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WILDLIFE artist Joanna May has launched a treasure hunt book for a unique golden hare painting worth thousands of pounds.

Joanna, known globally for her contemporary paintings of hares, leopards, zebras, lions and tigers, has spent the last two years holed up in her South West studio creating a puzzle extraordinaire through a series of hare paintings based upon spiritual landmarks in her home county and also the zodiac. 

This puzzle will have treasure hunters combing the countryside to find the key (in this case map coordinates and a combination of words) to unlock the treasured painting. They will have to follow the clues and the hunt will be last a minimum of two years. No winner will be announced until November 21 2021 – and the hunt will continue if no one solves the puzzle. 

Joanna said: “This project has been in my mind for ten years. In some ways it’s an ode to Kit Williams who buried a golden hare for others to find more than 40 years ago (in 2019). I’ve always had a love of hares and Wiltshire has the second largest population. I’ve always painted hares and become known for them. For me this project is a natural extension and culmination of a lot of my previous work.

“I’ve done this because I had clients coming into my gallery and saying my work reminded them of the treasure hunt book Masquerade, it sparked the idea to create a new treasure hunt book around my hare paintings.”

To take part in the treasure hunt, fans must follow the clues hidden in The Hare On The Moon book which sets out the relevant hare illustrations packed with symbolism and clues and some words to guide the way. Landmarks which appear in the book include Stonehenge, Avebury, Marlborough and lead down to the Chalice Well Gardens in Glastonbury, Somerset. 

The books are available online for £60 each. There are also 500 limited edition books at £80 each – though more than half have already been sold. 

“We did a quiet launch and its gone crazy, books are selling each day as people embrace the idea of finding the treasure. I’m humbled by the support I’ve had in these early days.”

Joanna’s original works sell for many thousands of pounds. Her paintings grace the homes of celebrities and her hare paintings were featured on the BBC Springwatch programme back in 2006.  

This latest project – The Hare On The Moon – tells the story of a hare who gives her life for a stranger. In return she becomes the hare on the moon and, in order, to return to earth she has to undertake a series of tasks. Each task unlocks the key to the next one and her final destination will lead to the code breaker to the treasure – and the hare back to the plains of Wiltshire. 

The successful hunter will have the right coordinates and words to a final destination and will fill them in online. The treasure awaiting them is a painting of the Celtic symbol of three interlinking hares made with gold leaf. It’s current estimated value is £15,000. 

“It is a unique painting in gold leaf which took two months to create. The three hares with the interlinking ears are a Celtic fertility symbol which is also connected to the lunar cycle. It is considered to be a puzzle, in its own right, which can lead us to a powerful and deeper understanding of life and the universe.”

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