Saint Christopher thumbnail 1
Saint Christopher thumbnail 2
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Image of Gallery in South Kensington
On display at V&A South Kensington
Medieval & Renaissance, Room 10

Saint Christopher

Relief
Artist/Maker

This monumental figure of St Christopher would have been designed as a single devotional image, rather than forming part of an alabaster altarpiece. Images of St Christopher were highly popular in the Middle Ages, largely because of the inclusion of his story in the Golden Legend, the dissemination of the subject through woodcuts throughout Europe and the role of the saint as the protector of travellers, and against untimely death. Large-scale images of the saint often appear in English parish churches, usually in wall-paintings opposite the entrance.

This particular figure has, at his feet, a diminutive kneeling figure of a monk, which is likely to represent the donor. The scroll unwinding above him would originally have shown his prayer to the saint. The inclusion of this donor figure would support the theory that the sculpture was an individual commission, rather than bought off the shelf, as was usual for alabaster sculptures.

The plinth now associated with the figure, with its carved tracery and blank shield, is also of interest, although it was not an original part of the object. It can be related to French and particularly Spanish bases of 14th- and 15th-century date, and was probably added to the figure shortly before its sale in 1921.

The alabaster was donated to the V&A by friends of Cecil Duncan Jones (1883-1918) in his memory after his untimely death, following a lengthy period of internment during World War I, firstly in Ruhleben, and then in Holland.


object details
Object Type
Parts
This object consists of 2 parts.

  • Relief
  • Pedestal
Materials and Techniques
Carved alabaster
Brief Description
Relief panel in alabaster of Saint Christopher, England, about 1450
Dimensions
  • Weight: 54kg
Weighed in December 2005 for the Medieval and Renaissance Galleries
Credit line
Given in memory of Cecil Duncan Jones by his friends
Object history
Given by friends of Cecil Duncan Jones (1883-1918) in his memory. Jones spent most of World War I (December 1914 to April 1918) as a prisoner in Ruhleben, and then in Holland.

Purchased in Paris.
Historical context
Likely to have been designed as a single devotional image, rather than part of an altarpiece. It is of relatively large size, and devotional figures of St Christopher were popular. The figure is of a relatively standardised type: St Christopher has the usual raised right knee and right hand clasping the staff, while the pose of the Christ Child is conventional. But details like the buttons on St Christopher's tunic, and the treatment of the water, show the carving to be of relatively high quality.
Subjects depicted
Summary
This monumental figure of St Christopher would have been designed as a single devotional image, rather than forming part of an alabaster altarpiece. Images of St Christopher were highly popular in the Middle Ages, largely because of the inclusion of his story in the Golden Legend, the dissemination of the subject through woodcuts throughout Europe and the role of the saint as the protector of travellers, and against untimely death. Large-scale images of the saint often appear in English parish churches, usually in wall-paintings opposite the entrance.



This particular figure has, at his feet, a diminutive kneeling figure of a monk, which is likely to represent the donor. The scroll unwinding above him would originally have shown his prayer to the saint. The inclusion of this donor figure would support the theory that the sculpture was an individual commission, rather than bought off the shelf, as was usual for alabaster sculptures.



The plinth now associated with the figure, with its carved tracery and blank shield, is also of interest, although it was not an original part of the object. It can be related to French and particularly Spanish bases of 14th- and 15th-century date, and was probably added to the figure shortly before its sale in 1921.



The alabaster was donated to the V&A by friends of Cecil Duncan Jones (1883-1918) in his memory after his untimely death, following a lengthy period of internment during World War I, firstly in Ruhleben, and then in Holland.
Bibliographic References
  • Cheetham, Francis. English Medieval Alabasters. Oxford: Phaidon-Christie's Limited, 1984. p. 95 (cat. 24), ill. ISBN 0-7148-8014-0
  • Williamson, P. European Sculpture at the Victoria and Albert Museum. London, 1996. pp. 66-67, ill.
  • Marks, R, and Williamson, P (ed.). Gothic: Art for England 1400-1547, exhibition catalogue, V&A Publications, 2003, pp.396-7, cat. no. 283. ill.
  • W.L.Hildburgh, 'Notes on some English Alabaster Carvings', Antiquaries JournalI, 1921, pp.229-30, pl.IX.1
  • Trusted, Majorie. ed. The Making of Sculpture: the Materials and Techniques of European Sculpture. London: V&A Publications, 2007. p. 110. pl. 194.
  • Martínez de Aguirre Aldaz, Javier, Menéndez Pidal de Navascués, Faustino. Emblemas heráldicos en el arte medieval navarro / Javier Martínez de Aguirre Aldaz, Faustino Menéndez Pidal de Navascués. Pamplona, 1996. p. 374. fig. 355.
Collection
Accession Number
A.18-1921

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record createdFebruary 23, 2004
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