‘A shoot will spring forth from the stamp of Jesse and branch out from his roots’ – Isaiah 11:1
Poetry entrepreneur and founder of the Lyrebird Press, Meary J. Tambimuttu (‘Tambi’) invited Piper to illustrate 'The Jesse Tree: A Mask in Verse’, for which this drawing was used. The publication, intended as a church opera (by Elizabeth Maconchy with a libretto by Anne Ridler) was inspired by medieval windows portraying the Old Testament verse of Jesse, Father of David the King of Israel and the genealogy of Jesus. The opera was first produced as part of a festival in Dorchester Abbey in October 1970. Piper further designed the backboard for the production.
Piper’s execution of Jesse Tree is similar to his Foliate Head series, based upon the ornate ‘green men’ found mostly within religious buildings, dating back to 19th Century and medieval times.