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Roundel - Judgement of Solomon

Judgement of Solomon

  • Object:

    Roundel

  • Place of origin:

    Germany (made)

  • Date:

    ca. 1520 (made)

  • Materials and Techniques:

    Clear glass with painted details and yellow (silver) stain

  • Museum number:

    C.138-1931

  • Gallery location:

    In Storage

This roundel depicts the Old Testament story of The Judgement of Solomon. King Solomon, who was celebrated for his wisdom, was called upon to judge between two women who both claimed to be the mother of the same child. He ordered that the child should be cut in two and divided between them. The real mother gave up her claim rather than see her child killed, as Solomon knew she would, and he restored the child to her.

The figures in this roundel have rounded features. This, together with the sparse linear drawing combined with thick matt-black washes and stippling, suggests that it was produced about 1520 in a workshop in northern Germany. Such roundels were produced on an almost industrial scale in this area.

Small roundels such as this one were affordable and were inserted into windows in private homes and in professional buildings such as guild halls. The owners chose the subject matter to suit their own purposes and tastes. This story would have been popular in judicial settings as a reminder to judge wisely, or in a domestic setting to illustrate the Commandment against bearing false witness.

Physical description

Solomon is shown seated on a throne in the centre of the roundel wearing an ermine-lined cloak and a crown. The throne has a contemporary shell-pattern back. Solomon holds a sceptre in his left hand. On the right of the panel, a woman kneels before the throne. In front of her lies the dead body of a small child. On the left, another woman stands pleading with Solomon and holding the hand of a small child. There are five figures standing in the background, witnessing the events.

Place of Origin

Germany (made)

Date

ca. 1520 (made)

Materials and Techniques

Clear glass with painted details and yellow (silver) stain

Dimensions

Diameter: 8.25 in

Historical context note

The style of the figures in this roundel with their rounded features and the method of painting, sparse linear drawing but with thick matt black washes and stippling, would indicate that this roundel was produced in a northern German workshop about 1520.

Such roundels were produced on an almost industrial scale in Northern Germany and especially in the Lowlands centres such as Amsterdam and Leyden. The demand for decorated glass panels had been increasing amongst the middling classes since the latter part of the 15th century. More and more people were living in urban centres and glazing their windows. Small roundels such as this one were affordable and were inserted into windows in private homes and in professional buildings such as guild halls.

These painted glass roundels were intended to be viewed at close quarters and so their owners would have chosen the subject matter to suit their own purposes and tastes. There was a trend for displaying decorated roundels with moralising images. Many of these roundels depicted scenes from the Old Testament of the Bible. They could be single scenes or they could have formed part of a group of scenes such as the story of 'Tobit and the Archangel Raphael'.

This roundel shows a single scene of the 'Judgement of Solomon'. This story is taken from the Old Testament Book of Kings (1 Kings 3: 16-28). In the Bible King Solomon was the son of David and Bathsheba. He was celebrated for his wisdom. The 'Judgment of Solomon' was an incident during his reign in which, when Solomon was called upon to judge between two women who both laid claimed to be the mother of the same child. The claim was laid before Solomon at his court and he judged that to determine the truth he ordered that the child should be cut in two and divided, literally, between the two women. The real mother, rather than seeing her child dead, gave up her claim to it, and Solomon restored the child to her. In his wisdom, he knew this would happen and awarded custody to the real mother.

Such a story would have been poular in judicial settings as a reminder to judge wisely or in a domestic setting illustrating the Commandment against bearing false witness. In such a context it may have formed part of a series of roundels illustrating the Ten Commandments. There is another roundel in the V&A (Museum no.C.139-1931) depicting the Old Testament story of 'Joseph and Potiphar's Wife' which was used to illustrate the Commandment against desiring someone's wife. It is very likely that these two roundels were made in the same workshop

Descriptive line

Painted and stained roundel depicting the Judgement of Solomon, German, about 1520

Materials

Glass

Techniques

Painting; Silver staining

Subjects depicted

Devotio moderna; Throne; Crown; Judgement; Sceptre

Categories

Stained Glass; Religion

Collection

Ceramics Collection

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