Russett May

Uncropped version of the avatar used by Russett May.
Image Description

A painting taken from plate 11 of British Mammals by Archibald Thorburn (specifically, this extracted image); it is captioned Fox. 1/3 and signed A. Thorburn 1918. Elsewhere, it has been titled Fox with Foxgloves, but no such title is given in the book, and in fact the plate number (as PL. 11) seems to be written on the painting in lieu of any title.

A fox lies curled into a hollow under what may be a tree, head on its forepaws and tail tucked against its side. A pair of foxglove plants rises in the foreground, and the remains of a previous meal lie at their base. The foxʼs muzzle points slightly down and left, but it has raised its bright amber eyes to gaze directly at the viewer; the ears are alert but unfocused, and overall the fox has an air of calm attentiveness. Its fur is a deep auburn red—not as bright as some—and fades almost to a tan where the light catches. The tail and paws are a darker brown, while the backs of the ears and a line around each eye (extending to a small wing on one side and dropping to the lower jaw between the cheek and the muzzle on the other) is almost black. Any patches of white visible are small—the sides of the muzzle and cheek, plumes and rims of the ears, and the very tip of the tail—are small, but light shading along the otherwise‐shadowed shoulder hint that the fox may indeed have a white chest and belly.

The wall of the hollow rising behind and half over the fox is dense with roots, thick enough that they would be appropriate for a tree a short distance away or a large bush nearly on top of it all, but the painting fades out into rough patches of color just above the crown of exposed and occasionally broken roots around the edge; enough is shown to know that grass has grown right down to those roots, but no more. To the right side, behind the front half of the fox, the grass has grown tall and green, hiding the hollow and its occupant, but the floor itself is largely bare and slightly rocky.

The foxgloves frame the image on the left, two tall stalks rising from several wide‐spaced tiers of broad, rippled leaves with prominent center stems, with a third dried and curled behind them. Above the leaves, about halfway up each stalk, clusters of the pink, bell‐shaped flowers hang from thin stems and short calyces, the very tips of the petals flaring out from the white–and–pink‐spotted interior. Only a minority of the stems display flowers: the lowest third of them have dropped their petals leaving the calyx to point – empty – upward, and yet‐unopened buds remain about a quarter of the length from the top. Two of the fallen flowers lie withered on the ground next to the bare skull of some mid‐sized bird, upper beak curling into the ground and light shining through the empty eye socket, and a pair of brown feathers with white spots.

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