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Brass rubbing

Brass rubbing

  • Place of origin:

    Norwich (Rubbing from brass in St Laurence's Church, made)

  • Date:

    post 1375 (made)

  • Artist/Maker:


  • Materials and Techniques:

    wax rubbing of monumental brass on paper

  • 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 brass inscription commemorating John Geney, who died in 1375. With a supplementary brass inscription, 'John Geney Bailiff 1375. This brass fits the stone below.'

Place of Origin

Norwich (Rubbing from brass in St Laurence's Church, made)


post 1375 (made)



Materials and Techniques

wax rubbing of monumental brass on paper


Height: 101.6 mm, Width: 482.6 mm

Descriptive line

Rubbing of an inscription from the brass of John Geney, 1375, from St Laurence's Church, Norwich.

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

Victoria and Albert Museum, Department of Engraving, Illustration and Design and Department of Paintings, Accessions 1929, London: Board of Education, 1930.


Paper; Wax




Rubbings; Prints; Commemoration; Death; Metalwork


Prints, Drawings & Paintings Collection

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