Lot 13
  • 13

English, Nottingham, mid-15th century

80,000 - 120,000 GBP
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  • Retable with the Virgin and Child accompanied by female saints
  • partially polychromed and gilt alabaster
  • English, Nottingham, mid-15th century
St Catherine of Alexandria and St Margaret with illegible inscriptions in paint on the ground and each of the saints with tape labels numbered: 1 to 4 respectively


probably ordered by Diego García de Moldes, for the Capilla de Nuestra Señora del Campo, the chapel at the family house in Castropol, Asturias, Spain, consecrated in 1461;
mentioned in the will of Pedro García de Moldes y Castrillón, 1641;
thence by descent to the present owner


Catedral Metropolitana Basílica de San Salvador, Oviedo, Origines arte y cultura en Asturias. Siglos VII-XV, 1993, no. 283


F.J. Fernandez Conde and M. Morales Saro (eds.), Origines arte y cultura en Asturias. Siglos VII-XV, exhib. cat. Cathedral of San Salvador, Oviedo, 1993, pp. 456-457, no. 283
F. de Caso Fernandez, El arte gótico en Asturias, Gijón, 1999, p. 154
A. Franco Mata, El retablo gótico Cartagena y los alabastres ingleses en España, Murcia, 1999, pp. 57, 65 and 106-107, figs. 14 and 114-117


Overall the condition of the alabasters is good with dirt and wear to the surfaces consistent with age. There is wear to the original polychromy and gilding throughout. There are old glue marks to the backs of the saints and canopy. Virgin and Child: There are a few chips and scratches to the drapery at the abdomen and at the collar. There are a few smaller chips and abrasions, including to the sides, the ground and plant. There may be a loss to Christ's proper right foot. There are a few losses to the back of the Virgin's coronet. There are losses to the ground at either side of the Virgin. There are three wire mounts to the back. Canopy: There are a few chips at the edges and there are two small holes to the underside. There are two wire mounts to the reverse. Saint Catherine: The head is reattached. The back two pinnacles and centre right pinnacle are lost. There are a few small losses to the hair, drapery and wheel. It is possible that the sword once had a quillion. The is a metal mount to the back. Saint Apollonia: There is a restored break running through the middle of the figure. The nose is lost and there are a few chips to the edges of the base. There appears to be a loss to the drapery on the lower right side. Mary Magdalen: There are restored breaks to the face and losses to the top of the head. There appears to be a loss to the drapery at the bottom left and a chip to the drapery to the right of the abdomen. There are a few abrasions to the ground.
"In response to your inquiry, we are pleased to provide you with a general report of the condition of the property described above. Since we are not professional conservators or restorers, we urge you to consult with a restorer or conservator of your choice who will be better able to provide a detailed, professional report. Prospective buyers should inspect each lot to satisfy themselves as to condition and must understand that any statement made by Sotheby's is merely a subjective, qualified opinion. Prospective buyers should also refer to any Important Notices regarding this sale, which are printed in the Sale Catalogue.

Catalogue Note

Aside from its exhibition in the cathedral of Oviedo in 1993, this is the first time in 550 years that the present altarpiece has left a small family chapel in Asturias in the North of Spain.

The geographical location of Asturias made it an important harbour for trade with the English. The town of Castropol, near the estuary of the Ria de Ribadeo, profited immensely from this relationship. This is illustrated by the rise to prominence of the town's leading family, the García de Moldes, in the 15th century. This enabled the family's head, the seafarer Don Diego García de Moldes, to erect a family seat and chapel according to the latest taste. It is not surprising that he turned to the English for the decoration of the chapel.

Alabaster was quarried from the Middle Ages onwards near Derby. Initially the alabaster was used for local tombs but as the malleability and abundance of the stone became apparent workshops began producing the now famous figures and reliefs illustrating the lives of Christ, the Virgin and the Saints. Although these objects were carved in a number of places such as Burton-on-Trent, Chellaston, York and even London, it was Nottingham which was the major centre for production. The trade in English alabasters became international by the fifteenth century and altarpieces can still be found in churches as far north as Iceland as far south as Zaragoza.

F. Cheetham, English Medieval Alabasters. With a catalogue of the collection in the Victoria and Albert Museum, Oxford, 1984; A. Franco Mata, El retablo gótico Cartagena y los alabastres ingleses en España, Murcia, 1999; F. Cheetham, Alabaster Images of Medieval England, Woodbridge, 2003