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The Betrayal

  • Object:

    Panel

  • Place of origin:

    England (made)

  • Date:

    1430-1450 (made)

  • Artist/Maker:

    Unknown

  • Materials and Techniques:

    Carved, painted and gilt alabaster

  • Credit Line:

    Given by Dr W. L. Hildburgh FSA

  • Museum number:

    A.6-1946

  • Gallery location:

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

Christ was betrayed by Judas, one of his own apostles. Here Judas is shown embracing Christ – his kiss was the sign for the soldiers to carry out the arrest. The soldiers’ faces have been darkened to show their wickedness. One the left is St Peter, who has just cut off the ear of the fallen soldier.

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.
Alabaster - a form of gypsum - is a comparatively soft material and is therefore easy to carve. It can also be polished. Its natural colour was especially useful for the representation of faces and flesh, which would normally remain unpainted.

Physical description

Christ, with a forked beard, and wearing a robe and cloak, stands in the centre of the panel, his right hand raised in blessing. He looks to the right at the bearded Judas who stands next to him, embracing him, his left hand resting on Christ's shoulder. A soldier, wearing 14th-century style armour, with a pointed basinet and visor, a tippet of mail, elbow- and knee-guards and a jerkin with a sword hanging from a sword belt, grasps Christ's cloak with his left hand and his sword handle with his right. Four other soldiers, three holding bills and one a battle-axe, and a civilian wearing a hat with a rolled brim, surround them. The tonsured and bearded figure of St. Peter, wearing a girded gown and a cloak, stands on Christ's right, looking up at him, holding a sword in the scabbard. At his feet, lying across the width of the panel is a figure wearing a low-belted doublet and a hat with a rolled brim, his left hand raised and holding a staff in his right. This figure represents Malchus, the high priest's servant, attempting to ward off the blow from St. Peter who has cut off his ear and is shown replacing the sword.

The top corners of the panel are chipped. An earlier photograph of the panel shows a lantern in the top centre supported by the civilian's hand--both hand and lantern are now missing. Part of the shaft of the battle-axe on the right of the panel is missing. The soldiers and the civilian have darkened faces to show their villainy, although curiously the face of Judas appears to be just as free of paint as the faces of Christ and St. Peter. Green paint and the usual daisy pattern remain on the ground. Traces of red and gilt paint remain on the figures. There appears to be blue (darkened) on Christ's robe. The background is gilt at the top of the panel, with traces of gesso knobs. The back of the panel is incised with a fishbone-shaped mark. There are three lead-plugged holes in the back. The bottom has been cut away.

Place of Origin

England (made)

Date

1430-1450 (made)

Artist/maker

Unknown

Materials and Techniques

Carved, painted and gilt alabaster

Marks and inscriptions

Fishbone-shaped mark.
On the back of the panel.; incising

Dimensions

Height: 39.1 cm, Width: 26.4 cm

Object history note

Acquired by Dr W. L. Hildburgh in Spain. On loan from Dr Hildburgh to the Museum since 1920. Given by W. L. Hildburgh in 1946.

Descriptive line

Panel and associated fragments, alabaster, The Betrayal, England, 1430-1450

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

Cheetham, Francis. English Medieval Alabasters. Oxford: Phaidon-Christie's Limited, 1984. p. 230 (cat. 157), ill. ISBN 0-7148-8014-0

Materials

Alabaster; Paint; Gilt

Techniques

Painted; Gilded; Carved

Subjects depicted

Bill; Belt; Doublet; Cloak; Sword; Scabbard; Battle-axe; Armour; Hat; Robe; Soldier

Categories

Christianity; Religion; Sculpture

Collection

Sculpture Collection

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