Current location: private collection
Project ref.: Angel / 15th Century / Devon
Dimensions: 439mm h. x 153mm w. x 127mm d.
Form: sculpture in the round (statuette)
Iconography: Candle-bearing angel
Period: 15th century (late)
Place of recovery: England, Devon
Probable origin: England,
Probable context: unknown / altarpiece or tabernacle
Construction/materials: Carved from a single block of coarse-grained oak, comprising approximately one quarter of the full cross-section - the quartered pith oriented at forward left edge of the statuette. Pale, greyish timber. Frontal facial details and drapery coarsely rendered. Rear plane roughly finished with rudimentary modelling and drapery.Mortises for wings (now lost) from of two sets of three vertically oriented holes bored to the reverse of each shoulder. Hands/right forearm separately carved and formerly attached with round tenons. No attachment points to underside of base.
Surface: Front plane covered with thick coating of pale yellow ochre – probably undercoating for polychrome. Trace globules of polychrome. Bare oak exposed on rear plane and underside bleached grey.
Condition: Separately carved wings and hands/right forearm lost. Evidence of nailing around the right hip and heat damage to right torso indicate presence of now-lost functioning candlestick (probably of pricket form).
Provenance: Prior to 2012, private collection, North Devon; thence to present owner.
Image credit(s): Don White, 2012.
Description: The figure stands frontally; the right knee is flexed in a slight contrapposto and the bare toes of the right foot exposed. The angel is depicted as a slim, youthful male, with flowing neck-length hair formed of comma-shaped locks. It is depicted clad in a longer than floor-length alb with pleated waist and amice. The left arm is crooked and the forearm held against the waist, while the right (the separately carved forearm missing) is raised in-line with the width of the torso. The attire and posture correspond with the numerous surviving 15th- and early 16th-century so-called ‘altar angels’ to survive from French Flanders. these statuettes were displayed, often in pairs bearing candles of Passion Implements, flanking altars and tabernacles.
In style and execution, this altar angel more closely resembles the angles depicted in later fifteenth-century English art. Stand-out features include the heavy, linear box-pleats of the drapery, heavy pooling of folds around the feet, spheroid head and oversized, globular eyes without defined lids – the latter characteristic is commonly found in the numerous surviving English alabaster relief.
1. Angle bearing candle oak, French Flanders (Hainault), c. 1500 (private collection).
2. The Trinity, alabaster, England (probably North Midlands), late 15th century (private collection).
3. Angel bearing shield with Five Wounds, miniature, Psalter, east Anglia (probably Bury St Edmunds), 1461 (Bodleian Library, MS. Digby 227, f. 86r).
4. Angel bearing shield, north window 19, late 15th century, York Minster.
Image credit(s): Paul Fitzsimmons; Daniel Katz; Bodleian Library; Don White 2009.