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Panel - The Appearance of Christ to Mary Magdalene

The Appearance of Christ to Mary Magdalene

  • Object:


  • Place of origin:

    England (made)

  • Date:

    15th century (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 scene represents the gospel account of the risen Christ's appearance to Mary Magdalene as a gardener and His announcement of the Resurrection. It probably formed the terminal panel of an altarpiece. Jesus is shown holding a spade while a scroll, which probably originally bore an inscription rises from his right hand.

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 figure of Christ is represented wearing the torse and a cloak fastened with a brooch which hangs over his shoulders and covers the lower part of his body. He stands looking right, holding a typical medieval spade in his right hand. A scroll rises vertically from his left hand. The diminutive figure of Mary Magdalene, wearing a gown and a cloak over her shoulders, kneels at his feet on the right of the panel looking up at him, holding a tress of her long hair in her left hand. Her usual symbol, the pot of ointment, is omitted. The eyes of both figures are finely carved. The top left corner of the panel and Christ's left hand are missing. The usual daisy pattern remains on the ground, where there are traces of green paint. The edges of the robes and hair of the two figures are gilded. There is a ridge down the back of the panel from top to bottom indicating where two saw cuts have met. There are two lead-plugged holes, one with a latten wire attached. The bottom has been cut away.

Place of Origin

England (made)


15th century (made)



Materials and Techniques

Carved, painted and gilt alabaster


Height: 40.3 cm, Width: 15.8 cm

Object history note

Formerly 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 appearance of Christ to Mary Magdalene, England, 15th century

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

Cheetham, Francis. English Medieval Alabasters. Oxford: Phaidon-Christie's Limited, 1984. p. 285 (cat. 212), ill. ISBN 0-7148-8014-0
Hildburgh, Antiq. Journ. VIII, 1928, p. 54, pl. XV, fig. 2.


Alabaster; Paint; Gilt


Carving; Painting; Gilding

Subjects depicted

Gown; Shovel; Brooch; Torse; Cloak; Scroll


Christianity; Religion; Sculpture


Sculpture Collection

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