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The Deposition

  • Object:

    Relief

  • Place of origin:

    England (made)

  • Date:

    early 15th century (made)

  • Artist/Maker:

    Unknown

  • Materials and Techniques:

    Carved alabaster, gesso, paint and gilt

  • Credit Line:

    Given by Dr W. L. Hildburgh FSA

  • Museum number:

    A.153-1946

  • Gallery location:

    In Storage

This alabaster panel shows the Deposition of Christ from the cross. The figure of Christ is supported by the central standing figure of Joseph of Arimathea, while Nicodemus kneels to the right to remove the nail from Christ's feet with a pair of pliers.

The top of the panel has a embattled canopy, a feature popular in the early 15th century. This feature links it to four other panels in the V&A (A.152-1946, A.154-1946, A.171-1946, A.172-1946) which must originally have formed an altarpiece showing scenes from Christ's Passion. This subject was particularly suitable for an altarpiece. It illustrated Christ's sacrifice of himself for mankind: the whole basis for the Mass celebrated at an altar. About 30 alabaster panels showing the Deposition survive- this makes it a relatively popular subject among surviving alabaster reliefs. We know that at least six of these were originally part of Passion altarpieces, but this particular version is the only surviving example where the panels have embattled canopies.

Physical description

The Deposition, alabaster relief. The dead Christ is lowered from the Cross by Joseph of Arimathea (left) and a beardless figure on a ladder (right). Nicodemus kneels (right) to remove the nails from Christ's feet with pincers. On the left stand the Virgin and St John. Green and flowered ground and cross. Gilt backing with gesso and knobs (now missing). Slight traces of gilding and colour.

Place of Origin

England (made)

Date

early 15th century (made)

Artist/maker

Unknown

Materials and Techniques

Carved alabaster, gesso, paint and gilt

Dimensions

Height: 44.2 cm, Width: 27.8 cm, Depth: 5.5 cm, Weight: 9.7 kg, :

Object history note

All five panels: In old oratory of church of the Holy Sepulchre, Palma de Mallorca. In the Musée Van Stolk before 1928 (mentioned in catalogue, published in the Hague, 1910, cat. no. 411). Sold at auction in Amsterdam in May 1928, and panels dispersed to two buyers. Re-assembled approximately a year later. Lent to the V&A by W. L. Hildburgh, and then given to the museum in 1946.

Historical context note

Part of an altarpiece depicting scenes from the Passion cycle (described by F. Cheetham as Altarpiece B). There are about thirty surviving panels showing the Deposition, of which we know that six were part of Passion altarpieces. The embattled upper edge was a feature popular in the early fifteenth century, although this is the only known surviving complete (or almost complete) English alabaster Passion altarpiece with such decoration. Three similarly embattled Passion panels do survive at the Musée de Carcassone.

Descriptive line

Relief, alabaster, The Deposition, England, early 15th century

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

Cheetham, Francis. English Medieval Alabasters. Oxford: Phaidon-Christies, 1984. p.68 (cat.B) and p.260 (cat. 187) , ill. ISBN 0-7148-8014-0
W.L. Hildburgh, 'Miscellaneous Notes concerning English Alabaster Carvings', Archaeological Journal LXXXVIII, pp.231-233 (whole altarpiece), plate IVB (Deposition panel)

Subjects depicted

Crosses; Purse; Ladders; Instruments of the Passion; Pincers; Saints; Nails

Categories

Sculpture; Religion; Christianity

Collection

Sculpture Collection

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