Sunday, 7 September 2008

Fourteenth century wallpainting


South Newington, Oxfordshire, originally uploaded by Vitrearum.

South Newington in north Oxfordshire has a superb array of medieval wallpaintings. There is a spectacular series in the north nave aisle dating from the early part of the fourteenth century and an early sixteenth century sequence on the walls of the nave clerestory. The earlier examples are really exceptional. Among them is is this portrayal of the Virgin and Child painted on the splay of one of the north windows. You will notice that Our Lady has the swaying s-shaped posture you would expect from an early fourteenth century piece and she holds a wonderfully playful figure of the Christ Child who is tugging at her hair. The Christ Child holds an apple, which is emblematic of the fact that the fall occurred because Eve took an apple from the Tree of Knowledge and that the incarnation of Christ undoes the effects of original sin. Our Lady is crowned and holds a sceptre topped with a fleur-de-lys, a stylised lily representing her purity. The whole composition is set within an architectural frame with a background of trailing foliage. With its reds, greens, purples and yellows, it would have been a striking and vibrant piece when first painted, but now it is sadly faded.

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