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Image of Gallery in South Kensington
On display at V&A South Kensington
Medieval & Renaissance, Room 62, The Foyle Foundation Gallery

St Roch

Statue
ca. 1540-1550 (made)
Artist/Maker
Place Of Origin

St Roch is the patron saint of those suffering from leprosy. He is usually portrayed, as here, holding a clapper to warn people of his approach, and with a sore on his leg. The accompanying dog is also one of his standard attributes. The figure was probably carved in the region of Rioja, in the east of Spain.

Roch (c. 1350-c. 1380) was born to a rich merchant family in the south of France in Montpellier, but became a hermit, and made a pilgrimage to Rome. While in Italy he caught the plague, and was fed by a dog, who is seen here licking one of the saint's infected sores. He was reputed to have miraculously cured those suffering from the plague, and people therefore frequently prayed before images of him to request his help. His cult was widespread in Europe in the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries, and he is often depicted in sculptures and paintings in Spain, Italy, France and Germany. It has also been suggested that this sculpture could in fact depict St Lazarus, who has similar attributes and characteristics, but it seems more likely that this figure is indeed St Roch, whose cult is particularly associated with Iberia, and who is normally shown, as seen here, in the prime of life, whereas Lazarus is usually an elderly man.


object details
Categories
Object Type
Materials and Techniques
Painted and gilded wood
Brief Description
Statue, painted and gilded pinewood, St Roch, Spain (Rioja), ca. 1540-1550
Physical Description
Painted and gilded wood statuette depicting St. Roch with a dog. He looks to his right and wears sandals, a coat with a belt and buckle, over which is a cloak tied at the left shoulder, and carries a pouch at his left side. His left ankle is bandaged and the dog, which is sitting on its haunches, is licking At. Roch's left leg. He holds clappers in his right hand, and a staff in his left hand.
Dimensions
  • Height: 144cm
  • Width: 56cm
  • Depth: 39cm
Measured for the Medieval and Renaissance Galleries
Credit line
Given by Dr W.L. Hildburgh FSA
Object history
Given by Dr. W. L. Hildburgh, F. S. A., 1951.



Historical significance: Roch (c. 1350-c. 1380) was born to a rich merchant family in the south of France in Montpellier, but became a hermit, and made a pilgrimage to Rome. While in Italy he caught the plague, and was fed by a dog, who is seen here licking one of the saint's infected sores. He was reputed to have miraculously cured those suffering from the plague, and people therefore frequently prayed before images of him to request his help. His cult was widespread in Europe in the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries, and he is often depicted in sculptures and paintings in Spain, Italy, France and Germany. This sculpture may have been a goal for pilgrims, although its precise original location is unknown.
Historical context
This figure may have been placed against a pillar in a church, or possibly came from an altarpiece, which was subsequently dismantled. The saint is depicted with plague sores on his leg; the clapper held in his hand which would have warned others that he was suffering from the plague. Such cult statues were popular in Spain, and were further encouraged by the church after the Catholic Reformation in the mid-sixteenth century.
Subjects depicted
Summary
St Roch is the patron saint of those suffering from leprosy. He is usually portrayed, as here, holding a clapper to warn people of his approach, and with a sore on his leg. The accompanying dog is also one of his standard attributes. The figure was probably carved in the region of Rioja, in the east of Spain.



Roch (c. 1350-c. 1380) was born to a rich merchant family in the south of France in Montpellier, but became a hermit, and made a pilgrimage to Rome. While in Italy he caught the plague, and was fed by a dog, who is seen here licking one of the saint's infected sores. He was reputed to have miraculously cured those suffering from the plague, and people therefore frequently prayed before images of him to request his help. His cult was widespread in Europe in the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries, and he is often depicted in sculptures and paintings in Spain, Italy, France and Germany. It has also been suggested that this sculpture could in fact depict St Lazarus, who has similar attributes and characteristics, but it seems more likely that this figure is indeed St Roch, whose cult is particularly associated with Iberia, and who is normally shown, as seen here, in the prime of life, whereas Lazarus is usually an elderly man.
Bibliographic Reference
Trusted, Marjorie. Spanish Sculpture. London : Victoria and Albert Museum, 1996, pp. 130-131, cat.no. 60, and plate 21
Collection
Accession Number
A.66-1951

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record createdNovember 20, 2002
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