Once I was a clever boy learning the arts of Oxford... is a quotation from the verses written by Bishop Richard Fleming (c.1385-1431) for his tomb in Lincoln Cathedral. Fleming, the founder of Lincoln College in Oxford, is the subject of my research for a D. Phil., and, like me, a son of the West Riding. I have remarked in the past that I have a deeply meaningful on-going relationship with a dead fifteenth century bishop... it was Fleming who, in effect, enabled me to come to Oxford and to learn its arts, and for that I am immensely grateful.

Friday, 6 August 2010

English fourteenth century altar frontal

Also featured in the Medieval religion post on images of St Anne was this fourteenth-century English altar frontal now in Paris at the Musée National du Moyen Âge (Musée de Cluny):

Source: Web site of MNMA (Cluny Museum)

Scenes from the Life of the Virgin

circa 1335

Painted wood
Approx. 3 feet high by 10 feet wide
Altar frontal thought to be from the church in Thetford, Norfolk

MNMA (Cluny Museum in Paris), Acq. 1864, Cl. 7726

Also available: details of the Nativity of the Virgin, the Dormition, and the Education of the Virgin

You will have to click on these links to get a better idea of the quality of the painting than the picture of the whole will allow in this format.

I do not know the history of this piece, though it is similar to some other pieces which do survive from East Anglia -the Thornham Parva retable being the best known I suppose. I am also not clear as to which church in Thetford it is thought to have belonged - the parish church, the Cluniac priory or the Dominican friary - which I would think the likeliest, but that is only a hunch. The friary was featured on
Timeteam the other year - part of it survives as ruins in the grounds of the town's grammar school.

This is similar to the Norwegian examples I referred to the other week, and a further reminder of what was once to be seen in medieval English churches.

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