Sunday, 13 December 2009

An unusual kneeling donor


Cumnor, Berkshire, originally uploaded by Vitrearum.

This early sixteenth century roundel at Cumnor in Berkshire, isn't a particularly distinguised piece of glass painting. It is however rather interesting. It appears to show a female kneeling donor of the type that was very common in the period. However it is a rather unusual treatment of such a donor image. Firstly the donor is within a roundel, that is far from normal and she is secondly set within a domestic setting, which is unusual too. She kneels at a prie-dieu in a rather fine room with a tiled floor, springers that hint at a vault with glazed windows, one glazed with quarries and a roundel. This glass is in its original position, occupying one of two quatrefoil tracery lights at the top of a nave window. That is rather odd too, as donor images are generally near the bottom of a window where they can be more easily seen. Donor images are generally placed in relationship with other images in a window, notably with images of the persons of the Trinity or of the saints. This image was probably paired with a second image in the matching quatrefoil in the tracery of this window. Frustratingly thus image has now gone and sadly the marginal inscription of this roundel is rather too broken to provide any other clues as to what that second image might have been. Quite often the relationship between donor images and other imagery in a window is expressed through scrolls with invocatory texts. This roundel has no such texts, so what can we surmise? That this is the image of a woman meditating in her private oratory?

7 comments:

Chris Laning said...

Any reason to think she might be intended to represent a saint, rather than a donor?

BillyD said...

Or an abstract virtue, like perseverance in prayer?

Allan Barton said...

Thanks. Chris, I'm rather doubtful that she represents a saint, given her lack of nimbus or other attribute. Also given that she is is wearing a pedimented headress, which is contemporary civilian headwear. Billy, and abstract virtue that is a really interesting idea, do you know of any other parallels?

I still think it's a donor and that the arrangement would probably have been similar to the Henry Williams panel I posted about here, which was also in the tracery of a window:
http://medieval-church-art.blogspot.com/2009/02/of-death-roundel.html

BillyD said...

Re: examples

I don't know of any medieval examples but my parish has 19th century windows, one of which seems to be a personification of Charity, in the guise of a woman distributing food and clothing.

Le Prince Regent said...

The Lady kneeling reminds me of the Lady Margaret Beaufort, mother of King Henry VII .

Minnie said...

Lamentably off-topic, but very keen to thank you for this fascinating series of blogposts - very enlightening and instructive for this expat amatrice of mediaeval art.
Joyeux Noel!

Allan Barton said...

Minnie, you are most welcome and thanks for posting the link from your blog page.