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Relief (fragment) - St James the Greater

St James the Greater

  • Object:

    Relief (fragment)

  • Place of origin:

    Santiago de Compostela (made)

  • Date:

    ca. 1600-1700 (made)

  • Artist/Maker:


  • Materials and Techniques:


  • 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

The head of St. James, shown in the form of a bust, bearded and wearing a hat with a shell attached, and holding a staff on his right side. Damage at the base of the figure indicates that it might be a fragment of a full-length figure.

Place of Origin

Santiago de Compostela (made)


ca. 1600-1700 (made)



Materials and Techniques



Height: 2.8 cm, Width: 2.1 cm

Object history note

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

Descriptive line

Relief (fragment), jet, of St James the Greater, Spanish (Santiago de Compostela), 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.145, cat. no. 72.






Christianity; Sculpture


Sculpture Collection

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