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Fragment from a frieze - Profile of a girl

Profile of a girl

  • Object:

    Fragment from a frieze

  • Place of origin:

    London (probably, made)

  • Date:

    1518-1522 (made)

  • Artist/Maker:


  • Materials and Techniques:

    Cast terracotta

  • Museum number:


  • Gallery location:

    British Galleries, Room 58, case WN

Object Type
This terracotta relief, showing the profile of a girl with wings at her ears - a motif probably inspired by classical sources - was produced as part of the architectural decoration for the exterior of Suffolk Place, Southwark, London. This and other reliefs were excavated on the site of the house in 1937.

Suffolk Place was a vast house built between 1518 and 1522 by Charles Brandon, 1st Duke of Suffolk for his wife Mary Tudor, sister of Henry VIII. It is the earliest example of a Tudor courtyard house known to have carried this type of extensive terracotta decoration. This use of terracotta quickly became fashionable and appeared on other buildings commissioned by Henry VIII's courtiers, including Cardinal Wolsey's York Place (later Whitehall) and Hampton Court Palace.

Charles Brandon was an orphan raised at the court of Henry VII and became a life-long friend of Henry VIII, who made him 1st Duke of Suffolk in 1514. The Duke was one of Henry VIII's most powerful courtiers, marrying Henry's sister, Mary, in 1518.

Materials & Making
The relief is made of moulded clay that was dried and fired to create terracotta (literally 'cooked earth'), a material suitable for use as external decoration. Although building projects such as Suffolk Place were on a vast scale, by using a cheap raw material and a reproductive method of manufacture the buildings could be decorated economically and speedily.

Physical description

Octagonal relief in cream terracotta. The head of a girl in profile to the left, with long plaits of hair knotted together in front. A pair of wings cover her ears and are tied round her neck by a riband fastened in front with a tassel.

Place of Origin

London (probably, made)


1518-1522 (made)



Materials and Techniques

Cast terracotta


Height: 31 cm, Width: 28.5 cm, Depth: 13.5 cm maximum

Object history note

Probably made in London for Suffolk Place, Southwark, the house of Charles Brandon, Duke of Suffolk (died in 1545).
Found during excavations in 1937 for a new building for Messrs Mosers on the site of Suffolk, the place of Charles Brandon, Duke of Suffolk, brother-in-law to Henry VIII. Given to the Museum by Messrs Mosers Ltd, Iron Steel & Hardware Merchants, Borough High Street, Southwalk, London in 1938, together with cat. nos. 34 to 43.

Descriptive line

Relief, fragment from a frieze, terracotta, the profile of a girl, Britain, ca. 1518-22

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

Morris, Richard K, 'Architectural Terracotta Decoration in Tudor England' in Lindley, Paul, Frangenberg, Thomas (ed.) Secular Sculpture 1300-1550 Stamford, 2000, pp.179-209.
Lindley, P, review of Homand, M, 'The Early Tudor Country House: Architecture and Politics 1490-1550' Oxford Art Journal. XI/I, 1988, pp.65, 66 (fig. 1.)
Gunn, S.J and Lindley, P.G. 'Charles Brandon's Westhorpe: An Early Tudor Courtyard House in Suffolk' Archaeological Journal CXLV, 1988, p. 280, pl. XXIC.
Lindley, P.G. 'Playing check-mate with royal majesty? Wolsey's patronage of Italian Renaissance Sculpture' in Gunn, S.J and Lindley, P.G (ed.) Cardinal Wolsey. Church, State and Art Cambridge, 1991, pp.261-285
Manning and Bray, History...of the County of Surrey. III, 1814, pp.632-4
Rendle, William and Norman, Philips Inns of Old Southwark and their associations. London: Longmans, Green. 1888. p.265
Stow, Survey of London 1908, pp.59, 60
Bilbey, Diane with Trusted, Marjorie. British Sculpture 1470 to 2000. A Concise Catalogue of the Collection at the Victoria and Albert Museum. London: V& A Publications, 2002. pp. 26. cat. no. 33
Review [1911-1938], Victoria & Albert Museum. Review of the Principal Acquisitions during the Year, London, 1938, p. 4
Snodin, M. and Styles, J., Design & the Decorative Arts: Britain 1500-1900, London, 2001
Mosers, Mosers of the Borough, (trade pamphlet), London, [n.d.], [1938], p. 7, fig. A

Labels and date

British Galleries:
These terracottas were fired like bricks in a kiln, but were probably made from finer, denser clays. They were mass-produced and used mainly to decorate exterior brickwork. The motifs shown here are fragments of pilaster ornament and of a winged cherub, which may originally have supported a coat of arms. The winged female head evokes the spirit of ancient Rome and may be derived from a classical motif. Similar works are found elsewhere in Europe, and these examples may show the influence of Italian sculptors working in England. [27/03/2003]





Subjects depicted

Wings; Girl


Sculpture; Architectural fittings


Sculpture Collection

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