|Materials and techniques
Circular, carved with floriated scrolls emerging from cornucopiae, the centre pierced
Circular oak panel carved with a central flower, surrounded by shells with emerging scrolls and cornucopiae with foliated scrolls. Pierced at centre with larger hole, and a smaller hole at either side slightly above the centre line. There is a crack at the top left hand side
- Diameter: 28.5cm
- Depth: 2.3cm
|Marks and inscriptions
- (The drawers and dust boards variously marked with arabic numberals indicating the position of the drawers in the cases. The drawers in the two banks of drawers in the upper case are marked with ink, pencil and crayon, the numbers running in two opposing sequences. The internal drawers are only marked in red crayon or ink.
All Montargis labels now in FF15/CB39/2.)
- (3 labels, originally inscribed in ink, but now illegible, originally glued to the case top but now in the departmental archive. One was said (by Gillian Wilson, 1970s) to have repeated the text of the one set by Miss Coutts Trotter inside the drawer recess (see next entry). The other two had been stuck one on top of the other. The top one appeared by the handwriting to date from the mid-18th or early 19th century. The one underneath could be late 17th or early 18th century in date. This seems to have been put on before the cabinet was painted black. )
- 4th part of the 5 pieces of furniture taken out of the Chateau de Montargis when under demolition 18.. by order of Louis Philippe bought by me and presented to the South Kensington museum - 1881 (In inscription on paper label (now removed to departmental archive), originally glued inside the space that houses the middle drawer in the left bank)
Sold to the South Kensington Museum (predecessor of the V&A) by by M. Henri Fulgence for 125 francs. Fulgence described himself as 'expert en objets d'art, soieries anciennes' with premises at 9, rue Buffault, 50 rue Saint-Lazare and 71, rue de la Boetie, Paris. Father and son Fulgence dealt mainly with textiles, sometimes with carved wood panels and occasionally with ceramics and enamels, usually French. They used to send consignments of goods regularly to the Museum for approval, between 1877 and 1914.
Panelling Paris c.1719, from 7 place Vendôme (hôtel Le Bas de Montargis, Paris, built by Jules-Hardouin Mansart for Claude Le Bas de Montargis), with some of the original colour scheme of lilac washes and gilding (14 panelled bookcase doors, now J. Paul Getty Museum, 97.DH.2; other panels at Waddesdon Manor, Pons cat. no. 90). The panels close in style to those by Jules Degoullons, André Legoupil, Pierre Taupin and Richard Delalande (Pons p.445)
Panelling from the hôtel Dodun, 21 rue de Richelieu, Paris, 1725-30 (Waddesdon Manor); see Bruno Pons, Waddesdon Manor : architecture and panelling (London, 1996), cat. nos. 1, 14 (compared to doors to the apartments of King Frederick I and Queen Ulrica Eleonora, Royal Palace Stockholm, Sweden; designed by Carl Hårleman, carved by Jean Bourguignon, 1738-9).
When new carved oak panelling of this type could be painted and gilded, or left unpainted (waxed) 'a la capucine'.
The fineness of the carving on this oak panel shows the extraordinary skill of the craftsman who made it. Oak is not traditionally used for detailed carving because of its long and sometimes fibrous grain, particularly in France where walnut is more common. However, oak was used for boiseries or room panelling, popular in French interior design in the 17th and 18th centuries. The large hole in the centre of this boss suggests that it may once have been attached to panelling, or to a door. The Rocaille (stylised shell and scroll-like motifs typical of this period) at the centre of the panel combine with the more naturalistic floral sprigs surrounding the outer edges to create an elegant decorative piece.
- Charles Tracy, English Medieval Furniture and Woodwork (London, 1988), cat. no. 5
Boss one of five (119-1865, 120-1865, 121-1865, 123-1865, 124-1865) from a roof, carved in high relief with conventional foliage, with a ﬁgure of a crouching lioness. (PL 2c, FIG. 3).
