Printer Friendly

A forgotten Assumption of the Virgin: the reredos at St Andrew, Sandford-on-Thames, Oxfordshire.

Given the availability of county guides past and present for Oxfordshire, it is surprising that the monumental stone sculpture which is the subject of the present article enjoys virtually no public profile at all, let alone the reputation--which it surely deserves--as an important work of the late medieval English school (Figs. 1-4). (1) In addition to its respectable, if evidently provincial, artistic qualities, the extreme rarity of its function, almost certainly the central component of a reredos for a chantry chapel or even the high altar of an important church, is reason enough for it to be better appreciated. Here I will try to deduce the work's most likely provenance and function, and establish a reasonable stylistic context for it. This in turn will allow it to be introduced to a wider audience, and reveal it as a representative example of a category of English medieval art with few surviving parallels.

[FIGURES 1-4 OMITTED]

The monument is large (145 x 98 x 15 cm) by comparison with the ubiquitous alabaster panels of the period. (2) It is currently fixed to the south wall of the choir at Sandford. Mary stands within a rayed mandorla, dressed in a mantle fastened by cords, over a gown. She is wearing an imperial state crown, and her hands, although broken at the wrists, are unmistakably turned down and face the front. The mandorla, or sunburst, is supported by six angels, wearing girdled albs, gathered at hip level, and amices, with carved looped clouds or stars at their feet. At the base, and standing in front of a slightly projecting integral plinth on terra firma are two angels supporting the top of what appears to be a monstrance, or reliquary. The front plane of this has been partially damaged, as has the Virgin's face, particularly her nose. The surface of the bottom left-hand angel is abraded, and the left hand of its companion on the other side has been sheered off. The damage suffered by the sculpture is more likely to have been due to accident or environment than iconoclasm. Much of the original colour survives. The paint analysis, carried out by Catherine Hassall, concludes that 'the paint layers, which include verdigris and azurite, are those one would expect to find on a piece of late medieval polychromy'. (3) It consisted of crimson for the Virgin's gown and the angels' albs, azurite blue for her mantle and a component of the clouds, and light--but probably originally dark--green as a background, outlining the mandorla and the presumed monstrance at the base. The inclusion of azurite blue and lake (organic) glazes indicates that this was a sophisticated and expensive colour scheme. Very little of the original gilding remains, but it can be seen on the underside of the left-hand angel at the base, and the back surface of the interior of the monstrance. The angels' wings and hair were almost certainly gilded, and their faces painted. (4)

The sculpture was rediscovered in 1723 upside down near the south porch of the church, where it had been used as a step. (5) The back of the slab had been worn very hollow, but the gilding and colour on the front were round to be in an excellent state of preservation. It is not certain where in the church it was placed after its discovery, but it is supposed to have been in its present position since 1805. (6) There are three fixing points, two on the left hand side and one on the right. (7) In the words of Philip Powell, they consist of 'a square sided channel about 1 cm wide cut into the side of the stone. On the face of the stone there is a broader, shallow depression, presumably for the flattened end of an iron bar.' (8)

In the Sandford entry in the Oxford and Oxfordshire volume in the Buildings of England series, published in 1974, the work is referred to as being made of alabaster, which is not in fact the case. (9) In this connection, the authors seem to have been relying upon the word of W. Hobart Bird, who in 1932 may have been the first to perpetrate this lithological error. (10) In fairness, the work is grievously disadvantaged in its siting on the south wall of a small single-cell parish church chancel. (11) It receives no natural lighting from behind, and has to compete with a lancet window immediately to its east side. In the circumstances, it is understandable that a casual observer, without assistance from the modern, albeit indirect spotlighting which it now enjoys, should have made such a mistake. None the less, the much smaller English reredos Assumption panels which were produced by the alabaster workshops of Derbyshire and Nottingham throughout the fifteenth century, constitute valid iconographical parallels. (12) On inspection, the characteristics of lime stone are unmistakable. The material probably came from the middle Jurassic Taynton limestone formation, and specifically from Barrington, 'or a nearby quarry in the Burford area'. (13)

As will become apparent, the monument cannot have originated from a rural parish church of Sandford's medieval proportions. During the course of its quiet existence from the late twelfth century, the church had intimate associations with four local ecclesiastical institutions. Firstly, there was the Benedictine priory of nuns at Littlemore, dedicated to St Mary, St Nicholas and St Edmund, in the same parish. Secondly, the Knights Templars, who moved to Sandford soon after 1240 from Temple Cowley, and the Hospitallers, who took over from them, used the site as a preceptory until 1530. Thirdly, there was the Benedictine monastery at Abingdon, which lists Sandford as one of its lands in Domesday Book. (14) The right of presentation in respect of St Andrew was originally, and at different times, in both lay and royal hands, (15) but by 1220 the advowson (the right of presentation to the benefice) and rectory had passed to Littlemore. (16) By 1295 the Templars, being patrons of the priory, acquired this role on the nuns' behalf. Later Edward III interpolated a royal claim for it, on the basis that the Templar lands had escheated to the crown. In any case, the prioress seems to have continued to pay the curate's salary, as she is recorded as doing so in 1526. Littlemore Priory was suppressed by Papal Bull as early as 1524, and given to Wolsey for his new college at Oxford (which was to become Christ Church). (17) Four years later, the Sandford preceptory also passed to Wolsey, and soon thereafter to the King. The last abbot of Abingdon did not surrender until 1539.

