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.

Saturday, 15 August 2020

An English Alabaster in Asturias

I recently posted in English alabaster in Santiago de Compostella the story of the Goodyear altarpiece given in 1456 to the cathedral in Santiago. Since then I chanced upon another devotional English alabaster that travelled to northern Spain in the same period.

As it is Assumptiontide this seems an appropriate time to share this image of it that is available on Pinterest

The statues are from a Retable of the Virgin and Child, with Saint Catherine of Alexandria, Saint Apollonia, Saint Margaret of Antioch, and (possibly) Saint Mary Cleopas. English work, it is dated to circa 1440 -1460.

The figures are in alabaster with traces of polychrome decoration, and set in a modern tabernacle with four replaced canopies.

It was commissioned by Diego Garcia de Moldes, for the chapel of Nuestra Señora del Campo at the family house, Castropol in Asturias, Spain which was consecrated in 1461. Diego Garcia de Moldes was a seafarer, and a senior member of Castropol's leading family. The dedication of the chapel translates as Our Lady of the Field.

It descended to, and is mentioned in his will of 1641, to Pedro Garcia de Moldes y Castrillón. It appears to have remained with his descendents in the family but was sold at Sotheby's, in London in December 2012. It was then purchased in May 2014 by the National Gallery of Art in Washington DC.

It is to be regretted that after so many centuries it should leave Asturias, and if it were doing so, that it did not return permanently, rather than just to be auctioned, to England, whence it came originally.

It is another reminder of the trading and pilgrimage links, and the wider cultural contacts across the Bay of Biscay not only in the fifteenth century but for much of the middle ages and the sixteenth century.

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