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The Flagellation of Christ
The Flagellation of Christ - Sculpture Style Middle age
Ref : 109008
Period :
11th to 15th century
Provenance :
Medium :
Dimensions :
l. 12.99 inch X H. 9.45 inch
Floris van Wanroij Fine Art

Old master painting, sculpture & works of art from the Haute Epoque period

+31 627420406
+31 402040596
The Flagellation of Christ

The Flagellation of Christ
England | Midlands | Traditionally Nottingham
Second quarter of the 15th Century | Ca. 1430-1450

Alabaster | Carved in high relief | With original polychrome, gesso knobs and gilding
H. 33 cm. W. 24 cm.

With J. Zeberg Antiques NV | Antwerp | 1996
Private collection | The Hague

Cheetham, F. (1984). English Medieval Alabasters. With a catalogue of the collection in the Victoria and Albert Museum. Oxford, p. 230, pp. 235-236, and p. 238, nrs. 157, 162, 163 and 165;
Prigent, C. (1998). Les Sculptures Anglaises d’albâtre. Paris, pp. 80-81, nrs. 18-19;
Cheetham, F. (2001). The Alabaster Men. Sacred Images From Medieval England. London, pp. 38-39, nr. 11

With a certificate of expertise and valuation by Mrs J. Zeberg, Vice-president of the Chambre Royale des Antiquaires de Belgique, dd. 7 February 1996

The present panel originates from a passion retable. In the Middle Ages, the most common images in Christian devotional contexts were those which took as their focus the Passion of Christ. It is a narrative described in all four of the Gospel accounts, but its various details were embellished markedly over the course of the Middle Ages with the arrival of hagiographic biographies, mystery plays, treatises, and apocryphal accounts. Alabaster – a form of gypsum – is a comparatively soft material and is therefore easy to carve. It can also be polished. Its natural colour was especially useful for the representation of faces and flesh, which would normally remain unpainted.

The present Flagellation of Christ relief panel is strongly related is style, detail and dimensions to The Betrayal of Christ panel, kept in the collection of the Victoria & Albert Museum in London, dated ca. 1430-1450 (inv. nr. A.6-1946; Cheetham, 1984, p. 230, cat. nr. 157). Note the comparable treatment of Christ’s gilded forked beard and the comparable low-belted doublets and hats with a rolled brim worn by the executioners. As in the London panel, these figures have darkened faces to show their villainy, in contrast to the pale face of Christ. Both panels are set on typical dark green painted lawns, articulated with daisy motifs on the ground, a typical scheme in Nottingham alabaster relief panels. The base of the present group has bevelled lower edges and its original plinth remains. Traces of red and gilt paint remain on the figures. Where the back of the London panel is incised with a fishbone-shaped mark, the present one shows no markings. However, both panels have lead-plugged holes in the back. Particularly noteworthy is the gold background with its unusual circular spots. These are in fact wholes which were adorned with little gilt gesso pastilles. Some of these such pastilles still survive on the background of the present panel, between Christ’s head and the raised right arm of the figure to the right and Christ’s left leg and the figure to the left. An earlier example can be found on a small altar with an alabaster relief with the Annunciation and the Trinity, dating to circa 1400, also in the collection of the Victoria & Albert Museum in London (inv. nr. A193-1946; Cheetham, 1984. p. 167, cat. nr. 94). The striking similarities between the present Flagellation panel and the London Betrayal panel, indicate a similar origin and date. The upper part of the present panel is missing, which – akin to the traditional designs – would have depicted two other executioners, of whom part of the upper body are still viable. There is also an old fracture to the base at the right. Compared to other materials such as marble, alabaster is soft and relatively fragile. During the Henrician reforms of the 1540s, England’s altarpieces and devotional statues were torn down almost without exception and certainly with uncompromising violence. The vast majority of religious sculpture was destroyed. Possibly, the fracture in the present panel is a result of this iconoclasm, which fury may have caused the original retable altarpiece to be smashed. Still, the exceptional quality of this Flagellation of Christ bears testament to the a Golden Age of English Medieval alabaster sculpture.

The carving of alabaster, mostly quarried in Tutbury and Chellaston near Nottingham in the English Midlands, took on industrial proportions in England between the 13th and the early 16th centuries. To date, not a single alabaster relief can be attributed to a sculptor or precisely located in terms of its place and date of creation. Traditionally these world renowned relief panels been no been attributed to individuals sculptors or workshops, but instead to a city – Nottingham. Recent historic resauch as however releaved that alabaster was also worked on in Burton-on-Trent, Chellaston, York, and even as far south as London. Demand was high and the market for altarpieces and smaller devotional images was a large one. It included not only religious foundations but also the merchant classes. The widespread distribution of Nottingham alabasters throughout Europe confirms that they were carved both for the domestic market, but also for export. Many hundreds of English alabasters were exported, some as far afield as Iceland and Santiago de Compostela in north-west Spain.

Floris van Wanroij Fine Art


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