Can any of this historical information provide clues as to the provenance of the Sandford Assumption? The monument must have been buried in the churchyard by someone who was well aware of the relative obscurity of the place, out of sight of those responsible for the execution of the reformist iconoclastic ordinances. On the face of it, given its intimate connections with the parish church since the thirteenth century, Littlemore Priory might appear to have a supervening claim. St Mary is recorded as having been one of three patron saints there, but we learn that, soon after, it was settled that the patron would be St Nicholas alone. Nevertheless, a statue of the Assumption of the Virgin would have been an appropriate furnishing for a convent of nuns irrespective of the dedication. However, given the decayed situation at the priory in 1446, on the occasion of the Visitation by the commissary of William Alnwick, the Bishop of Lincoln, the hypothesis that the nuns of Littlemore would have commissioned the work is hardly tenable. (18) It is reported that the number of religious was seven, and that they were too frightened to sleep in the dormitory for fear of it collapsing on top of them. (19) It seems unlikely that they would have had either the money or the desire for such an expensive acquisition at any time from the raid fifteenth century to the Reformation.

We will revert to the possibility that the monument was made for Abingdon Abbey in due course, but it is appropriate at this stage to identify the use of this and other images from the Life of the Virgin in European and English art at the close of the Middle Ages. Important events in the life of the Virgin were established as festivals in the Byzantine calendars from the seventh and eighth centuries AD. Her full life was not illustrated until later in the east, as in the Homilies of the monk James, which were probably written in Paris in the twelfth century. (20) The first more or less complete cycle did not appear in the west until the frescoes by Giotto in the Scrovegni Chapel, Padua, completed around 1306. The feast celebrated in the Byzantine calendar as the Dormition on 15 August became the Assumption and Coronation of the Virgin in the west. In the latter tradition, she is habitually shown carried up to heaven, body and soul, by a number of angels supporting her mandorla, with the apostles watching below. (21) None of these events is to be found in the Bible. They may be inspired by passages in the Vulgate, such as Psalms, Chapter XLIV, verses 11-12, 14, and Song of Solomon, Chapter IV, verse 8, paraphrased as 'Veni electa mea ... in thronum meum'. The Golden Legend includes the apocryphal story, relating that the Apostles who were stationed next to the Virgin's tomb on the third day, and were suddenly confronted by Christ and St Michael, the former bringing with him the Virgin's soul. The story is then taken up, as follows:

Thereupon words like these were heard: 'Arise, come then, my beloved, O beautiful among women! You are beautiful, my dear, and from you there is no stain.... It was proper that the mother be raised up by the Son, so that she might ascend to him as he had descended to her; that the body of the woman who had kept her Virginity in childbirth should never see corruption: that she who had borne her Creator in her womb should abide in heavenly dwellings'. (22)

Another apocryphal source, cited by M.R. James, is the collections of miracles from an unidentified Mariale Magnum, which were drawn upon by Vincent of Beauvais in his Speculum Historiale, Book 8. (23)

A distinction should be made between the Assumption as narrative and the alternative of what has been described as 'a purely devotional non-narrative figure, the personification of the church itself.' (24) An example of the latter type is the panel of the Litanies of the Virgin on the early sixteenth-century choir-stalls at Amiens Cathedral. (25) There she stands alone, as she also does under a canopy on the gatehouse at Abingdon, Berkshire, but at Amiens God the Father hovers above, in the company of angels blessing her, and she is surrounded by the symbols of the sun and the moon, a Fountain of Life, enclosed garden and assorted monumental structures. Mary can also be crowned and enthroned within a rayed mandorla, as in a Book of Hours of the Virgin, executed in England around 1410. (26) There are also many purely devotional images of her sitting or standing with the Christ Child. An important development of the early sixteenth century was the Apocalyptic image of her, standing in front of a sunburst, crowned with twelve stars, with at her feet a crescent moon. Until the middle of the eighteenth century there was an example at Amiens Cathedral on the west side of the pulpitum, almost certainly a later addition dating from the second decade of the sixteenth century. (27)

