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Crucifixion group - Crucifixion
  • Crucifixion
    Pruden, Dunstan, born 1906 - died 1974
  • Enlarge image

Crucifixion

  • Object:

    Crucifixion group

  • Place of origin:

    Ditchling (made)

  • Date:

    ca. 1935 - ca. 1940 (made)

  • Artist/Maker:

    Pruden, Dunstan, born 1906 - died 1974 (maker)

  • Materials and Techniques:

    Carved ivory

  • Credit Line:

    Purchased with the assistance of the Hildburgh Fund

  • Museum number:

    A.1:1 to 3-2009

  • Gallery location:

    Sculpture, Room 21, The Dorothy and Michael Hintze Galleries, case 2 []

The Crucifixion group dates to about 1935-40, after Pruden had joined the Guild of St Joseph and St Dominic set up by Eric Gill. Through the Guild, Gill not only promoted the Arts and Crafts tradition which focused on handmade designs in different materials, he also emphasised how the Roman Catholic faith could be conveyed through works of art. The Crucifixion is therefore particular noteworthy, since aside from its distinctive workshop style and religious subject matter, it demonstrates Pruden's ability to carve in ivory, a material with which he was less experienced in working, as he was first and foremost a silversmith.

The piece is almost identical in style and composition to the brass figures on the altar of Keymer Catholic Church, West Sussex. Many of the Guild members' work were commissioned by local Roman Catholic churches, and it seems probable that Pruden carved this piece as a model in preparation for the larger cast metal version in the church.

Physical description

The crucifixion group comprises three separate ivory carvings: the central figure of Christ on the cross, flanked by the sorrowing Virgin and St John the Evangelist, holding a book with his symbol, an eagle at his feet. Both figures stand on stylized foliage, the Virgin's hands on either side of a rooted branch or shrub.

Place of Origin

Ditchling (made)

Date

ca. 1935 - ca. 1940 (made)

Artist/maker

Pruden, Dunstan, born 1906 - died 1974 (maker)

Materials and Techniques

Carved ivory

Marks and inscriptions

'INRI'
'Iesvs Nazarenvs Rex Ivdaeorvm' (Jesus of Nazareth, the King of the Jews)
Carved over the head of Christ. INRI are initials for the Latin title that Pontius Pilate had written over the head of Jesus Christ on the cross (Iesus Nazarenus Rex Judaeorum. Jesus of Nazarus King of the Jews). The early Church adopted the initials of this inscription “INRI” as a symbol placed on the cross.

Dimensions

Height: 10 cm crucifix, Height: 6.9 cm Virgin, Height: 6.8 cm St John, Weight: 0.12 kg

Object history note

This object was bought in Ditchling in about 1981 by the vendor, Veronica von Manussis, and has been verified as a work by Dunstan Pruden by the noted authority on Eric Gill and former curator at Tate, Dr Judith Collins. It was bought from Manussis for £3800 in 2009.

Historical significance: The Crucifixion group dates from about 1935-40, after Pruden had joined the Guild of St Joseph and St Dominic, which had been set up by Eric Gill. Through the Guild, Gill not only promoted the arts and crafts tradition which focused on handmade designs in different materials, but also emphasised how the Roman Catholic faith could be conveyed through works of art. The Crucifixion is therefor particularly noteworthy, since, as well as its distinctive style and religious subject matter, it demonstrates Pruden's ability to carve in ivory, a material with which he was less experienced in working, as he was first and foremost a silversmith.

The piece is almost identical in style and composition to the brass figures on the altar of Keymer Catholic Church, West Sussex. Since many of the Guild members' work can be seen in local churches, it seems probable that Pruden carved this ivory in preparation for the larger cast metal version in the church.

Historical context note

Dunstan Pruden (1907-1974) was brought up in Hammersmith, London, and was christened Alfred Charles Pruden, but changed his first name to Dunstan when he converted to Roman Catholicism. Living in the artistic community of Ditchling, East Sussex, in the 1930s he was much influenced by Eric Gill and the Guild of St Joseph and Sr Dominic, under whose auspices (with Philip Hagreen) he published Silversmithing: Its Principles and Practice in Small Workshops.

Two years after coming to Ditchling in 1932, Pruden joined the Guild, founded by Eric Gill with Hilary Pepler and Desmond Chute, and formally constituted in 1921. It was a Catholic community of work, faith and domestic life which attracted craftsmen until it was disbanded in 1989.

For a number of years, commencing in 1934, Pruden was in charge of Silversmithing at Brighton School of Art. His best-known pupils include Gerald Benney, Michael Murray, and Anthony Elson. His silversmithing heritage continues in Ditchling through his grandson, Anton. His book Silversmithing was printed by St Dominic's Press and became the foundation for his teaching career at Brighton. He fulfilled hundreds of commissions for ecclesiastical metalwork, and in addition to working in silver he occasionally carved in ivory.

The following passage is written by Dunstan's widow, Winifrede, and taken directly from an epilogue to Pruden’s unpublished autobiography, So Doth the Smith, extracts from which are reproduced in Art and Design at Brighton 1859-2009: from Arts and Manufactures to the Creative and Cultural Industries.
'[Dunstan] scorned any high fallutin’ ideas about inspiration, and sneered horribly about “artistic temperament” or “being in the mood”. He was a complete professional. He was so disciplined that he could put down anything he was doing without hesitation, or stop reading a book in mid-sentence. He admired the attitude of Doctor Johnson who wrote Rasselas in less than a month to pay for his mother’s funeral. Only amateurs, Dunstan maintained, could afford to keep a muse.'

Descriptive line

Group, ivory, Crucifix with figures of Virgin Mary and St. John, by Dunstan (Alfred Charles) Pruden, Britain (Ditchling), ca. 1935-1940

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

R. Cribb and J.Cribb, Eric Gill and Ditchling: The Workshop Tradition (Ditching: Ditchling Museum, 2007), p.62

P. Lyon and J.Woodham, Art and Design at Brighton 1859-2009: from Arts and Manufactures to the Creative and Cultural Industries (Brighton: University of Brighton, 2007)
Trusted, Marjorie, Baroque & Later Ivories, Victoria & Albert Museum, London, 2013, cat. no. 204

Materials

Ivory

Techniques

Carving

Categories

Christianity; Sculpture; Death

Collection

Sculpture Collection

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