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Panel - The Entombment

The Entombment

  • Object:


  • Place of origin:

    England (made)

  • Date:

    ca. 1400 (made)

  • Artist/Maker:


  • Materials and Techniques:

    Carved, painted and gilt alabaster

  • Credit Line:

    Given by Dr W. L. Hildburgh FSA

  • Museum number:


  • Gallery location:

    In Storage

This is an alabaster panel depicting the Entombment, made in England in ca. 1400. The dead Christ is being lowered into the tomb by St Joseph of Arimathea, in whose belt are the pincers used for extracting the nails. Behind stands tow of the Maries and a thrid figure which is probably the third Mary. In front of the tomb, St Mary Magdalene with her ointment pot beside her staunches the wound in Christ's side with her hair.

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 body of the dead Christ who, unusually, wears no torse, lies in the tomb wearing a loincloth. He is being wrapped in the shroud by Joseph of Arimathaea, who is bearded and wearing a rolled-brim hat; he carries in his belt a pair of pincers, used for removing the nails from Christ's hands and feet. On the left of the panel stands Mary Magdalene, bareheaded and wearing a gown and a cloak; she is staunching the wound in Christ's right side with her long hair. Her emblem, the ointment pot, stands to the right. The carving is naive--Mary Magdalene's left hand appears the wrong way round. The figures of two of the three Marys stand at the back of the panel in front of the cross, veiled and with their hands held together in prayer. Part of the figure of the third Mary can be seen next to Joseph of Arimathaea. A unique feature is the lid of the tomb represented diagonally across the lower right corner of the panel. The unusual perspective of the design and the elongated standing figure of St. Mary Magdalene give the panel a distinctive quality. The top left corner of the panel is missing and a larger portion top right, including the head and shoulders of one of the Marys and possibly the figure of St. John the Evangelist. The top of the panel has been repaired with plaster. Traces of green paint remain on the ground at the bottom of the panel. Traces of red and black paint and gilding remain on the figures. There are remains of gesso knobs on the upper background. The back of the panel is supported at the top with a small rectangular piece of slate. There are three holes filled with lead.

Place of Origin

England (made)


ca. 1400 (made)



Materials and Techniques

Carved, painted and gilt alabaster


Height: 37.7 cm, Width: 29.5 cm

Object history note

Formerly in the collection of Count P. Biver. In the possession of 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 Entombment, England, ca. 1400

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

Cheetham, Francis. English Medieval Alabasters. Oxford: Phaidon-Christie's Limited, 1984. p. 264 (cat. 191), ill. ISBN 0-7148-8014-0
Nelson, Archaeolog. Journ. LXXV, 1918, p. 310, pl. XVII, fig. I.
Archaeologia XCIII, 1949, pl. XIX.5


Alabaster; Paint; Gilt


Carving; Painting; Gilding

Subjects depicted

Tomb; Loincloth; Shroud; Cross; Veil; Gown; Cloak; Hat; Pincers; Pot


Christianity; Religion; Sculpture


Sculpture Collection

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