Some of the early medieval Italian representations of the bodily Assumption of Mary, such as Margarito of Arezzo's panel in S Maria dell Vertighe, Monte San Savino, treat the Virgin's posture very differently from most other examples from this period in Italy. Her arms are raised in an orans gesture, and she is not accompanied by angels, but instead appears to ascend by her own volition. An Anglo Norman illumination of the subject from Jumieges, c. 1100, again presents the figura orans, but this time there are two angels bearing the mandorla (Fig. 5). (28) The Virgin is otherwise usually shown seated on a throne or standing, and almost universally with her hands raised a little above the height of the elbow, clasped together in a gesture of prayer. (29)

[FIGURE 5 OMITTED]

At the base of the Jumieges illumination are two pairs of angels bearing scrolls, which read: 'Haec est regina virginum quae genuit regem velut rosa decora' ('Here is the queen of virgins, as a beautiful rose who bore the king'), and 'Hodie Virgo Maria caelos ascendit, gaudete quia cum Christo regnat in aeternum' ('Today the Virgin Mary ascended to heaven, rejoice that she now reigns with Christ in eternity'). (30)

In northern Europe images of the Assumption of the Virgin were commonly featured in all sorts of media, from tombs, sculptural programmes, reredoses, vestments, illuminated manuscripts (particularly Books of Hours), window glass, and wall paintings. (31) Mary is usually shown in front of a plain or rayed mandorla, borne aloft by four or more angels, with her hands clasped together in prayer. Sometimes, particularly on alabaster reredos panels in England, but on the continent too--whether representing the Assumption or the Annunciation--the hands are held well apart, facing the viewer at an oblique angle (Fig. 6). This is effectively a retracted version of the early orans gesture. The Virgin invariably wears a dark blue gown, sometimes over a minever kirtle with plain undergarment, to stress her high status. Frequently the Assumption episode is telescoped with the Coronation, in which she is shown already wearing a crown, or about to be crowned by a pair of angels or God the Father above.

[FIGURE 6 OMITTED]

In the Sandford Assumption the Virgin is already crowned, and being borne up to heaven in a rayed mandorla. Although it is conventional in formal terms, it exhibits three iconographical peculiarities. The crown she wears does not conform to the type of the royal crowns used in England before the fifteenth century, but is rather an imperial--and continental-'closed' crown. The praying gesture diverges from the norm, in that the hands are placed downwards, as if Mary was holding or receiving something. On the other hand, this remains a gesture of intercession in stark contrast to the early medieval hieratic figura orans. Finally, as stated above, at the base two angels are proffering a monstrance-like object. (32)

The crown is of the type adopted by the English kings after the union of the monarchy with that of France at the end of Henry V's reign. As well as the usual decorated rim, it has hoops or bands crossing over at right angles above. The chronicler Froissart commented on the fact that Henry IV wore one at his coronation in 1399, describing it as 'archee en croix'. (33) An elaborate version, with four arches surmounted by an orb, is found on Henry V's chantry at Westminster Abbey, in fifteenth century English manuscripts, and on the pilgrim badges made for the putative saint, Henry VI. It was seldom used in English sculpture. (34) Following the battle of Agincourt in 1415, and with the nation making an impact on the European diplomatic and military stage, it must have been felt that for the English monarchy the adoption of this European symbol was apposite. On the continent the use of the arched crown in art was fairly common in the second half of the fifteenth century and the first quarter of the sixteenth century. The figure of God the Father, receiving the Virgin with a crescent moon at her feet in a late fifteenth century Gradual, thought to have been made in Bruges, is wearing one.(35) It seems reasonable to assume that an identical reference to high status regalia in the Sandford Assumption was intended to present the Virgin Mary as the Queen of Heaven. By contrast, the Virgin's hand gestures at Sandford are difficult to explain, unless they are simply a variant on the 'retracted orans' formula seen on the English alabaster Assumptions.

The angels appear to be carrying the mandorla heavenwards, as they grasp the carved rays of the sunburst. W.L. Hildburgh pointed to the same phenomenon in the English alabaster Assumption in the museum of Verviers, in Belgium. (36) In the context of the exposition of his argument that most English alabaster panels were based on the practices of contemporary drama, he noted that carved rays were unusual on alabasters. He pointed out that they are normally merely flat, or at most incised, and painted. To him the Verviers angels seemed to be subject to an outside force, which was raising them up, instead of the other way round. He suggested that the references to 'Pulpits for Angels', made by 'carpenters' of 'boorde', in the accounts for the Coventry Drapers' Doomsday Play in 1534, concerned the making of stage properties. He seems to have been suggesting that 'pulpits' of this kind were being depicted in the some what ambiguous-looking forms at the top of some of the Assumption scenes. They would have been substantial structures, raised up somewhat like theatre boxes, from which the central Assumption scene could have been raised bodily into the air by lifting gear. Thus he was positing a kind of ascending deus ex machina akin to those of the Greek theatre, a parallel to similar effects employed in Italy at the same period, (37) and a precursor of the highlight of baroque operatic staging one hundred and fifty years later. In the Greek tradition, however, the gods normally descended and invariably declaimed. In this case the Mother of God is wrapt in contemplation, but accompanied by singing angels and heavenly music. Quite apart from the Virgin's unique ability to reach out to the penitent, this gesture of ascent above one of the prime liturgical foci of a church, in our case quite possibly the high altar itself, would have acted as a permanent reminder of the moment of the raising of the Host at the climax of the Mass.

