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Roundel

  • Place of origin:

    England (made)

  • Date:

    ca. 1420-1440 (made)

  • Artist/Maker:

    Unknown

  • Materials and Techniques:

    Roundel of clear glass with painted details in a brown/black pigment and with yellow (silver) stain

  • Credit Line:

    Purchased with funds from the Murray Bequest

  • Museum number:

    C.112-1924

  • Gallery location:

    Sacred Silver & Stained Glass, Room 84, The Whiteley Galleries, case S3

Angels, celestial creatures, figure prominently in many of the world’s religions. Christianity inherited its devotion to angels from the Jewish faith from which it emerged.

From early on, the great theologians of the Christian church devoted much effort to identifying and understanding the role of angels in God’s creation. About the year 500, one scholar wrote a treatise called ‘The Celestial Hierarchy’. He scoured the Old and New Testaments for information relating to angels. From this he compiled a list of different types of angels according to their functions. He claimed that there were nine orders of angels, divided into three hierarchies. Each order had a specific function, such as the Order of the Archangels, who act as messengers between God and mankind. The author of this treatise is known as the ‘Pseudo-St Denis’ or ‘Pseudo-Aeropagite’, because he was once thought to be the St Denis (or Dionysus) the Aeropagite who is mentioned in the New Testament book of Acts.

All the orders were considered to be attendant on God and continually sang his praises. It became common in medieval art to show angels singing or playing musical instruments in adoration of God.

The angel in this roundel is playing a rebec, an early form of the violin. The instrument was known in England as early as the 11th century. The musician would rest it on the shoulder or across the chest, as depicted here.

Physical description

Roundel of clear glass with painted details and yellow (silver) stain. An angel with wide and long extended wings stands centrally in the roundel. He is playing a rebec. He wears what appears to be an alb and a low-fastening embroidered amice around his neck. He stands on a grassy field. The background is overpainted in brown/black pigment, through which barbs are scratched out. The whole is encased in a alternating white and yellow cable border.

Place of Origin

England (made)

Date

ca. 1420-1440 (made)

Artist/maker

Unknown

Materials and Techniques

Roundel of clear glass with painted details in a brown/black pigment and with yellow (silver) stain

Dimensions

Diameter: 19.6 cm

Object history note

The original location of the roundels is not known but their size and type suggest that they were set in a simple trellis or quarry pattern in a window of a private chapel or oratory.

They were removed from the now-demolished Hardwick House near Bury St Edmunds, Suffolk, in 1924. Hardwick House had been the property of the late Sir Thomas Cullum and his descendents.

Descriptive line

Roundel of clear glass with painted details and yellow (silver) stain depicting an angel musician. English, c.1420-40.

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

Herbert Norris, Church Vestments, their Origin and Development, Dover, 1950
Bernard Rackham, 'English Glass Paintings of St Edmund at South Kensington and Dorchester', Burlington Magazine, vol. XLVII, August 1925
Kerry Ayre, Medieval English Figurative Roundels, Corpus Vitrearum Medii Aevi Great Britain - Summary Catalogue 6, published for the British Academy, Oxford UP, 2002

Labels and date

AN ANGEL PLAYING A REBEC

Removed from the now-demolished Hardwick House in Suffolk in 1924, together with the roundel of St Edmund alongside.

England (Suffolk), about 1420-40
Museum no, C.112-1924 [(PW) 2004]

Production Note

Known to have been in Hardwick Hall near Bury St Edmunds, Suffolk.

Materials

Glass

Techniques

Painting; Silver staining

Subjects depicted

Rebec; Angel

Categories

Stained Glass; Religion; Christianity; British Galleries

Collection

Ceramics Collection

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