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The Crucifixion

  • Object:


  • Place of origin:

    England (made)

  • Date:

    late 15th century (made)

  • Artist/Maker:


  • Materials and Techniques:

    Carved and painted alabaster

  • Credit Line:

    Given by Dr W. L. Hildburgh FSA

  • Museum number:


  • Gallery location:

    In Storage

This is an alabaster panel, depicting the Crucifxion, made in England in the late 15th century. Christ is shown on the cross in the centre of this panel flanked by figures of the two thieves. The soul of the thief on the left is borne away by an angel while the one on the right is borne away by a fiend. Under the arms of Christ there are two angels with chalices. On the right, the centurion raising his right hand, speaks to two soldiers while on the left the Virgin is supported by the other Maries and S. John who holds a palm.

There are two sorts of alabaster. Calcite alabaster is very hard and was used in ancient times. This object is made of gypsum alabaster which is a fine-grained, soft and smooth stone. Although at first glance it looks a little like marble, which it was intended to imitate, it was much easier to carve due to its softness, and alabaster objects were therefore significantly cheaper to produce. Marble does not originate in England, so it was imported if needed.

The carving of alabaster, mostly quarried in Tutbury and Chellaston near Nottingham, took on industrial proportions in England between the middle of the 14th and the early 16th centuries. The market for altarpieces and smaller devotional images was a large one. It included not only religious foundations but also the merchant classes. Many hundreds of English alabasters were exported, some as far afield as Iceland and Santiago de Compostela in north-west Spain.

Physical description

The bearded Christ, wearing the torse and naked but for the loincloth, hangs on the cross, his left foot over his right. His hair hangs down in front of his shoulders. There are the usual curious bulges below Christ's ribs. The nails in Christ's hands and feet are not represented--only the holes of the wounds are shown. Angels hold chalices to receive the blood from the wounds in his hands and feet. The Virgin Mary, veiled with a cloak which is fastened with a brooch, kneels on the left of the panel, her hands crossed on her breast. The other two Marys (Magdalene and Cleophas) are standing behind her, with the figure of St. John the Evangelist holding a palm next to a figure (damaged) representing Longinus. Longinus, wearing a long, belted gown, holds in his left hand the lance which wounded Christ's right side. A bearded figure on the right of the panel, wearing a high-crowned hat, a long, belted gown with wide sleeves and a tippet, respresents the centurion. He stands looking away from the cross and rests his left hand on the rounded top of his twisted staff. He points with his right hand towards a vertical scroll which, no doubt, was previously inscribed 'Vere Filius Dei erat iste.' The good thief is shown with his arms over his cross on Christ's right, his soul issuing from his mouth and being received by an angel (damaged). The soul of the unrepentant thief (much damaged) on Christ's left is being taken by a horned devil. Two soldiers wearing pointed basinets complete the group on the right of the panel.

Heads are missing from the angels at the top of the panel and from the figure of Longinus. The head of the unrepentant thief is missing. The left arm and the chalice of the angel kneeling at Christ's feet are damaged. The centurion's staff has been repaired and there is a patch on Christ's left leg. The upper part of the panel is cracked in many places, including across Christ's waist.

Green paint and the usual daisy pattern remain on the ground. Traces of paint, mainly red, are to be found on the figures and on the angels' wings. The top of the panel is backed with slate and plaster. There are two lead-plugged holes in the bottom half of the panel. The bottom has been cut away.

Place of Origin

England (made)


late 15th century (made)



Materials and Techniques

Carved and painted alabaster


Height: 55 cm, Width: 27.9 cm

Object history note

Formerly belonging to P. Nelson from whom it was acquired by Dr W.L. Hildburgh. On loan from him since 1926. Given by Dr Hildburgh in 1946.

Descriptive line

Panel, alabaster, depicting the Crucifixion, England, late 15th century

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

Cheetham, Francis. English Medieval Alabasters. Oxford: Phaidon-Christie's Limited, 1984. p. 254 (cat. 181), ill. ISBN 0-7148-8014-0


Alabaster; Paint


Carving; Painting

Subjects depicted

Staff; Lance; Cross; Tippet; Brooch; Angel; Soldier; Cloak; Scroll; Hat; Veil; Loincloth; Torse; Chalice; Palm


Christianity; Religion; Sculpture


Sculpture Collection

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