Or are you looking for Search the Archives?

Please complete the form to email this item.

Brass rubbing

Brass rubbing

  • Place of origin:

    Oxford (Rubbing would have been made on site. Original brass probably made elsewhere., made)

  • Date:

    ca. 1400 (made)
    mid-1930s (made)

  • Artist/Maker:


  • Materials and Techniques:

    wax rubbing of monumental brass on paper

  • Credit Line:

    Given by Mr. R. H. Pearson.

  • Museum number:


  • Gallery location:

    In Storage

Monumental brasses are commemorative plaques that served as effigies and were most commonly found in churches. The earliest examples come from the thirteenth century but they were popular up until the seventeenth century and then again in the Victorian Gothic Revival. Surviving brasses from the medieval period are limited due to the turbulent history of the Church but they do survive in considerable numbers in the East of England, Germany and Flanders. Made from an alloy of copper and zinc, a material known as latten, they were laid into church floors and walls. Monumental brasses are historically and stylistically significant because they record dress, architecture, armoury, heraldry (coats of arms and insignia) and palaeography (handwriting) in a dated object. In addition they tell the story of memorial and patronage.

The practice of recording brasses through a process of rubbing originates from the Victorian Gothic Revival. An early method of pouring printer’s ink into engraved lines and then placing damp tissue paper over the brass was replaced around the mid-nineteenth century with the more effective technique of using black shoemaker’s wax, known as heel ball. Brass rubbing continued to be a popular hobby into the twentieth century before the process was understood to cause damage to the brasses.

Physical description

Rubbing of a fragment of a border of palimpsest brass depicting a saint in a niche and part of an inscription.

Place of Origin

Oxford (Rubbing would have been made on site. Original brass probably made elsewhere., made)


ca. 1400 (made)
mid-1930s (made)



Materials and Techniques

wax rubbing of monumental brass on paper


Height: 469.9 mm, Width: 276.225 mm

Object history note

Rubbing taken at Christ Church Cathedral, Oxford.

Descriptive line

Brass rubbing of a fragment of a of border depicting a saint in a niche and part of an inscription from a palimpsest brass, ca. 1400, Christ Church Cathedral, Oxford

Bibliographic References (Citation, Note/Abstract, NAL no)

Victoria and Albert Museum, Department of Engraving, Illustration and Design & Department of Paintings, Accessions 1938. London: The Board of Education, 1939.
V&A Print Room's Print Catalogue: BRASS RUBBINGS CATALOGUE 1277-1434, 1991
vol. 24


Wax; Paper




Death; Metalwork; Rubbings; Commemoration


Prints, Drawings & Paintings Collection

Large image request

Please confirm you are using these images within the following terms and conditions, by acknowledging each of the following key points:

Please let us know how you intend to use the images you will be downloading.