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Panel - Birth and naming of St John the Baptist

Birth and naming of St John the Baptist

  • Object:

    Panel

  • Place of origin:

    France (possibly, made)

  • Date:

    early 16th century (made)

  • Artist/Maker:

    Unknown

  • Materials and Techniques:

    Carved alabaster

  • Credit Line:

    Given by Dr W. L. Hildburgh FSA

  • Museum number:

    A.187-1946

  • Gallery location:

    In Storage

The appearance of the panel is uncharacteristic of English alabaster panels and looks French, based on an English original. The stone however appears to be English. The scene illustrates the gospel account of the naming of St John the Baptist which is not commonly represented in medieval English alabaster work.

St Elizabeth wearing a long-sleeved gown with her head veiled, lies on the right side of a bed with her right hand supporting her head. She rests her head on a pillow, with most of her body beneath a bed-covering which hangs down over the side of the bed. In the background Elizabeth is tended by a number of female attendants one of whom holds the tightly swaddled infant John with both hands. In the foreground another female attendant kneels, stirring a pot which rests on a tripod over a fire.

Physical description

St. Elizabeth wearing a long-sleeved gown, her head veiled, lies on her right side on a bed, with her right hand supporting her head. She rests her head on a pillow, with most of her body beneath a bed-covering which hangs down over the side of the bed. A female attendant, wearing a loose gown, arranges the bed-covering over St. Elizabeth's left shoulder. Another female attendant, wearing a loose gown, holds the tightly swaddled infant St. John with both hands. A third loose-gowned female attendant stands on the right of the panel behind the bed with hands together. In the bottom right-hand corner the bearded Zacharias sits in a chair with a rounded back, holding a scroll with his left hand and with his right doubtless writing the name of the infant. He wears a belted gown with a loose pointed collar and a round hat with an upturned brim. The fourth female attendant, wearing a gown with a belt, kneels at the bottom of the panel at the left, stirring a pot which rests on a tripod over a fire. There is an empty round-backed chair behind her. Above the scene at the top of the panel is an intricately carved bed canopy. The details of the eyes of the figures, as well as many other details, have been carved with precision.

The right hands of Zacharias and the kneeling female attendant are both missing. There is no colour on the panel. The back of the panel has a typically English look. There are five lead-plugged holes. The bottom has been cut away.

Place of Origin

France (possibly, made)

Date

early 16th century (made)

Artist/maker

Unknown

Materials and Techniques

Carved alabaster

Dimensions

Height: 403 mm, Width: 270 mm, Depth: 48 mm

Object history note

Acquired by Dr W. L. Hildburgh in Paris. On loan from him since before 1931. Given to the Museum by W. L. Hildburgh in 1946.

Descriptive line

Alabaster panel depicting the birth and naming of St John the Baptist. French (?), early 16th century.

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

Cheetham, Francis. English Medieval Alabasters. Oxford: Phaidon-Christie's Limited, 1984. p. 334, ill. ISBN 0-7148-8014-0
Hildburgh, Antiq Journal VIII, 1928, p. 54, fig. XVI

Production Note

The appearance of the panel is uncharacteristic of English alabaster panels and looks French, based on an English original. For example, many details that would normally in English alabasters be painted in have been carved with precision. The stone itself however seems to be English.

Materials

Alabaster

Techniques

Carving

Subjects depicted

Bed coverings; Pillow; Gown; Tripods (stands); Chair; Belt; Hat; Veil; Bed; Fires; Pot; Canopy; Scroll

Categories

Christianity; Religion; Sculpture

Collection

Sculpture Collection

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