The object held by the angels at the base shares the metalwork-like form of a monstrance. Although some of the front edges of the lower portion of the gabled box are damaged, the sides are too thin lot it ever to have been possible to affix a lock. If its purpose was to contain the reserved sacrament, as a tabernacle or pyx cover, it would have had to have been secured in some way. (38) The box is relatively small, measuring only 11.4 x 10.2 x 5.1 cm maximum. The back and sides were apparently gilded, and the underside of the gable roof painted red. It is reasonable to suppose, therefore, that it was designed to display something.

The carving style is characterised by a stiffness in the pose of the angels. The bulkiness of their albs, and the creasing in their sleeves is distinctly well managed. The hems of their garments are hidden from view by the clouds which surround them, but the angels on either side of the tabernacle have noticeable drapery flourishes. The cloth of the Virgin's gown falls straight down in parallel tubes, in the manner of the drapery of the angels. The lower part of her mantle cascades in regular folds, but the hem represents a noticeable display of wind blown drapery. The tubular handling of drapery is characteristic of English figure sculpture of the fifteenth century. It is striking that the carving style is idiosyncratic, and not standardised in any way. (39) Hems are usually symmetrical and rest chastely on the ground, as on the vested angels in wood from the tomb of Alice de la Pole, Duchess of Suffolk (d. 1473), at God's House, Ewelme, also in Oxfordshire. (40) The treatment of drapery on English alabaster panels is more sophisticated than that on many fifteenth century tombs. It is lighter in appearance, more elegant and complex. The stylish flourish of a hem is also to be round on at least one of the Annunciation panels at the Victoria and Albert Museum; there, however, it is treated quite differently from the same element at Sandford (Fig. 6). (41)

Looped cloudwork is a common medieval conceit. (42) It can also be seen below the angel corbels in the chancel at Ewelme. On the Assumption carving the angels' hair is in one piece, whereas at Ewelme it follows the more common fifteenth-century convention of displaying serried integral rows of twisted locks.

Another of the Sandford sculpture's peculiarities is the treatment of the Virgin's hair, which appears to fall down thick and straight to hip level. This convention would have been familiar to the artist both from painting and sculpture, but it is most probably based upon an image from an illuminated manuscript, available for study at the religious house for which the carving was intended. Her coiffure in the Coronation of the Virgin miniature (fol. 33r) in the Hours of the Virgin at Firle Place, Sussex, made in the 1440s is an example of the sort of image that might have been copied.(43) Long hair was also commonly depicted on the images of saints, as can be seen on the figure of St Ursula (?) from the Heller Hours of around 1470-80, which were probably illuminated in East Anglia (Fig. 7). (44)

[FIGURE 7 OMITTED]

Another two-dimensional comparison with the treatment of the Virgin's hair at Sandford may be round on a cope fragment in the Victoria and Albert Museum (no. 1618-1888). It was formerly dated to the late fifteenth century, but is now thought to have been embroidered at some point in the sixteenth century up to the end of Queen Mary's reign (Fig. 8). (45) The triangular-shaped face is not the same as at Sandford, but the angels' hairstyles, stiff poses and ruffled forearms are similar. The Virgin is wearing a conventional royal crown, fur-lined mantle, minever kirtle and gown, like the female saint in the Heller Hours (Fig. 7). This combination is a common one, notably on royal effigies, going back at least as far as that of Queen Eleanor of Castille at Westminster Abbey. (46) The Virgin, standing by the Cross in the Crucifixion of the Abingdon Missal, made in the 1460s for Abbot William Ashenden, is depicted in a fur-lined mantle and gown, such as would have been worn by an aristocratic lady of the period. (47)

[FIGURE 8 OMITTED]

