacre.

It seems that more than 2,000 years ago Fin Cop was a hurriedly-constructed fort to protect the people from Iron Age warfare, but the evidence since discovered by archaeologists is that all the women and children were slaughtered and flung into a ditch which became a mass grave.

The absence  of any adult men suggests that they may have been sold as slaves, forced to fight with the opposing army or even slain in battle before the victors hunted down the women at the fort.

“Fin Cop holds a special place in our hearts. After discovering the bones in the museum we were intrigued by the story and wanted to know more,” said Richard.

“We were very lucky to have been able to go to the fort with the project manager of the excavations there and we gained an insight into the historical importance of the site as a whole.

“The peace and tranquility of the place, with just the sound of the larks singing, offered no clue to the atrocities that occurred there thousands of years ago. It is a beautiful place tinged with sadness. You can’t fail to be moved by something like that. 

“Inspired by what we experienced, we have drawn painted, recorded and written music and this exhibition is the culmination of these two years.”

Alongside the new music composed by Amanda and Richard’s paintings and drawings there will be assemblages of items excavated from the site that are now part of the museum’s collection.

“It took me five hours to draw the portrait and by the time it was finished I wanted to know how someone could have inflicted such violence on her and why more than 2,000 years later women and girls are still subjected to such violence the world over.

“It seems we have learned little over all those years but we hope that people who visit this exhibition will experience a whole lot of things and it will get them thinking about what we can learn from the past and the importance of museums in teaching us about it,” said Richard.

The exhibition is on from September 8 to November 24 and there will be a special preview from 2pm-4pm on the first day. You will be able to meet the artists on October 20 from 2pm-4pm.