A Fool's Head
- Place of origin:
ca. 1550-1700 (made)
- Materials and Techniques:
- Credit Line:
Given by Dr W. L. Hildburgh FSA
- Museum number:
- Gallery location:
The prime function of jets seems to have been to signify that pilgrims had completed their journeys, and reached the shrine of St James (the patron Saint of Spain) 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.
This piece represents a fool's head and it's precise function is uncertain. It is possible that it was the pommel of a jester's stick. It may have been connected somehow with the Feasts of Fools when 'the holiest offices and orders were made matters of the lightest jesting'. References to such festivities occur from the thirteenth to the seventeenth century.
Grinning head with stylised tightly-curled hair, a large nose, wrinkled forehead and a ruff-like collar set on an integral bulbous base, on which are carved three shells. A smooth disc is carved on the back.
Place of Origin
ca. 1550-1700 (made)
Materials and Techniques
Height: 7.2 cm, Width: 3.6 cm
Object history note
Given by Dr. W. L. Hildburgh, F. S. A., 1953.
Historical context note
It's precise function is uncertain; it is possible that it was the pommel of a jester's stick. It may have been connected somehow with the Feasts of Fools when 'the holiest offices and orders were made matters of the lightest jesting'. References to such festivities occur from the thirteenth to the seventeenth century.
Head, of a fool, jet, Spanish (Santiago de Compostela), about 1550-1700
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.154, cat. no. 86.
Santiago: Camino de Europa (Mosteiro de San Martino Pinario 01/07/1993-30/09/1993)
Europalia 85 España-Santiago de Compostela -1000 ans de Pélerinage Europeen (Abbaye Saint-Pièrre, Centrum voor Kunst en Cultur 29/09/1985-22/12/1985)