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The Style and Function of the Cameos on the Frame of the Westminster Retable

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  31 May 2011

George Henderson*
Affiliation:
George Henderson, FSA, The Old Manse, Nigg by Tain, Tain IV19 1QR, UK. E-mail: isbgeoh@gmail.com

Abstract

The imitation cameos placed around the frame of the Westminster Retable had a deeply entrenched cultural context in the re-use of classical gemstones in many examples of medieval goldsmiths’ work. But the cameos on the Retable had arguably a more local and immediate thirteenth-century context, both stylistically and iconographically, in the choice of images displayed. This paper relates the paired jugate heads in a cameo known from photographs but now lost, and the one surviving cameo head with its very specific winged headdress, to similar images in other media – book painting and sculpture – both in England and in France. It also, though very tentatively, given the loss of the great bulk of the cameos formerly on the frame, attempts to identify the persons represented in the cameos in relation to the overall programme of the Retable, not restricting this identification to any obvious antique parallels.

Résumé

Les camées d'imitation placés autour du cadre du retable de Westminster se situaient dans un contexte culturel bien établi au niveau de la réutilisation des gemmes classiques dans de nombreux exemples du travail des orfèvres médiévaux. Mais on peut soutenir que les camées sur le retable avaient un contexte du treizième siècle plus local et immédiat, à la fois pour le style et pour l'iconographie, au niveau du choix des images présentées. Cette communication établit un rapport entre la paire de têtes conjuguées dans le camée, connues sur des photos mais actuellement perdues, et la seule tête sur camée restant encore avec son couvre-chef ailé très spécifique, et des images similaires dans d'autres médias, tableaux et sculptures, en France ainsi qu'en Angleterre. Bien que très provisoirement, étant donné la perte de la plus grande partie des camées qui se trouvaient autrefois sur le cadre, elle essaie aussi d'identifier les personnes représentées sur les camées par rapport au plan d'ensemble du retable, sans limiter cette identification à des parallèles antiques évidents.

Zusammenfassung

Die Emaillen und geschliffenen Steine, die den Rahmen der Westminster-Retabel schmücken, enthalten einen tiefgründigen kulturellen Sinn im Zusammenhang was die Wiederverwendung von klassischen Edelsteinen in vielen Beispielen der Werke von Goldschmieden anbetrifft. Die Emaillen auf der Retabel stammtem allerdings aus der direkten Umgebung und sowohl die stilistischen und ikonographischen Merkmale und Darstellungen deuten auf das 13. Jahrhundert.

Diese Abhandlung befasst sich mit den Doppelköpfen, die in den geschliffenen Steinen dargestellt sind und aus verschollen Photographien bekannt sind, sowie einer überlebenden Gemme mit einem besonderen geflügelten Kopfschmuck, ähnlich wie sie aus Darstellungen von Buchmalereien und Skulpturen aus England und Frankreich bekannt sind.

Es wird ein Versuch gemacht, die Personen, die auf den Gemmen abgebildet sind zu identifizieren, im Zusammenhang mit dem Gesamtthema der Retabel, und ohne sich auf naheliegende Parallelen der Antike zu beschränken. Dies ist zunächst vorläufig, in Hinsicht auf die vielen verloren gegangenen Gemmen, die sich früher auf dem Rahmen befanden.

Type
Articles
Copyright
Copyright © The Society of Antiquaries of London 2011

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