- Place of origin:
Suffolk, England (made)
- Materials and Techniques:
- Museum number:
- Gallery location:
British Galleries, room 58b, case 1
Corbels (or brackets) acted as supports. Often they would be fixed high up on the wall of a medieval church, so as to take the weight of an arch or vault rib. Because of their lofty position, they frequently took the form of carved angels.
This corbel forms part of a set, said to have come from the parish church of Great St Mary's, Bury St Edmunds, Suffolk. This highly important church in East Anglia was enlarged between about 1420 and 1480 and provided with a lavishly carved interior, which influenced other churches in the region. The V&A acquired these corbels from a collector, who had purchased them in Ipswich.
The angel is represented playing a lute with a quill. This was the standard way of playing the instrument until it was superseded by the finger method. This was widespread in Italy by about 1480. Angels holding musical instruments were popular medieval subjects. Other corbels in the group include one with an angel playing a harp and another with a gittern, a plucked stringed instrument with a relatively short neck.
Place of Origin
Suffolk, England (made)
Materials and Techniques
Height: 61 cm, Width: 23 cm, Depth: 22 cm back to top of head
Object history note
Made in Suffolk.
Figures purchased from George Jennings.
Notes from R.P. 1412/M (?) and 130M
17 January 1911 Purchase Form
listed, among 6 objects purchased, as
"a set of 3 gothic corbels in great relief of half length figures of angels playing musical instruments".
Condition listed as "chipped & damaged".
6 January 1911 letter Jennings to Skinner
offers several objects including "three oaken corbels. Gothic ecclesiastic of half length figure of angels playing musical instruments ab. 18 inches high bought at Ipswich abt. 10 years ago." He refers to photographs (not in RP files).
23 January 1911 Bracket Minutes
describe the corbels as "characteristic examples of English architectural carving of the 15th century". The examples offered would fill a gap in the museum collection.
The 3 corbels are sanctioned for purchase along with 2 other objects for £31.
Labels and date
These two corbels show half-figures of angels playing a lute and a harp. They once supported a roof structure, perhaps at Great St Mary's Church in Bury St Edmunds, Suffolk, which was enlarged between 1420 and 1480. Similar work can still be found in other churches in Suffolk. [27/03/2003]