Sculptural exempla are the other obvious possible source of inspiration. Alabaster reredos panels of the Assumption spring to mind, but the significant effigial models, for Sandford, may have been provincial tombs of non-royal but aristocratic ladies. Two surviving specimens are particularly relevant on account of the three-dimensional treatment of the hair, namely the figure of Dame Anne Talbot (d. 1494), on the alabaster tomb of Sir Henry Vernon (d. 1515), at Tong, Shropshire, and Isabella Neville (d. 1516), second wife and widow of the late Sir William Smythe (d. 1525), at Elford, Staffordshire (Figs. 9, 10). (48) They both involve the familiar combination of high-status apparel and long hair. However, it should not automatically be assumed that long hair was de rigeur for these lay images. Mark Duffy has called my attention to the hennined headdress of the Countess of Arundel (d. 1439), at Arundel Church, West Sussex, as a counter example. (49) Doubtless there are plenty of other instances from the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries, such as the plaited headdress of the mid-fourteenth-century image of Queen Philippa on the choir-stalls at St Katherine's-by-the Tower, and on her tomb effigy at Westminster Abbey. (50) The chantry chapel enclosing the Tong monument, which was founded by Sir Henry Vernon, was not completed until 1517. (51) The Elford tomb is more difficult to date, but it must have been executed before Sir William's demise, on account of the blank space left in the inscription for his death date. Moreover, the architectural treatment of the niche-work on the tomb chest is transitional between the gothic and the renaissance, and appropriate for a date towards the end of the second decade of the sixteenth century. (52)

[FIGURES 9-10 OMITTED]

Comparisons with the high-status commissions of the period are not stylistically relevant, but the presence of certain common motifs helps to lock the Sandford sculpture into a plausible time frame. The Assumption does hot display the voluminous bulky drapery of the figure work at the Oxford Divinity School, carved in the early 1480s, for instance, but the thick loose hair falling to below the shoulders there can be paralleled. The same goes for the figure of the Flemish-looking Annunciate Virgin in the Henry VII Chapel at Westminster Abbey dating from the second decade of the sixteenth century. (53) There the angels also wear star-shaped amices, and their hair is full and wavy, as at Sandford. Their cousins in the choir-vault at St George's Chapel, Windsor (1473-83) have plain and decorated bands around their heads, probably the adornment intended at Sandford, with a similar treatment of the wings with overlapping segments and ribbed extensions in both directions. Spoked three-dimensional sunrays are also round at Windsor, as well as the familiar folded cloud shorthand.

The Virgin's neck at Sandford is particularly long, and merges into a full face with high forehead, pointed chin, raised eyelids and drilled pupils. This is again idiosyncratic, and far from the chiselled and somewhat predictable features on English alabasters. This iconic physiognomy is reminiscent of the early fifteenth-century painting of Herman Scheere. (54) Furthermore, the faces on the stone effigies of the wife of Sir Ralph Greene (d. 1417), Katherine, Lady Greene, commissioned in 1417 from Thomas Prentys and Robert Sutton, at Lowick in Northamptonshire, and the early fifteenth-century lady adjacent to Sir Thomas Wykeham, at Broughton, Northamptonshire, of c. 1420, are in the same mould. (55) Presumably this convention would have been amongst the imaginative properties of a mature Midlands sculptor.

It is always more difficult to date a provincial than a metropolitan work of art. The Sandford Assumption is no exception. The drapery flourish at the hem, and for that matter the hair, might tempt one to invoke indirect Flemish influence. Undoubtedly the Heller Hours St Ursula (?) comparison is useful in bringing together both these features (Fig. 7), particularly as it has been suggested that the miniaturist may have come from the Netherlands. (56) The aberrations at Sandford might also indicate a somewhat later date for the sculpture, rather than the last quarter of the fifteenth century, in which one might otherwise prefer to place it. All in all, given the somewhat tenuous nature of the evidence, it seems wise to date the Sandford Assumption to around 1500.

Two questions remain: they concern the sculpture's function and provenance. Both are intimately related. The key to the first is the purpose of the monstrance-like box at the bottom. Having established that it cannot have been a tabernacle, the only other possible purpose is a reliquary. The sculpture is clearly more than just a simple image of a saint. It could have been commissioned by a religious house, dedicated to the Virgin, for use as the reredos of a high altar. Assumption scenes as centre pieces for the latter can still be seen throughout Catholic Europe, and we know that in England the high altar of Salisbury Cathedral originally had this very dedication. As it happens, so too did the mutilated reredos in the chantry chapel, also at Salisbury, to the north of the latter. It was erected by Bishop Edmund Audley around 1520 as his place of burial. This sculptured limestone panel in the centre of a three-part canopied reredos was comparable in size to the Sandford reredos (Fig. 11). (57) It has niches for two full-height statues on either side of the Virgin, probably for apostles, such as St John, or St Matthew and St Luke, in whose gospels she features prominently. On the sides are four smaller niches, which might have included saints, and even a likeness of the donor himself.

[FIGURE 11 OMITTED]

The Oxford sculpture might also have been intended for a Lady Chapel, such as the early sixteenth century fresco of the Assumption of the Virgin on the east wall of that structure at Exeter Cathedral. (58) As at Salisbury, this too was probably also part of a larger sculptural ensemble.

