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Brass rubbing

Brass rubbing

  • Place of origin:

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

  • Date:

    14th century (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

Rubbing of two fragments from a Flemish brass in Thorpe Church, Surrey. The two fragments make up the lower register of an effigy brass and depict a shield with the arms of De Visch de la Chapelle with an inescutcheon (a small shield placed within the larger one) of Axel. Part of a border inscription below the shield indicate the effigy would have been encased in a border. The rubbing has been mounted upside down, as noted on the side.

Place of Origin

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


14th century (made)

Materials and Techniques

wax rubbing of monumental brass on paper


Height: 298.45 mm, Width: 304.8 mm

Object history note

Rubbing taken at Thorpe Church, Surrey and given by Mr. Reginald H. Pearson.

Descriptive line

Rubbing of two adjacent fragments of a Flemish brass, depicting the lower part of an effigy with a shield and inscription, 14th century, Thorpe Church, Surrey

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

V&A Print Room's Print Catalogue: BRASS RUBBINGS CATALOGUE 1277-1434, 1991
vol. 24


Wax; Paper




Rubbings; Death; Commemoration; Metalwork


Prints, Drawings & Paintings Collection

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