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Specified lots are being stored at Crozier Park Ro… Read more PROPERTY OF A DECEASED ESTATE

A standing bishop

A standing bishop
parcel-gilt alabaster with traces of polychromy; on an integrally carved base; two paper labels to the reverse each inscribed ‘147’; the reverse simply finished
33 7/8 in. (86 cm.) high
Acquired from Kunsthandel J. Polak, Amsterdam, 7 June 1999.
M. van Vlierden, Hout- en steensculptuur van Museum Catharijnconvent ca. 1200-1600, 2004.
K. Woods, Cut in Alabaster - A Material of Sculpture and its European Traditions 1350-1550, 2018.
Special notice
Specified lots are being stored at Crozier Park Royal (details below) or will be removed from Christie’s, 8 King Street, London, SW1Y 6QT by 5.00pm on the day of the sale. Christie’s will inform you if the lot has been sent offsite. If the lot has been transferred to Crozier Park Royal, it will be available for collection from 12.00pm on the second business day following the sale. Please call Christie’s Client Service 24 hours in advance to book a collection time at Crozier Park Royal. All collections from Crozier Park Royal will be by pre-booked appointment only. Tel: +44 (0)20 7839 9060 Email: cscollectionsuk@christies.com. If the lot remains at Christie’s, 8 King Street, it will be available for collection on any working day (not weekends) from 9.00am to 5.00pm

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Clementine Sinclair
Clementine Sinclair Director, Head of Department

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Lot Essay

Although frequently referred to as marble in documents of the mediaeval period, alabaster was particularly favoured as a material in Northern Europe, with the most significant quarries to be found in England and Spain. It was prized for the ease with which it could be carved, as well as the lustrous and slightly translucent surface, considered especially appropriate for the depiction of skin passages. When carved thinly enough this transparency meant that it could even be used in the place of glass windows and, when painted, it could provide a less expensive alternative to stained glass (Woods, op. cit., p. 9).
Geologically, alabaster is hydrated calcium sulphate and it is found in pieces which are sometimes clustered in seams. The size of the pieces can vary extensively, and the amount of veining or discolouration from surrounding materials during the formation of the alabaster also affected the amount that was suitable for use (ibid., p. 13). Many quarries produced only small individual pieces of alabaster and there was a thriving industry transporting the material across Europe from the quarries that produced the largest and purest pieces.
The present alabaster bishop is unusual for its large size, and the fact that the top of the mitre is carved from a separate piece may suggest that the sculptor was limited by the dimensions of the piece of alabaster available to him. With its angular folds of drapery and its attention to the lavishly decorated morse and mitre it has its origins in late gothic sculpture of the Burgundian Netherlands. However, the realism of the bemused expression of the bishop also points towards renaissance ideals. Cultural, political and economic ties across Europe, but particularly between the Burgundian Netherlands and Spain, meant that it was possible for artists of the period to work in several different European centres, and the author of the bishop offered here appears to have absorbed some of these different influences. Stylistic similarities between the present sculptor and artists such as Gil de Siloé (d. 1501) include the rendering of the drapery, the rich ornamentation and the psychological intensity of his subjects. Of Flemish origin, de Siloé worked extensively in Spain, and is perhaps best known for his work at the Miraflores monastery, near Burgos, including the elaborate alabaster tomb of Juan II of Castille and his wife Isabella of Portugal.

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