An oak Misericord fragment depicting a girl with prominent ears wearing a horned head-dress and wimple.
Southern Netherlands, circle of Claes de Bruyn, mid 15th century.
Measures 26 x 24 x 9.5cm.
The top of the shelf and the reverse have been resurfaced so that it can be used as a wall bracket. The bottom fifth of the carving is a separate piece suggesting that it could be a 19th century repair.
For a similar Misericord also attributed to Claes de Bruyn and possibly from the same set, see the collection of the Victoria and Albert Museum, accession number; W.24-1910.
It is described as:
Misericord depicting a girl with prominent ears wearing a horned head-dress and wimple, ca. 1441-45, Southern Netherlands, oak, possibly carved by Claes de Bruyn.
'Misericord' is the name given to the ledge supported by a corbel or bracket, set on the underside of the hinged seats in the choirs of churches. They had no religious function but gave some support to the monks and clergy in the long parts of the services when standing was required. This explains the name 'misericord', which comes from the Latin for mercy. The decoration was often amusing and sometimes moral.
This misericord is one of a set of eighteen which were given to the Victoria and Albert Museum in 1910 by a Mr. J.H. Fitzhenry Esq.. It was originally thought to come from a church in Northampton but the lack of supporters (the name for carved extensions on either side of a misericord, which were a feature typical of English misericords) suggests that it comes from Continental Europe.
Parallels between these misericords and those in the church of St Peter in Leuven, Belgium has lead the Dutch misericord specialist J.A.J.M. Verspaandonk to suggest that they may have been carved by the same person – a Brussels craftsman named Claes de Bruyn.
It is not known what this particular misericord was meant to signify to its contemporary audience of monks. However, the subject fits into the general tradition of misericords depicting material related to everyday life or moral tales rather than overtly religious subjects. The horned head-dress of the girl is key to the dating of the set of misericords as a whole.
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