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.

Monday, 29 August 2011

The Decollation of St John the Baptist

As someone with a particular interest in the later middle ages I appreciate very much the northern gothic style of the paintings of the period. Here is a fine example in Rogier van der Weyden's depiction of the Decollation of St John. It is part of his St John Altarpiece of c.1455-1460 which is now in the Staatliche Museum in Berlin. I am always drawn to the attention to contemporary detail and the refined disdain of the figures in the paintings of the era.


There is a larger version available here, which reveals more of the details in the scene. The whole panel can be viewed here and the whole altarpiece with its three panels can be seen here (the views are greatly expandable).

As a priest-friend once commented to me it is noteworthy that devotion to a saint who was so widely venerated as was St John in the later middle ages - think of the number of surviving depictions and church dedications - but which as a cult has virtually entirely disappeared today, other than as a patronal feast in particular churches.


Anonymous said...

John, have you been to the British Museum exhibition on relics?

Once I Was A Clever Boy said...

Not yet - I hope to but time seems to be at a premium at the moment