Few sculptures embody the solemn gravity of the Trinity like this beautiful example of Nottingham alabaster carving. The Father’s placid expression instils a quiet power into the scene, whilst the Corpus, which bears the wear of many centuries, recalls cadaverous images from English medieval tomb sculpture.
English alabasters were exported throughout Europe, but nowhere more so than France, with its historic ties to Britain, which were finally severed when the forces of Charles VII finally drove his Plantagenet foes out of Normandy and Gascony in the 1440s and 1450s. Despite this, the links between the two countries remained strong, and it was to France that three ships laden with alabaster images were sent in 1550, following the zealous iconoclastic campaigns launched by Edward VI’s protestant ministers. The present alabaster has probably survived because it was either made for export in the 15th
century or subsequently sold in the years immediately following the Reformation. The composition follows Francis Cheetham’s Trinity – Type A
, which depicts God the Father holding the Crucified Christ in the Throne of Mercy, with the Holy Spirit in the form of a dove perched upon the Cross. Cheetham further categorises Nottingham Trinity compositions as: Type B
, in which God holds the the Souls of the Blessed; Type C
, where the Trinity is flanked by attendants; and Type D
, in which the Three are carved separately.
Whilst the Trinity was one of the most popular subjects employed by English medieval alabaster carvers, relatively few have appeared on the market in recent years, and fewer still which are as moving as the present group. The present relief emerges onto the market after being in a distinguished French private collection for almost a century.
F. Cheetham, Alabaster Images of Medieval England, Woodbridge, 2003, pp. 147-153