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The West Portal in the Porch at Higham Ferrers: A Problem of Interpretation

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  21 April 2011

Summary

The thirteenth-century west portal of Higham Ferrers Church, Northamptonshire, despite its rural setting, has claims to represent international and metropolitan taste in its ornament and general layout. The sculptured portal was originally part of a larger decorative and iconographic scheme, the coherence of which was drastically impaired in the rebuilding of the west porch, tower, and spire in the 1630s. Fragments of what seem likely to have been major sculptural groups were then built into the westface of the tower. Thefigurescenes, framed in medallions, which fill the left and rightportion of the tympanum of the portal are among the best preserved thirteenth-century sculptures in England, but the identification of the individual scenes is fraught with difficulty nor is it easy to judge the level at which the sculptures were intended to communicate. Contemporary illustrated Psalters, designed for personal devotional use, may provide the key, but curious symptoms of seventeenth-century interference also require interpretation.

Type
Research Article
Copyright
Copyright © The Society of Antiquaries of London 1988

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References

Notes

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35 For the sculpture at Wells, see Roberts, M. E., ‘The tomb of Giles de Bridport in Salisbury Cathedral’, The Art Bulletin, lxv (1983), 581,Google Scholar pl. 46; for the Queen Mary Psalter, British Library, London, Royal MS 2.B.vii, see Sir Warner, G., Queen Mary's Psalter (London, 1912), pl. 188.Google Scholar Compare the form of Christ's seat with the lectern placed alongside the shrine of St Edward on p. 30 of La Estoire de Seint Aedward le Rei, University Library, Cambridge, MS Ee.3.59. For the interpretation of Christ with the doctors in the Temple as the Word of God, see St Augustine on Psalm 101 in Ennarationes in Psalmos, Corpus Christianorum Series Latina 40 (Turnhout, 1956), 1426,Google ScholarAut etiamsi periti senes, quid illorum peritia ad Verbum Dei?’.

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