Detail from a carved panel by Grinling Gibbons, originally in St Pauls, Covent Garden.  Legend has it that he would sneak a peapod into every commision as a sort of signature, and would only carve it opened if he had been paid for the work.  (Or is it that he would show a pea missing from inside if he’d received payment ?  Probably neither.)


She never signed her painting –
It always seemed a little vain
To have her name just floating there
Unnoticed by her sitter.
She’s didn’t want such tainting
To blemish with a boasting stain,
To clutter up her canvas square
With copperplated litter.

She always hoped her styling
Would clearly show who held the brush –
And if that didn’t tip the wink
Then hey ho, mum’s the word.
But she could not help smiling,
And sneaking-in (but keep it hush)
In ev’ry artwork, paint or ink,
A trademark ladybird.

It could be on a daffodil,
It could be woven on a dress,
Or scratched into a windowsill –
It’s anybody’s guess.
It could be jewelled into a brooch,
Or iced upon a currant bun –
Or yet emblazoned on a coach,
But definitely fun.

So whether pest or saintling,
Her beetles were her secret claim –
Some were bigger, others smaller,
Some were rather blurred.
She never signed her painting,
And history forgot her name –
So galleries must call her
The Lady Ladybird.

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