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The Virgin Mary, with attendant angels, Arundel Priory, Sussex (‡Chichester) C.15

Photo:T.Marshall Virgin Mary, with attendant angels (137KB)

This painting of the Virgin, crowned and apparently enthroned between two angels holding up her voluminous train, has been very heavily restored - repainted, in effect - and treated with wax in the past. This accounts for the unnatural discolouration of parts of it - the unlikely black wings of the angel on the left, for example. Additionally, some damage has been done by the removal in 1873 of a gallery above its position in the north aisle, and as a result of all this, it presents a few problems.

In the centre is a rectangular red area, apparently patterned, and probably intended for a ‘cloth of honour’ hanging behind the Virgin’s head. I have never seen this in an English wall painting before, but cloths of honour are found in 15th century Continental, particularly Netherlandish, paintings of the Virgin. Against the lower part of it, her head and face reduced to a halo and and a faint outline of a crown, is the Virgin herself.

The leaflet in the church describes the painting as the Coronation of the Virgin, but there is no space here for a figure of Christ, or a third angel to perform the crowning, and the painting is very remote in iconography, style and spirit from provincial English versions of that subject. The closest relative of the painting on this site is probably the 15th century century seated Virgin at Cawston (table below).

The angel at the left stands under a sharply pointed canopy, and there is a suggestion of another above the angel on the right. There is a marked discrepancy between their apparent heights, but this might be the product of restoration. Some vertical lines, which seem to be the outline of something rectangular, are at the far right, but these might be part of some earlier subject.
Finally, in the centre of the scene, where the Virgin’s feet would rest, is a dark area which was once perhaps an embroidered carpet - of a much brighter colour originally. This would make sense in conjunction with the cloth of honour, and given Arundel’s south coast location, further suggests that this painting is the work of someone familiar with Continental conventions in this kind of ‘celebratory’ depiction of the Virgin.

Website of St Nicholas, Arundel

St. Anne teaching the Virgin to read, Corby Glen, Lincs St. Anne & Virgin/Miracles of Virgin, Chalfont St. Giles, Bucks Annunciation/Visitation, Ashampstead, Berkshire Annunciation, Barnby, Suffolk
Annunciation, Chalgrove, Oxon. Annunciation, Little Melton, Norfolk Annunciation, Gisleham, Suffolk Annunciation, Slapton, Northants
Annunciation, Sth. Newington, Oxfordshire Annunciation, Tarrant Crawford, Dorset Annunciation, Martley, Worcestershire Annunciation/Visitation, Faversham, Kent
Annunciation/Visitation/Nativity, Newton Green, Suffolk Annunciation/Visitation, Pinvin, Worcs Annunciation-Fring, Norfolk Visitation, Dale Abbey, Derbys
Visitation, Salisbury (S.Thomas), Wilts. The Burial of the Virgin, Pickering, N.Yorks NEW Death, Burial & Coronation of the Virgin, Sutton Bingham, Somerset Coronation of the Virgin, Black Bourton, Oxon
Background to Statue, with painted angels, Brent Eleigh, Suffolk Virgin Enthroned, with angels, Arundel, Sussex Virgin Enthroned, with donors, Cawston, Norfolk Life of the Virgin, Broughton, Oxon.
Virgin & Child, with wand and apple, South Newington, Oxford Virgin & Child, with sceptre & orb(?), Wickhamford, Worcs. Virgin suckling the Christ Child, Beckley, Oxon. Virgin suckling the Christ Child, Belchamp Walter, Essex
Death, Burial, Assumption & Coronation of the Virgin, Chalgrove, Oxfordshire Virgin intervening at the Weighing of Souls, Lathbury, Buckinghamshire The Annunciation/St Anne teaching the Virgin to read, Chapel of Our Lady of Bradwell, Milton Keynes, Buckinghamshire NEW Virgin & child enthroned/With SS Margaret, Catherine & Mary Magdalene, Little Wenham, Suffolk NEW

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31/7/2002

Anne Marshall 2002 ****++