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Panel - Head of St John the Baptist

Head of St John the Baptist

  • Object:

    Panel

  • Place of origin:

    England (made)

  • Date:

    late 15th century (made)

  • Artist/Maker:

    Unknown

  • Materials and Techniques:

    Carved, painted and gilt alabaster

  • Museum number:

    275-1902

  • Gallery location:

    In Storage

The head of St. John the Baptist is represented with his upper lip half clean-shaven, but with a beard and long hair, on a dish. Above, two angels bear a small nude figure, hands held together, in a mandorla, representing the soul of the saint. Below is Christ, the Man of Sorrows, his right hand raised, his head inclined to the left, standing on the tomb, his right hand held against his body under the wound pierced by the soldier's spear at the Crucifixion. On the left stands the bearded and tonsured figure of St. Peter, wearing a girded gown and a cloak and looking right; he holds a closed book with a clasp in his left hand and a key in his right. On the right stands the mitred figure of an archbishop, probably St. Thomas Becket, dressed in a girded gown and cloak, looking left; he holds a closed book in his right hand and a cross-staff in his left.

Physical description

The head of St. John the Baptist is represented with his upper lip half clean-shaven, but with a beard and long hair, on a dish. Above, two angels bear a small nude figure, hands held together, in a mandorla, representing the soul of the saint. Below is Christ, the Man of Sorrows, left hand raised, his head inclined to the left, standing in the tomb, his right hand held against his body under the wound pierced by the soldier's spear at the Crucifixion. On the left stands the bearded and tonsured figure of St. Peter, wearing a girded gown and a cloak and looking right; he holds a closed book with a clasp in his left hand and a key in his right. On the right stands the mitred figure of an archbishop, probably St. Thomas Becket, dressed in a girded gown and cloak, looking left; he holds a closed book in his right hand and a cross-staff in his left.

The cross-staff is damaged. The panel has been cracked diagonally across the middle and repaired.

Traces of gilding are on the Baptist's hair and beard and round the edge of the mandorla. There is also black on the Baptist's hair and beard. Black paint is on Christ's torse, hair and beard and on the hair and beard of St. Peter and on the hair of St. Thomas. The centre of the mandorla is also black. The angels' wings are red and there is red on the folds of the garments of the two standing saints and on Christ's wound.

There are two lead-plugged holes in the back of the panel with the remains of latten wires. The bottom has been cut away.

Place of Origin

England (made)

Date

late 15th century (made)

Artist/maker

Unknown

Materials and Techniques

Carved, painted and gilt alabaster

Dimensions

Height: 28.6 cm, Width: 15.4 cm

Object history note

Purchased in 1902.

Descriptive line

Alabaster panel depicting the head of St John the Baptist. English, late 15th century.

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

Cheetham, Francis. English Medieval Alabasters Oxford: Phaidon-Christie's Limited, 1984. p. 328 (cat. 252), ill. ISBN 0-7148-8014-0
List of Works of Art acquired by the Victoria and Albert Museum during the Year 1902 arranged according to the Dates of Acquisition. London: Her Majesty's Stationary Office. Wyman and Sons. 1906. pp.43

Materials

Alabaster; Paint; Gilt

Techniques

Carving; Painting; Gilding

Subjects depicted

Staff (symbolic); Key; Book; Torse; Cloak; Tomb; Mitre

Categories

Christianity; Religion; Sculpture

Collection

Sculpture Collection

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