By a process of elimination, the Benedictine abbey at Abingdon seems to be the most likely provenance for the Sandford Assumption of the Virgin. Unfortunately, we know virtually nothing about this important monastic church, since building stone and foundations were entirely robbed within forty years of the institution's dissolution. Situated as the town is on an important crossing of the River Thames, this is hot altogether surprising. It has been suggested that the medieval Lady Chapel was erected in the thirteenth century. (59) Regrettably, we have no way of knowing how such a late medieval reredos could have been fitted into either the Lady Chapel or presbytery at Abingdon.

I am grateful to the Reverend R. Morgan for giving me access to the monument and allowing me to photograph it, and to Liz Shatford, churchwarden, who ventured well beyond the call of duty to facilitate matters. My thanks to Philip Powell and Catherine Hassall for their technical advice, and to art historical colleagues who have helped. I am indebted also to Catherine Oakes, who introduced me to both the Exeter and Salisbury monuments. The Dean and Chapter of Salisbury Cathedral kindly gave permission to photograph the reredos of the Audley Chapel. I am indebted to Yogish Sahota for his excellent colour photographs of the monument. Finally I would like in record a debt of gratitude to Mark Duffy, with whom I have discussed the difficult problems of stylistic analysis and dating. He kindly agreed to read a final drape of the paper, providing pertinent comments and more grist to the art historical mill.

(1) The only form of general publication that the sculpture as has ever received is an indistinct grey and white plate in E.S. Prier and A. Gardner, An Account of Medieval Figure-Sculpture in England, Cambridge, 1912, p. 457, fig. 531.

(2) Alabaster panels are rarely more than 80 cm high, and generally significantly smaller.

(3) C. Hassall, Paint Analysis, Report no. x510, April 2003: 'Original paint: All the samples show an orange priming layer of red lead and lead white, followed by a ground of chalk, red lead, lead white and iron oxides. The following point and gilding layers were identified: dark green of pure verdigris, light green of verdigris and lead white, pure lead white, red of vermilion, overlaid by a glaze of crimson lake, azurite blue, gold leaf laid in an oil gilding technique over a yellow base of ochre, chalk and lead white. Later paint: Only the azurite sample had later point over the top--a single layer of lead white, which may have been a highlight.' Five photographic paint cross-sections were supplied.

(4) For English sculptural face painting practice at around this time, see the fragments from St Cuthbert's, Wells, in D. Park, 'The Polychromy of English Medieval Sculpture', S. Boldrick, D. Park, P. Williamson (eds.), Wonder: Painted Sculpture from Medieval England, Leeds, 2002, pp. 31-54, nos. 26, 28, 29, illustrated on p. 30.

(5) T. Hearne (ed.), Langtoft's Chronicle, vol. II, Oxford, 1725, p. 544.

(6) Oxford, Bodleian Library, MS Top. Oxon, b.220, fol. 75. See Victorian County History (hereafter VCH), Oxfordshire, vol. V, London, 1964, pp. 268-74.

(7) It is curious that there are net two on each side.

(8) Personal communication from Philip Powell, formerly of the Oxford University Museum. My thanks to him for his kindness in making this assessment.

(9) N. Pevsner, Buildings of England: Oxfordshire, Harmondsworth, 1974, p. 750.

(10) W. Hobart Bird, Old Oxfordshire Churches, London, 1932, p. 133.

(11) The dimensions of the chancel at Sandford are 350 x 820 cm.

(12) See the panels featuring the Assumption of the Virgin at the Victoria and Albert Museum, in F. Cheetham, English Medieval Alabasters, Oxford, 1984, nos. 126-34.

(13) Personal communication from Philip Powell.

(14) See VCH, op. cit., vol. V, p. 269.

(15) For the year 1204 (Curia regis rolls ... preserved in the Public Record Office, 1203-05, London, 1922, p. 231), and in 1216 the king presented the curate (T.D. Hardy [ed.], A Description of the Patent Rolls in the Tower of London, Record Commission, London, 1835, vol. I, p. 187). See VCH, op. cit., vol. V, p. 272.

(16) A. Gibbons (ed.), Liber Antiquus de ordinationibus Vicariarum tempore Hugoni Wells, Lincolniensis Episcopi, Lincoln, 1888, p. 8. See VCH, op. cit., vol. V, p. 269.

(17) W. Dugdale, Monastican, vol. IV, London, 1846, pp. 490-95.

(18) VCH, op. cit., vol. V, p. 77.

(19) Ibid., p. 77, 'In 1517 when another visitation was held there was a Prioress and five nuns. The prioress had an illegitimate daughter by a priest from Kent and another nun had an illegitimate child by a married man of Oxford.'

(20) Paris, Bibliotheque Nationale, MS Gr. 1208.

(21) Adduced in H. Osborne (ed.), The Oxford Companion to Art, Oxford, 1975, p. 1195. An image of the Virgin's soul being taken up to heaven by angels appears on the fourteenth-century English Syon Cope in the Victoria and Albert Museum.