Given By H.M. Office of Works. Oak. 1335-40. H. 49.5 cm, Diam. 49.5 cm
Mus. No. 119 -1865
These bosses are from one of the ﬁrst floor chambers of the extension to the Bishop of Exeter’s palace erected by Bishop Grandisson (1327-69). The new apartments were added to the extreme west end of the existing complex of buildings, substantially the work of Bishop Brewer (1224-44). The conjectural plan by H.M.R. Drury is reproduced in ].F. Chanter, The Bishop’s Palace Exeter, London, 1932.(p. 27). During his episcopate (1292-1307) Bishop Bytton had added some private rooms for his personal use to the west of Brewer’s Great Hall with a lesser hall above. By the early fourteenth century the palace was fully up-to-date in terms of amenities. Bishop Grandisson must, however, have shared his predecessor's aversion to the communal life of the great hall. He annexed the last piece of ground remaining at the west end of the complex to construct a self-contained hall for himself including an inner parlour with south-facing bay windows, and kitchens below on the ground ﬂoor, and two spacious chambers above. The addition had a frontage of over twelve metres, and a total depth of eighteen and one third metres. Unlike the rest of the palace it consisted of three storeys. Grandisson’s extension was demolished in the mid-nineteenth century. However, Charles Tucker, the cathedral’s architect, recorded the fact that one of the first floor chambers had been furnished with a ﬂoor of decorative tiles and a fine oak roof of ‘ornamental cross beams’ (Charles Tucker, ‘Notes on the bishop's palace, Exeter’, Arch.Jnl, v, 1846, p.224-25.). In particular, he mentions the bosses of this roof, one of which displayed the carving of a mitred bishop, wearing amice and chasuble. Another showed a female in a hood and both were surrounded by foliage. Two adjoining cross beams carried the arms of Grandisson and Montacute on separate shields. Tucker suggested that the bosses were portraits of Bishop Grandisson and his mother, who was of the Montacute family. He mentioned a third boss in the form of a crouching hound (this is presumably the museum’s lioness), and three other bosses of foliage only. He stated that there were traces of red, black and white paint, and gilding remaining on the sculpture. There can be no doubt that the V&A’s carvings are the ones described by Tucker. They accord well enough with the descriptions and the dimensions given.
There is no documented date for the extension to the bishop’s palace. This is not surprising since the fabric rolls for Grandisson’s episcopate are far from complete (Audrey M. Erskine, ‘The Accounts of the Fabric of Exeter Cathedral, 1279-1353', Part II: 1328-53, Devon and Cornwall Record Society, N.S.. Part II: Vol.26, 1983.)
Given the pattern of lacunae in the records it seems likely that the building work was undertaken between 1335-40. If so, the wooden roof would have been designed by the master-mason, Thomas of Witney, in collaboration with the master-carpenter. From an inspection of the cathedral wages lists (Audrey M. Erskine, ‘The Accounts of the Fabric of Exeter Cathedral, 1279-1353', Part I: 1279-1326, Devon and Cornwall Record Society, N.S..Part I: Vol.24, 1981;p.175-211 and Audrey M. Erskine, ‘The Accounts of the Fabric of Exeter Cathedral, 1279-1353', Part II: 1328-53, Devon and Cornwall Record Society, N.S.. Part II: Vol.26, 1983. p.293-310) it does not seem that any of the craftsmen involved in making Bishop Stapledon’s choir furniture or structural woodwork was employed on the roof of his successor’s new palace extension. William of Membiri, the master-carver, was paid off when the work on the throne was completed. Robert of Galmeton remained as the cathedral master-carpenter until 1321.
Nonetheless, the drawing of the heads on the bosses can be compared to that on the bishop’s throne. The angels and the man and woman on the cusp-ends of the great ogee arches of the throne share much in common with the later work. The treatment of the heads with broad and flat foreheads, sharply-cut brows, prominent cheek-bones, ﬂat and widely spread noses, cleanly modelled upper lip and thin wide-spread lips are common to both series. The putative Montacute portrait exhibits a particular way of drawing the edge of the upper eye-lid, by means of a prominent raised band, which is also found on the throne heads. The foliage on the palace bosses is akin to that on the throne. The leaves on the head bosses are of the most common type used on the earlier monument. The boss from the palace with a spiralling stem giving off budded shoots is also characteristic of much of the foliage on the throne. Finally, the tiny head of Stapledon on the tabernacle high up on the northern gable of the bishop’s throne provides an instructive parallel to the image of Grandisson, carved, presumably, some twenty years later.
Of about the same date as the throne are the stone lion roof bosses in the east bay of the nave (FIG.3). Their carving style is very close to the treatment of the lioness from the bishop's palace. Again, however, the possibility of continuity of craftsmanship is ruled out by the fact that Richard Digon, who carved these stone bosses left Exeter to work at Wells Cathedral soon after 1313.
- John Alexander & Paul Binski (ed), Age of Chivalry: Art in Plantagenet England 1200-1400, (Royal Academy of Arts, London, 1987) Catalogue Entry 591, p464
- J F Chanter, The Bishop's Palace, Exeter and its story (London: S.P.C.K, 1932) 225.B.25
- C Tucker, 'Notes on the Bishop's Palace, Exeter', Archaeological Journal, V, 1848, pp224-5
- For a general survey of English church roof bosses, see C. J. P. Cave, Roof bosses in medieval churches; an aspect of Gothic sculpture. Illus. with telephotos (Cambridge, 1948)