Left holding the Keys

medieval casket key

I love old keys.  We even found a massive one in the cellar of our house, and we’ve no idea what lock it was supposed to fit.  The previous owners said that the owners before them said it belonged to the house.  It must have belonged to a massive door which we can’t find….

Alice tries the Golden key

I was always intrigued by the key that Alice finds in Wonderland.  Keys are always symbolically linked with finding the way into other worlds or secret places.   When we lose our keys – we lose the keys to our worlds!  Dramatic? Of course!

the secret garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett

When a key appears in a story, you just know it’s going to be a good tale.  I’m thinking of Alice in Wonderland, The Secret garden’ and ‘The Golden Key by the Brothers Grimm to name a few.

Keys have been around a long time.  Just look at this Roman key.  The Romans learnt how to cast from the Greeks but the Egyptians had locks too.  Keys are associated with locked towers (usually with maidens waiting to be rescued), treasure chests, rites of passage (key to the door when you are 21 years of age) and prison.

a chatelaine

In Medieval times the Chatelaine was a very important memeber of the household.  She was the lady of the house (castle) who held all the keys.  She wore her keys on what is known as a Chatelain – an ornamental appendage attached to the girdle of the woman.  the keys to the wine, the cellars, caskets, as well as handy household items like scissors, thimbles etc.  these were all attached by small individual chains to each items.

Edmund Blair Leighton 'The Keys'

Keys are  associated with freedom or captivity of course and have provided many TV programmes involving rescue and escape .  But they  also have been used in paintings too.  Edmund Blair Leighton  (b.London 1853 -22) an English painter of historical scenes painted ‘The Keys’.  I don’t know why there isn’t more information about this Victorian artist.  His subject matter and his style is most Pre Raphaelite.  He did a wealth of paintings – all very beautiful, see them all HERE


Wonderful and interesting Roman keys here

Roman locks here

Gorgeous treasure hunting keys here

information about chatelaines here

John Tenniel gallery here

The Secret Garden, read it here

6 thoughts on “Left holding the Keys

  1. The intriguing thing is – I don’t know where it came from K 🙂 I just started thinking about keys for some reason and how underated and taken for granted they are – though they do so much. Thanks for visiting – always appreciated!

  2. Another complete key fetishits here!

    Check this out (I bought it not for the scent, but for the box, go figure – though the juice is heavenly too):

    Oh, and I bought a bag only for the lock and key attached to it…. do I think I qualify for Sigmund’s office? 😉

  3. Oh YES indeed!!! You certainly do Jadepaloma! Gorgeous box! I used to have a little vanity case with a lock and key…then theres those diaries with keys….then there was the day I swallowed a key…. (not really, but it would make a great story, especially the ‘keyhole’ surgery) I’ll quit whilst I’m ahead 🙂 Thanks for visiting – always a pleasure!

  4. Super interesting post! The treasure hunting keys are remarkable. What I like best is how you show the symbol used in literature and painting. Some fantastic stories you mention…. Now if I can only remember where I left my car keys. lol

  5. Ah you see …car keys equals freedom…..or when you have to go to work perhaps prison. Its amazing what a double edged sword a key actually is. I’d love one of those old Roman keys! Imagine digging one of those up – and wondering who owned it and what it locked or unlocked. Thanks for your comment dustus – appreciated! I hope you find your keys 🙂

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