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Brass rubbing

Brass rubbing

  • Place of origin:

    Walthamstow (Rubbing would have been made on site at Walthamstow Church. Original brass probably made elsewhere., made)

  • Date:

    ca. 1450 (made)
    1588 (made)
    18/11/1933 (made)

  • Artist/Maker:

    Pearson, Reginald H. (Mr) (made)

  • Materials and Techniques:

    Wax rubbing of monumental brass on paper

  • Credit Line:

    Given by Mr. Reginald 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

Rubbings of two fragments from the lower portion of the brass of a civilian effigy. The fragment depicts the dress and feet of a vintner standing on two wine casks. The rubbing has rotated the brass from portrait to landscape. There are original notes around the edge of the rubbing identifying where damage had occurred on the brass plate.

Place of Origin

Walthamstow (Rubbing would have been made on site at Walthamstow Church. Original brass probably made elsewhere., made)


ca. 1450 (made)
1588 (made)
18/11/1933 (made)


Pearson, Reginald H. (Mr) (made)

Materials and Techniques

Wax rubbing of monumental brass on paper


Height: 171.45 mm, Width: 434.975 mm

Object history note

Rubbing taken from a brass in Walthamstow Church, Essex, dated ca. 1450, and given by Mr. Reginald H. Pearson. The original brass has been re-used and on the obverse there is an inscription of Thomas Hale and his wife, Ann Porter, dated 1588. A rubbing of the obverse is also in the collection (E.1703-1918).

Descriptive line

Rubbings of two fragments from the brass of a vintner standing on two wine casks, dated ca. 1450, in Walthamstow Church, Essex

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

Victoria and Albert Museum, Department of Engraving, Illustration and Design & Department of Paintings, Accessions 1933, London: Printed under the Authority of the Board of Education 1934
V&A Print Room's Print Catalogue: BRASS RUBBINGS CATALOGUE 1435-1500, 1991

Stephenson, Mill. A List of Monumental Brasses in the British Isles. London: Headley Brothers, 1926, and supplement, 1956.


Wax; Paper



Subjects depicted



Rubbings; Metalwork; Death; Ecclesiastical Art/Craft


Prints, Drawings & Paintings Collection

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