323
323
English, Nottingham, first half 15th century
VIRGIN AND CHILD
JUMP TO LOT
323
English, Nottingham, first half 15th century
VIRGIN AND CHILD
JUMP TO LOT

Details & Cataloguing

Old Master Sculpture & Works of Art

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English, Nottingham, first half 15th century
VIRGIN AND CHILD
with remnants of a red label on the reverse
partially polychromed alabaster
75cm., 29½in.
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Provenance

Redemptorist Monastery, Saint Truiden, Limburg, Belgium, after 1866;
Dr. Albert Figdor, Vienna, before 1890 - until 1930;
his sale, Paul Cassirer Berlin, 29-30 September 1930, vol. IV, lot 142, pl. LXXVII;
European noble family;
and thence by descent to the present owner

Literature

W.H.J. Waele, Instrumenta ecclesiastica, Brussels, 1866, no. 10;
J. Helbig, La sculpture et les arts plastiques au pays du Liège et sur les bords de la Meuse, Bruges, 1890, p. 119, pl. XVII;
J. Destrée, Annales de la Société d'archéologie de Bruxelles, vol. 23, 1909, p. 456, fig. 7;
P. Clemen and J. Baum, Belgische Kunstdenkmäler, Munich, 1923, vol. I, fig. 153;
W.L. Hildburgh, 'Further notes on English alabaster carvings', Antiquaries Journal X, 1930, p. 43;
Illustrated London news, September 1930, illustrated;
W.L. Hildburgh, 'Medieval English alabaster figures of the Virgin and Child - I: Our Lady standing', Burlington Magazine LXXXVIII, 1946, p. 32, pl. G;
F. Cheetham, English medieval alabasters. With a catalogue of the Victoria and Albert Museum, Oxford, 1984, p. 191;
F. Cheetham, Alabaster images of medieval England, Woodbridge, 2003, p. 89, no. 5

Catalogue Note

This large and extraordinarily well-preserved alabaster Virgin and Child first appeared in the art-historical literature as early as 1866 and has been in most surveys of Nottingham alabasters since. Even though it was thought to have stemmed from the Netherlands up until the great sale of the collection of Albert Figdor in 1930, the statue has taken its place among the best standing Virgins from 15th-century England since Hildburgh’s first survey of this rare type of free-standing sculpture (op.cit.).

Both Hildburgh’s and Cheetham’s publications illustrate the varieties among these alabaster Virgins (op.cit.). Firstly, they were carved with the Child on either their right or left arm. Then the sculptors employed different attributes: on occasion Christ handles a bird whilst the Virgin either holds her drapery, a sceptre, or the flower seen here. Sizes, lastly, vary from 38 to 139 centimeters. Both iconographically and stylistically the Virgin that compares most closely to the present figure is the much smaller example in the former Diözesanmuseum of Cologne illustrated by Hildburgh (1946, op. cit., pl. F). A version that no longer has her attribute in the Victoria and Albert Museum has similarly executed facial features and cascading swathes of drapery under the arms (inv. no. A.140-1946). Despite these resemblances none of the Virgins retain so much of their original surface as the present statue nor do they possess such details as the virtuoso articulation of the fingers or the nearly fully undercut drapery under the proper left hand.

Alabaster was quarried near Derby, west of Nottingham, from the Middle Ages onwards. Initially it was used in tomb carving and although unsuitable for outdoor use its popularity increased and it was carved as figures and reliefs illustrating the Life of Christ and the Saints. It was easy to carve as well as to paint with vivid medieval paints, which in many instances remain. By the fifteenth century, an international trade for such reliefs was in existence with examples reaching as far north as Iceland and as far south as Spain and the Mediterranean (see the magnificent altarpiece from Castropol in Spain, which was sold at Sotheby's on 5 December 2012, lot 13). Although these sculptures were carved in a number of places, such as Burton-on-Trent, Chellaston, York and even London, it was Nottingham that was the major centre for production. Following the Dissolution of the Monasteries in 1539, the industry suffered as the number of commissions shrank away, dying out completely by the end of the reign of King Henry VIII in 1547.

RELATED LITERATURE
W.L. Hildburgh, 'Medieval English alabaster figures of the Virgin and Child - I: Our Lady standing', Burlington Magazine LXXXVIII, 1946, pp. 30-33 and 35;  F. Cheetham, English medieval alabasters. With a catalogue of the Victoria and Albert Museum, Oxford, 1984, p. 191, no. 118; F. Cheetham, Alabaster images of medieval England, Woodbridge, 2003, p. 89-90

Old Master Sculpture & Works of Art

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London