NOTTINGHAM, SECOND HALF 15TH CENTURY
NOTTINGHAM, SECOND HALF 15TH CENTURY
NOTTINGHAM, SECOND HALF 15TH CENTURY
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NOTTINGHAM, SECOND HALF 15TH CENTURY
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This group of Nottingham alabaster reliefs provides an important record of the visual culture and artistry of medieval England. The industry for producing alabaster carvings flourished from the mid-14th to the mid-16th centuries. While most were produced in Nottingham, workshops also existed in London, York and Burton-on-Trent. These highly stylised carvings were very occasionally made as single figures but most commonly as individual rectangular panels which could be transported with relative ease and fitted into an architectural surround. Compared to works in stone or marble, alabaster carvings were relatively cheap because of the ease with which the material could be carved, thus they were attractive to less wealthy churches and for private devotion.Throughout the two centuries of their production, English, and specifically Nottingham, alabasters were hugely popular on the local market and for export overseas. Dealers located in ports such as Hull, Southampton and Bristol represented the carvers and facilitated the exportation of their works across Europe and in particular to France and Spain, where even today some churches retain their English alabaster altarpieces. Unfortunately, the Dissolution of the Monasteries in England from 1536 onwards saw the total collapse of the industry and thereafter even larger numbers of English alabasters were shipped off to Catholic Europe to be sold at vastly reduced prices.Rectangular alabasters were often produced as part of a series of five panels making up an altarpiece. As can be discerned from the panels that are extant today, the most commonly depicted subjects were episodes from the Passion of Christ or Life of the Virgin and typically had a Crucifixion as the central scene. The floral, daisy-like pattern comprised of white dots with a red centre on a green background is characteristic of the decoration of Nottingham alabasters. The single standing figures of Saints Catherine and Michael would likely have been created to flank the narrative panels on an altarpiece at either end, as can be seen in the Swansea Altarpiece, now in the Victoria and Albert Museum, London.
NOTTINGHAM, SECOND HALF 15TH CENTURY

The Holy Trinity

Details
NOTTINGHAM, SECOND HALF 15TH CENTURY
The Holy Trinity
parcel-gilt polychrome alabaster relief; in a modern giltwood surround
19 3⁄8 x 10 5⁄8 in. (49.2 x 34.6 cm.)
Provenance
Acquired from Daniel Katz Ltd, London, April 2001.
Literature
F. Cheetham, Alabaster Images of Medieval England, Woodbridge, 2003, p. 150, no. 10.

COMPARATIVE LITERATURE
F. Cheetham, English Medieval Alabasters, Oxford, 1984, p. 302, no. 228.
Exhibited
F. Cheetham, The Alabaster Men: Sacred Images of Medieval England, Daniel Katz Ltd, 2001, pp. 46-7, no. 15.

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Amelia Walker
Amelia Walker Director, Specialist Head of Private Collections

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Lot Essay

The Trinity is represented in this panel through the personification of God the Father, shown seated and crowned in the centre, alongside God the Son illustrated by Christ on the Cross between his knees. The third element, the Holy Spirit, has since been lost but would have been shown in the form of a dove, its original position indicated by the dowel hole that remains above Christ’s head.

Whilst depictions of the Trinity in alabaster were common, both as the central element of altarpieces and as individual devotional panels, this lot features the rarer iconographic trope of the souls of the blessed held in a napkin by God the Father. This image derives from earlier motifs of the blessed in the bosom of Abraham and would have reminded the medieval viewer of God’s mercy (Cheetham, 2001, loc. cit.).

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