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Statuette - A Man Hawking

A Man Hawking

  • Object:

    Statuette

  • Place of origin:

    Bourgogne (possibly, made)
    France (possibly, North Eastern, made)

  • Date:

    1440-1460 (made)

  • Artist/Maker:

    Unknown

  • Materials and Techniques:

    Alabaster, with remains of paint and gilding

  • Museum number:

    4084-1857

  • Gallery location:

    Medieval & Renaissance, Room 10, case 9

This figure originally represented a man hawking, with a coat of arms painted on the base beneath him. It was probably once one of a group of weepers, distributed around the sides of a tomb chest.

Tomb chests with figures around the sides were especially popular during the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries. These figures could represent a funeral procession of cloaked weepers and ecclesiastics, but just as often had a more secular cast of characters, perhaps intended to represent relatives of the deceased, or their descendants. This piece is a good example of this latter type.

The figure also bears strong resemblances to contemporary representations of St Thibaut (Theobald) of Auxois, a locally venerated saint in Burgundy, and may represent him.

Physical description

The man stands on a box-like base, his weight resting on his right foot and with his head slightly inclined to his right. At the front of the base is an heraldic shield with the very fragmentary remains of a painted coat of arms. The man wears an ermine cloak with a sleeved tunic and ankle-length boots beneath. From his belt hangs a tasselled bag with a bird's wing protruding from the opening. Both his forearms are missing, but it is likely that he would originally have held a hawk on his left hand and that his right would have been feeding or restraining it. The surface of the sculpture is badly abraded, but there are still traces of some original relief decoration and gilding, as well as quite substantial remains of later paint.

Place of Origin

Bourgogne (possibly, made)
France (possibly, North Eastern, made)

Date

1440-1460 (made)

Artist/maker

Unknown

Materials and Techniques

Alabaster, with remains of paint and gilding

Dimensions

Height: 55.5 cm, Width: 18.3 cm, Depth: 14 cm, Weight: 14.3 kg, Width: 15.5 cm of base, Depth: 11.2 cm of base

Object history note

The original provenance of this piece is unknown. When it was acquired in Paris, it was said to have come from the tomb of Charles the Bold in Dijon. However, Charles the Bold did not have a tomb. The closest comparison in terms of the format of figures on a known tomb occurs in a now-destroyed example in Lille, the tomb of Louis de Mâle (ca. 1453). The Lille figures, however, were made of bronze, and so the V&A figure cannot have formed part of that tomb.

The style of the work places it fairly firmly into the date range indicated, but its place of manufacture is less certain. Tomb chests with weepers of this sort are often associated with Burgundy, but the type was influential outside the duchy as well. In this period, it is difficult stylistically to separate the art of Burgundy, Northern France and the Netherlands. Although a Burgundian provenance is likely, the piece may just as well be from slightly further to the North-East of France.

Historical significance: Tomb chests with figures around the sides were especially popular in much of Europe during the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries. These figures could represent a funeral procession of cloaked weepers and ecclesiastics, but just as often had a more secular cast of characters, perhaps intended to represent relatives of the deceased, or their descendants. This piece is a good example of this latter type. Stylistically, it also reflects the close associations in the mid-fifteenth century between art produced across Northern Europe.

Historical context note

This figure would have originally represented a man hawking, with a coat of arms painted on the base beneath him. The size and format of the figure, and to some extent, the choice of material, indicate that this figure was once one of a group of weepers, distributed around the sides of a tomb chest. Figures of this type, with heraldic shields beneath, are known to have decorated the tomb of Louis de Mâle (ca. 1453) in Lille (now destroyed).

The figure is probably intended to represent a kinsman or one of the descendants of the deceased. However, the V&A figure also bears strong resemblances to contemporary representations of St Thibaut (Theobald) of Auxois, a locally venerated saint in Burgundy. The V&A figure may represent this saint.

Descriptive line

Alabaster statuette of a man hawking, French, ca. 1450

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

P. Williamson, Northern Gothic Sculpture 1200-1450, London, 1988, pp. 196-200, cat. no. 56
C. Lapaire, 'Une statue bourgoignonne de Saint Thibaut et l'usage des modéles, répliques et réductions dans les ateliers de sculpture du XVe siècle', Genova, n.s. XXXI, 1983, pp. 27-33
Trusted, Marjorie, ed. The Making of Sculpture. The Materials and Techniques of European Sculpture. London: 2007, p. 107, plate 185
Inventory of Art Objects Acquired in the Year 1857. In: Inventory of the Objects in the Art Division of the Museum at South Kensington, Arranged According to the Dates of their Acquisition. Vol I. London: Printed by George E. Eyre and William Spottiswoode for H.M.S.O., 1868, p. 34.

Production Note

This piece was bought by the Museum in Paris, although from whom is not recorded. Its size and format indicate that it once acted as a pleurant (weeper) on a tomb chest. Unfortunately, it is not possible to specify which tomb it is from.

The style of the work places it fairly firmly into the date range indicated, but its place of manufacture is less certain. Tomb chests with weepers of this sort are often associated with Burgundy, but the type was influential outside the duchy as well. In this period, it is difficult stylistically to separate the art of Burgundy, Northern France and the Netherlands. Although a Burgundian provenance is likely, the piece may just as well be from slightly further to the North-East of France.

Materials

Alabaster

Subjects depicted

Man; Pleurant (weeper)

Categories

Sculpture

Collection

Sculpture Collection

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