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Badge - St James the Greater

St James the Greater

  • Object:


  • Place of origin:

    Santiago de Compostela (made)

  • Date:

    ca. 1600-1700 (made)

  • Artist/Maker:


  • Materials and Techniques:

    Jet with silver mounts

  • Credit Line:

    Given by Dr W. L. Hildburgh FSA

  • Museum number:


  • Gallery location:

    Sculpture, Room 111, The Gilbert Bayes Gallery, case DR3

Semi-precious materials such as this often associated with a particular geographical region and highly valued because of their rarity. Many of the religious objects were portable, as were the small portraits. They were often made near to the source of the material and then taken elsewhere. St James the Greater (Santiago) was the patron saint of Spain. His shrine at Santiago de Compostela was the goal of many pilgrims, hence he is shown wearing a pilgrim’s hat and carrying a staff.
The prime function of jets seems to have been to signify that pilgrims had completed their journeys, and reached the shrine of St James at the Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela, which pilgrims did over the course of six hundred years, from the twelfth to the eighteenth century. Many seem to have formed beads of rosaries. In structure jet is a particularly dense type of coal, and can be carved and polished. Medicinal and indeed magical qualities were thought to be inherent in the substance from earliest times. Jet is found in different parts of Europe (as well as North America), but the two richest regions are the Asturias in northern Spain, and Whitby, Yorkshire, in North East England.

Physical description

A half-length figure of St. James is shown bearded, wearing a hat adorned with a shell, and holding a book (the Gospels) and a gourd in his left hand, and a staff in his right. The mounts of this piece include a metal loop at the back, probably so that it could be secured as a badge to a cap.

Place of Origin

Santiago de Compostela (made)


ca. 1600-1700 (made)



Materials and Techniques

Jet with silver mounts


Height: 4.7 cm, Width: 3.4 cm

Object history note

Given by Dr. W. L. Hildburgh, F. S. A., 1953.

Historical context note

Probably to secure the piece as a badge at a cap.

Descriptive line

Badge, perhaps pilgrim's badge, jet with silver mounts, St James the Greater, Spanish (Santiago de Compostella), ca. 1600-1700

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

Trusted, Marjorie. Spanish sculpture : catalogue of the post-medieval Spanish sculpture in wood, terracotta, alabaster, marble, stone, lead and jet in the Victoria and Albert Museum. London : Victoria and Albert Museum, 1996, pp.144, cat. no. 71.
Trusted, Marjorie, ed. The Making of Sculpture. The Materials and Techniques of European Sculpture. London: 2007, p. 143, pl. 264


Jet; Silver


Casting; Mounting

Subjects depicted



Christianity; Sculpture


Sculpture Collection

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