(22) J. Voragine, The Golden Legend, translated by W.G. Ryan, vol. II, Princeton, 1993, pp. 119-20.

(23) For accounts of the Assumption of the Virgin in the Coptic Discourse of Theodosius, the Greek Discourse of St John the Divine, the Latin Narrative of Pseudo-Melito, the medieval latin Narrative by Joseph of Arimathaea, and the Syriac Narratives, see M.R. James, The Apocryphal New Testament, Oxford, 1980, pp. 194-227.

(24) J. Hall, Dictionary of Subjects and Symbols in Art, London, 1974, p. 34.

(25) D. Alexandre-Bidon, 'L'Iconographie des Stalles: partage et transmissions des modeles', in K. Leme-Hebuterne (ed.), Autour des Stalles de Picardie et Normandie: Les Arts Profanes, vol. IX, nos. 1, 2, Amiens, 2001, p. 155, plates 5, 6. The pulpitum at Amiens was erected in the late thirteenth or early fourteenth century.

(26) Oxford, Bodleian Library, MS Lat. Lit., fols. 2 and 19v.

(27) For which, see F. Baron, 'Mort et resurrection du jube de la cathedrale d'Amiens', Revue de l'Art, vol. LXXVII, 1990, p. 35, plate 2.

(28) See C.R. Dodwell, 'Un manuscrit enlumine de Jumieges au British Museum', Congres scientifiques du XIIIe centenaire, vol. II, Rouen, 1955, pp. 737-41.

(29) M. Meiss, 'A Dugento Altar-piece at Antwerp', Burlington Magazine, vol. LXXI, no. 412 (July 1937), pp. 24-25, for the aberration that there was a revival of the orans type in Italy in the early fifteenth century, for instance in Fra Angelico's Assumption of c. 1430 in the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum, Boston.

(30) Dodwell, op. cit., fig. 66. For the most up-to-date discussion of the multifarious representations of the Assumption of the Virgin from the late Carolingian period, as well as the Dormition and Coronation, and the devotional implications of these images, see P. Verdier, Le Couronnement de la Vierge, Montreal and Paris, 1980, pp. 49-79. See also the interesting theological discussions in C. Oakes, 'The Virgin and her dancing partner', Priests & People, May 2003, pp. 202-207.

(31) For English examples of these various kinds, see the tomb of Sir John Boteler (d. 1463) at St Elphin, Warrington, Lancashire, the sculptural programme of the Ely Cathedral Lady Chapel dating from the 1340s, the fifteenth century alabaster triptych with scenes from the life of the Virgin and the Mass of St Gregory, Montreal, Yonne, the silk damask cope, early sixteenth century, Victoria and Albert Museum (no. 230-1879), the Neville Hours, c, 1500, Berkeley Castle, Gloucestershire the fifteenth century window glass at St Peter Mancroft, Norwich, the wall paintings, formerly above the lateral choir stalls, at the east end on the south side, upper level, Eton College Chapel, Windsor, 1479-88.

(32) In Flemish art, for instance, pairs of angels bearing a monstrance are net as common as one might suppose. For a rare example, see Valencia, Real Colegio de Corpus Christi, Hours of the Conde-Duque de Olivares, fol. 92v.

(33) Quoted in J. Steane, The Archaeology of Power, Stroud, 2001, p. 151.

(34) The imperial crown can be seen at St George's Chapel, Windsor, for instance, on a boss at the east end, thought to depict Edward Iv and Richard Beauchamp, Dean of Windsor and Bishop of Salisbury, before the Relic of the Cross Neath. Later, it is in evidence in the figure sculpture in the Henry VII Chapel, Westminster Abbey. The triple tiara was often used in Coronation of the Virgin scenes on alabaster panels. See Cheetham, op. cit., nos. 133, 134, 138, 140, 141, 143, 144, 146.

(35) Reproduced in C. de Hamel, A History Illuminated Manuscripts, London, 1994, p. 220.

(36) W.L. Hildburgh, 'English Alabaster Carvings as Records of the Medieval Religious Drama', Archaeologia, vol. XCIII, 1949, p. 66, plate XIIC.

(37) For Italian sacred theatre in the renaissance and its possible influence upon paintings, see J. Shearman, 'Correggio's Illusionism', in M. Dalai Emiliani (ed.), La prospettiva rinascimentale, Florence, 1980, pp. 281-94, especially pp. 292-94, and idem, 'Raphael's Clouds, and Correggio's', in Studi su Raffaello, 2 vols., Urbino, 1987, vol. II, pp. 657 68.

