Alabaster; Pigment; Gilding
Private alabaster devotional tablets featuring the head of St. John the Baptist were very popular in England between about 1440 and 1520. Most of the surviving examples show St. Peter and St. Thomas of Canterbury on either side of a dish which holds the head of St. John the Baptist. These tablets were a minor part of the important alabaster industry which furnished medieval English and Continental churches with sculpted altarpieces and funerary monuments. The St. JohnÕs Heads were used for private devotions in homes, chapels, and hospitals. A photograph of a similar tablet from the Leicester Museum shows how these alabaster plaques were placed originally in wooden cases, the doors of which could be opened during times of devotion.
This tablet was donated by Richard Hugh Spilsbury of Victoria. It was purchased by Mr. SpilsburyÕs great-great-great-grandfather at a sale of artifacts collected by Sir Ashton Lever in about 1805.
Bibliography: W. H. St. John Hope,On the Sculptured Alabaster Tablets Called Saint JohnÕs Heads; Currier, J., True to God and King: Alabaster Heads of St. John in Late Medieval England (M.A. Thesis, copy in Document File); F. Cheetham, English Medieval Alabasters;; Correspondence relating to the exhibition history of this tablet (Document File)
St. George Slaying the Dragon
Limoges, France, c. 1540
Enamel is a glaze of glass which adheres to the surface of the base through intense heat. This small plaque portrays St. George slaying the dragon. A label on the reverse side attributes this work to Leonard Limousin, and claims the design was derived from one by Raphael. According to Pritchard's research, it was probably created by someone in the masterÕs shop, rather than by Limousin himself. Furthermore, the design likely came from 15th century German engravings rather than Raphael, and may be among the earliest works of the Leonard Limousin workshop.
Like many 16th century enamels, it was probably once enclosed in an elaborate frame. The lower part of the plaque is blackened, indicating that it may have hung on a wall above a candle as an object of religious veneration.
St. George lived during the 2nd century of the Common Era, but became an important character in legend in the Middle Ages when The Golden Legend circulated all over Europe. The story of St. George slaying the dragon includes many symbolic meanings, including the triumph of good over evil.
This piece was presented to Katharine Maltwood by her mother in 1909, and was formerly in the Duer Collection.
Bibliography: Barsali, European Enamels: Painted Enamels of Limoges; Pritchard, Typescript Paper in Document File
This prayer book, bound in calf leather, has ivory figures and border carved by Richard Garbe of London. It was given to Katharine Maltwood by her husband, John, in about 1924.
Lapis; Gold; Garnets; Leather
Italian, late 19th century
A folding leather case protects this crucifix of lapis lazuli. It features a gilded figure of Christ, and is attached to a stand set in garnets. It was formerly in the Duer Collection.
Olive wood; Mother-of-pearl
Jerusalem, 20th century
Mother-of-pearl inlay, some of which has been lost, decorates this cross of olive wood. It stands on a pyramidal base. The plaque beneath the upper secondary cross beam bears the inscription, "INRI."
The cross was probably acquired by the Maltwoods during their travels in the Near East.
England, 17th century
This rectangular oak box has carved design across the front, and a metal plate with a keyhole at the centre front. The lid is connected to the box with metal loops. The Maltwoods purchased the box at a Shallcross sale in 1949.