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Head of St John the Baptist

  • Object:

    Panel

  • Place of origin:

    England (made)

  • Date:

    15th century (made)

  • Artist/Maker:

    Unknown

  • Materials and Techniques:

    carved and painted alabaster

  • Credit Line:

    Given by Dr. W L Hildburgh

  • Museum number:

    A.164-1946

  • Gallery location:

    In Storage

This alabaster panel depicts the head of St John the Baptist surrounded by saints. Alabaster, a fine grained form of gypsum, is a smooth marble-like stone that became popular during the late Middle Ages for the carving of religious sculpture. Softer than marble, it was much easier to carve and also considerably cheaper. England was an important European centre of alabaster production, with quarries outside Nottingham, York, Burton-on-Trent and London. From about 1380s, alabasters - both single devotional images and reliefs for altarpieces - were exported in considerable numbers to the continent where they were to survive, whereas in England such images were destroyed during the Reformation.

Physical description

Alabaster panel depicting the head of St John the Baptist surrounded by saints. The head with forked beard is shown on a dish, and marked by the wound left by Herodias according to legend. Above, two angels hold a small, haloed figure representing the soul, below two kneeling angels support the dish, which has a legible inscription. The Agnus dei is between them. On the lower left of the panel the Virgin is enthroned, crowned and veiled holding the Christ child. On the lower left St. Catherine holding her emblem the wheel. Above the Virgin stands St. Peter in the papal triple crown and above St. Catherine an archbishop, probably St. Thomas Becket.

Place of Origin

England (made)

Date

15th century (made)

Artist/maker

Unknown

Materials and Techniques

carved and painted alabaster

Marks and inscriptions

'Caput sci ihohanis [sic] baptiste i disco'

Dimensions

Height: 27 cm, Width: 20.6 cm

Descriptive line

Alabaster panel depicting the head of St John the Baptist with saints, England, 15th century

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

Combs Stuebe, Isabel, 'The Johannischüssel: from narrative to reliquary to Andachtsbild' in Marsyas, XIV, 1968-9, p. 7, fig. 7.
Cheetham, Francis. English Medieval Alabasters. Oxford: Phaidon-Christie's Limited, 1984, no. 246.

Materials

Alabaster

Techniques

Carving

Subjects depicted

Angels; Tiara (papal); Agnus Dei; Halo; Plates (dishes)

Categories

Christianity; Sculpture

Collection

Sculpture Collection

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