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Panel - Head of St John the Baptist

Head of St John the Baptist

  • Object:


  • Place of origin:

    England (made)

  • Date:

    late 15th century (made)

  • Artist/Maker:


  • Materials and Techniques:

    Carved, painted and gilt alabaster

  • Museum number:


  • Gallery location:

    In Storage

This alabaster panel made in England in the late 15th century. This panel depicts the head of St. John the Baptist in the middle; above two angels and a small head in a napkin; below Christ, St. Peter and an archbishop, probably St. Thomas Becker.

Physical description

The panel has a curved battlemented canopy with four turrets. The bearded head of St. John the Baptist, hair in five points on his forehead and in four pointed locks and one long lock on each side, is shown on a dish. Above, supported by two angels is a small head in a napkin, representing the soul of the saint. Below, in a mandorla in the tomb, stands Christ, the Man of Sorrows, bearded and wearing the torse; his right hand is held against his body, his left grasps the oustide of the tomb. The bearded and tonsured St. Peter, wearing a cloak and a girded alb, stands on the left of the panel, holding a closed book in his left hand and a key in his right. An archbishop, probably St. Thomas Becket, wearing a mitre and a girded alb, stands on the right of the panel; he holds a cross-staff in his left hand and blesses with his right.

There are scratches on the canopy and the letters MD X DCC scratched on the tomb. The beard and hair of St. John the Baptist are gilded. The angels' wings are red with flecks of white. The mouth of the Baptist and the folds of St. Peter's cloak are painted red. The tomb is a grey/black colour, the mandorla is dark green edged with red. The words '(C)aput sci Johis Baptiste' remain painted in black round the rim of the dish bearing the head.

The back of the panel bears a vertical ridge, where two saw cuts have met. There are two holes, one filled with lead and the remains of a latten wire. The bottom has been cut away.

Place of Origin

England (made)


late 15th century (made)



Materials and Techniques

Carved, painted and gilt alabaster


Height: 26 cm, Width: 16.4 cm

Object history note

Originally from the church at Yarnton, Oxfordshire. Purchased from E. Holmes Jewitt in 1914.

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. 324 (cat. 248), ill. ISBN 0-7148-8014-0
Society of Antiquaries. Illustrated catalogue of the Exhibition of English Medieval Alabaster Work, Held in the Rooms of the Society of Antiquaries, 26th May-30th June, 1910. London, 1913, no. 51, pl. XX.


Alabaster; Paint; Gilt


Carving; Painting; Gilding

Subjects depicted

Tomb; Mitre; Book; Angel; Staff; Cloak; Torse; Alb; Turret; Key; Canopy


Christianity; Religion; Sculpture


Sculpture Collection

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