(38) For a description of the late thirteenth-century pyx cover from Wells Cathedral, see J. Alexander and P. Binski (eds.), Age of Chivalry, exh. cat., Royal Academy, 1987, no. 102. The doctrine of the reservation of the Host, initiated at the fourth Lateran Council in 1215 applied in England until the First Act of Uniformity in 1549, which forbade the use of the Roman Catholic Mass. Four years later during the Catholic reaction under Mary, we learn that the churchwardens of Stanford, Berkshire, for instance, 'claimed six pence in expenses for a journey to Oxford "to seeke bokes"', and a carpenter was paid 3s 4d for erecting a lockable shrine or tabernacle on the altar, to keep the Blessed Sacrament in ... In the same year, they bought ... a whipcord and silk covet for the pyx'. See E. Duffy, The Stripping of the Altars, New Haven and London, 1992, p. 548.

(39) For the practices of a Midland alabaster workshop, see C. Ryde, 'An Alabaster Standing Angel with Shield at Lowick: A Chellaston Shop Pattern', Derbyshire, Archaeological Journal vol. XCVII, 1977 (1978), pp. 36-49; and idem, 'Chellaston Standing Angels with Shields at Aston on Trent: Their Wider Distribution 1400 1450', Derbyshire Archaeological Journal, vol. CXIII, 1993, pp. 69-92. The author stresses that standardisation in medieval terms was a far cry from nineteenth century machine age practices.

(40) J.A.A. Goodall, God's House at Ewelme, Aldershot, 2001, plate 77.

(41) See also Victoria and Albert Museum, no. A89-1919, and Cheetham, op. cit., no. 97.

(42) For an example of the early fifteenth century, it can be seen in the Coronation of the Virgin image in the Neville Hours, c. 1405-10 See K.L. Scott, Later Gothic Manuscripts 1390-1490, 2 vols, London, 1996, vol. I, fig. 238, vol. II, no. 23.

(43) Ibid., vol. II, pp. 234, 240, table III, no. 26.

(44) Ibid., vol. II, no. 126. See also the illustration of St Dorothy from the same manuscript, ibid., vol. I, fig. 460

(45) The fragment was later made up into an altar frontal.

(46) Alexander and Binski, op. cit., no. 378.

(47) R. Marks and N. Morgan, The Golden Age of English Manuscript Painting 1200-1500, New York, 1981, plate 40.

(48) Two other examples are Princess Elizabeth of Lancaster, Duchess of Exeter (d. 1426), daughter of John of Gaunt, at Burford, Shropshire, and Lady Elizabeth Ferrers, at Lockington, Leicestershire, c. 1500.

(49) Personal communication.

(50) For the woodwork image, see C. Tracy, English Gothic Choir-Stalls, 1200-1400, Woodbridge, 1987, plate 180.

(51) For an illuminating account of the chantry chapel, see H. Gilderdale,' "This little Westminster": The Chantry Chapel of Sir Henry Vernon (d. 1515) at Tong, Shropshire', MA Dissertation, Courtauld Institute of Art, University of London, June 2002.

(52) E. Richardson, Monumental Effigies on Tombs in Elford Church, Staffordshire, London, 1852, p. 280.

(53) P. Lindley, 'The "Great Screen" at Winchester Cathedral, Part II: style and date', Burlington Magazine, vol. CXXXV, no. 1089 (December 1993), fig. 13.

(54) See the artist's image of the Virgin in Majesty, from a Book of Hours in Oxford, Bodleian Library, MS Lat. Lit., fol. 19v.

(55) For Lowick, see F.H. Crossley, English Church Monuments 1150-1550, London, 1921, p. 34.

(56) E.G. Millar, English Illuminated Manuscripts of the XIVth and XVth Centuries, Paris and Brussels, 1928, vol. II, p. 40.

(57) The dimensions of the central section are approximately 10.2 x 5.6 cm.

(58) The Assumption and Coronation of the Virgin in the presence of the Trinity, attended by the nine orders of angels, with the wall of the Celestial City below is depicted on a grand scale. Illustrated in colour in M. Swanton (ed.), Exeter Cathedral: A Celebration, Exeter, 1991, p. 95, plate 142.

(59) A.E. Preston, Abingdon Abbey: Some notes on its history and buildings, Abingdon, 1949.

Charles Tracy has been dedicated to an exploration of English medieval furniture and woodwork for the past twenty years. He has been published in many journals, including the Archaeologia Cambrensis and the BAAJ.
COPYRIGHT 2003 Apollo Magazine Ltd.
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 2003 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

Article Details
Printer friendly Cite/link Email Feedback
Author:Tracy, Charles
Publication:Apollo
Geographic Code:4EUUK
Date:Sep 1, 2003
Words:6919
Previous Article:The Arnolfini double portrait: a simple solution.
Next Article:Catholic Reform and Bernardino Poccetti's Chiostro dei Morti at the church of SS Annunziata in Florence.
Topics:

Terms of use | Privacy policy | Copyright © 2020 Farlex, Inc. | Feedback | For webmasters