Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Sleeping Beauty?

click photo to enlarge

"Here is an English counterpart to the illusionism which occurs at the same time in Italian painting and German sculpture."
Nikolaus Pevsner (1902-1983), architectural historian

In his book, England's Thousand Best Churches, the author, Simon Jenkins, says of this tomb in the church of St Bartholomew, Much Marcle, Herefordshire, "The effigy might be the original for Sleeping Beauty." It isn't, and he knows that it isn't, but such is the character, delicacy and beauty of this fourteenth century figure sculpture, that this would certainly be the one to emulate for that purpose. The quotation from Nikolaus Pevsner at the head of this piece puts the sculpture into a European context, and at the same time draws our attention to the remarkable - for its time - realism of the figure and its clothing.

Blanche Mortimer was Lady Grandison, the wife of Sir Peter Grandison, and the daughter of Roger Mortimer, 1st Earl of March. She died childless, three years before her husband. There is probably no attempt at a likeness in the sculpture of her face, but her clothing, rosary, head dress, and the fall of her gown over the edge of the tomb, are all done with the intention of reproducing the illusion of reality. The tomb would have been painted when new, and the illusion would have been even stronger.

There are many who consider this tomb to be one of England's best from the period. It sits in a church that boasts other fine effigies, including one from the same period as this piece, carved from oak. The Kyrle Chapel has a sumptuously carved tomb from the seventeenth century of Sir John Kyrle and his wife that I made the subject of one of my first blog posts in January 2006.

photographs and text (c) T. Boughen

Main Photo
Camera: Canon
Mode: Aperture Priority
Focal Length: 45mm
F No: f7.1
Shutter Speed: 1/8
ISO: 3200
Exposure Compensation:  0 EV
Image Stabilisation: On