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The Resurrection

  • Object:


  • Place of origin:

    England (made)

  • Date:

    1390-1400 (made)

  • Artist/Maker:


  • Materials and Techniques:

    Carved, painted and gilt alabaster

  • Credit Line:

    Given by Dr W. L. Hildburgh FSA

  • Museum number:


  • Gallery location:

    Sculpture, Room 111, The Gilbert Bayes Gallery, case 7

This is an alabaster panel depicitng the Resurrection, made in England in ca. 1390-1400. Christ strides from his tomb, risen from the dead. The carved frame around the scene indicates that the panel was made in the late 14th century. But this is a transitional piece, showing features associated with later alabaster design. The carving is deep and three-dimensional, and the entire surface has been carved or decorated.

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

This deep-cut panel has an embattled top and chamfered edges forming a frame, which indicate a late 14th-century date. The haloed and bearded Christ wears the torse, a loincloth and--an unusual feature--the shroud draped across the front of his body and over his shoulders, leaving his chest bare. His right arm is held horizontally, the hand raised in blessing; in his left hand he holds the staff and banner of the Resurrection. He steps from the tomb with his right foot, which is marked with the nail wound, onto the left shoulder of a sleeping soldier. The latter wears a pointed basinet, a tippet of mail, a tunic with a belt and dagger, gauntlets and knee-guards, and lies across the front of the panel, resting his head on his right hand, his right leg crossed under his left. A battle-axe lies along the edge of the frame, over which his feet hang on the right of the panel. A similar soldier is represented asleep on the right side of the tomb, leaning his head on his right arm and holding a spear with a pennant in his left hand. The figure of a third soldier, who appears to be awake, leans against the front of the tomb on the left of the panel, holding a long oblong shield and looking up at the figure of Christ.

Christ's left hand and the upper part of the cross-staff and a piece of battlementing on the top left corner of the panel are missing. The right edge of the shield is chipped. Two holes have been drilled in the top of the panel above Christ's head. There are many breaks in the panel which have been carefully repaired, incluidng a diagonal and a horizontal break through Christ's body and two diagonal ones through the body of the soldier on which he treads.

Green paint and the usual daisy pattern remain on the ground. Traces of red paint and gilding remain on the figures. The background of the panel has traces of gilt and gesso knobs. There are two holes drilled in the back of the panel filled with lead. Alabaster has been chipped away at the bottom and at the top.

Place of Origin

England (made)


1390-1400 (made)



Materials and Techniques

Carved, painted and gilt alabaster


Height: 43.3 cm, Width: 28.1 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.

Historical significance: The design of this panel includes only three soldiers, which appears to be an early feature and unusual.

Descriptive line

Panel, The Resurrection, carved, painted and gilt alabaster, England, 1390-1400

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

Cheetham, Francis. English Medieval Alabasters. Oxford: Phaidon-Christie's Limited, 1984. p. 273 (cat. 200), ill. ISBN 0-7148-8014-0


Alabaster; Paint; Gilt


Carving; Painting; Gilding

Subjects depicted

Halo; Loincloth; Spear; Shield; Banner; Torse; Soldier; Tomb; Shroud; Pennant; Armour; Staff; Battle-axe


Christianity; Religion; Sculpture


Sculpture Collection

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