Current location: private collection
Project ref.: Trinity / 14th Century / Dorset
Dimensions: 1280.5mm h. x 483mm w. x 241 mm d.
Form: high relief (statue)
Period: 14th century (late)
Place of recovery: England, West Country, Christchurch
Probable origin: England, Dorset
Probable context: Abbey church / altar image
Construction/materials: Carved in three-quarter round. Reverse hollowed to extraordinary depth, leaving front carved surfaces perilously thin. Back of head solid but coarsely finished. Top of head relieved with drilled hole. Large hole in front plane of socle likely once used to secure smaller image of Christ crucified. Timber of dark purple-red colour characteristic of West Country oak.
Surface: Deeply oxidised surface with traces of polychrome.
Condition: In-period repair to edge of mantle. Badly cracked and repaired with wrought nails. Hands and image of Christ crucified lost.
Provenance: Recovered from 18th-century barn outside Christchurch; Dorset; sold Duke’s Auctioneers 21 June 2011; thence to present owner.
Image credit(s): Don White, 2011.
Description: A three-quarter life-size sculpture of God the Father (once an image of the Trinity, and now lacking the smaller image of Christ crucified) recovered from a barn approximately 8 miles distant from Christchurch Priory (Dorset). The stylistic and technical similarities to the c. 1360 Christchurch reredos, also the related and slightly earlier statues of the lower register of Exeter Cathedral’s West Front, are so great as to make a conclusion that the oak God the Father is the product of the same West Country workshop, which was active in multiple sculptural mediums. The closest comparisons may be made with the image of King David harping that flanks the head of the recumbent Jesse on the lower register of the Christchurch reredos. Both sculptures share heads that are narrow and almost cylindrical in profile. Their noses are excessively long and joind to the high foreheads at the same plane. The eyes are highly distinctive: almond-shaped, with a deeply bevelled brow ridges and an broad intermediate gouge cuts above and pupils subtly defined by two small gouge cuts. Both sculptures also sport nearly identical triangular beards composed of five graduated stands of comma-shaped locks per side. Further analogues with the sculptures Christchurch reredos and Exeter West Front include the ropey drapery folds and unusual elongation of the torso. Antiquarian concerning the Christchurch reredos record that the now vacant upper niches once housed large-scale wooden images, further reinforcing a conclusion that the workshop responsible worked in stone and wood.
A long, sharp bifurcated beard is characteristic of later fourteenth-century English depictions of God the Father. So too is a mantle fastened symmetrically about the shoulders with a large quatrefoil clasp. In an initial of the Trinity from the Abingdon Missal (Bodleian Library, MS. Rawl. G. 185, f. 97r), produced in Oxford between 1348 and 1374, the mantle is gathered into incurvate horizontal v-folds that lay across the breast of the oak sculpture. And the general distribution of its drapery follows late thirteenth-century North European models, as seen on c. 1370 limestone sculpture of St Peter as Pope from the Ile de France at the Walters Museum of Art (27.269).
- Jonathan Alexander and Paul Binski (eds.), Age of Chivalry: Art in Plantagenet England, 1200 – 1400, an exhibition at the Royal Academy of Arts, London, 1987 (London: Weidenfeld and Nicolson Ltd., 1984), pp. 106, 122.
- Lawrence Stone, Sculpture in Britain in the Middle Ages, The Pelican History of Art (Harmondsworth: Penguin, 1955), pp. 174-176, 190.
1. The Adoration, reredos, limestone, Christchurch Priory, Dorset (formerly Hampshire), c. 1360.
2.David harping, reredos, limestone, Christchurch Priory, Dorset (formerly Hampshire), c. 1360.
3. Seated kings, limestone, lower register of West Front, Exeter Cathedral, c. 1355.
4. Trinity initial, ‘The Abingdon Missal, Oxford, 1348-1374 (Bodleian Library, MS. Rawl. G. 185, f. 97r).
5.St Peter enthroned as Pope, limestone, Ile de France, c. 1370 (Walters Art Museum, 27.269).
Image credit(s): Don White, 2010;Bodleian Library; Walters Art Museum.