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David overcoming the Lion? Copford Green, Essex (‡Chelmsford) c.1130


Less than half of the main subject of the painting is left, but, like The Raising of Jairus’s daughter nearby in the nave, and unlike the heavily repainted subjects in the apse, it is substantially as the original painter left it. David overcoming the Lion?/Modern repainting of knight representing a Virtue, Copford (128KB) Identification of the subject must remain tentative, but EW Tristram¹ suggested David and Lion, as in the reported incident in 1 Samuel 17 : 33-35, although there are other contenders, such as Samson.

The painting seems to have been part of an allegorical series representing various Triumphs of Virtues over Vices, and the repainted knight standing at the left above is probably intended as a symbolic representation of a specific virtue. Tristram has illustrations of one other and part of a third, the complete figure, in very similar armour to the one shown above, standing on some kind of animal representing the Vice overcome. These have deteriorated considerably since Tristram’s day, but the faded remains of one of them, untouched by the Victorians, is shown below at the right. symbolic knight; a Virtue overcoming a Vice, Copford (43KB)The contrast between this shadowy figure and the modern geometrical regularity of the decorative painting around it is instructive, and this is even more marked in the two final photographs here. The first, at the left, shows an unidentified medieval subject, possibly the Christ and the Woman of Samaria mentioned by Tristram, accompanied by what is probably the profile figure of another faint Virtue to the right of it and a distinctly 19th century flying angel above in the spandrel. Christ & the Woman of Samaria?/symbolic knight representing a Virtue overcoming a Vice, Copford, (61KB)

Finally, the painted apse and its arch are shown in the photograph at the left below. More flying angels are partly visible in the spandrels of the arch, and on the soffit are the signs of the Zodiac on a blue ground. Beyond, above the High Altar and the window is Christ in Majesty, painted in a roundel and surrounded by angels. A row of Apostles stands below. The whole scheme is essentially Victorian; a very old photograph of the apse taken before the repainting in 1872 and reproduced by Tristram² confirms the general layout of the subjects, including the roundel and the Zodiac, but virtually all details were fragmentary, very blurred, and indistinct even then. As a result, much of the repainting must have been based on conjecture - the Copford apse is a Victorian idea of what a medieval painted scheme ought to look like.

As to the scheme in the nave, possibly all the paintings there, including The Raising of Jairus’s daughter linked above, formed part of a psychomachia similar in intention, if not in detail, to that at Claverley in Shropshire, also from the 12th century and linked in the table below. Copford, apse, Victorian repainting (96KB)

¹ Tristram 1, p. 118
² Ibid, Plate 74

Website for St Michael & All Angels, Copford

Purgatorial Ladder, with the Seven Deadly Sins, Chaldon, Surrey NEW
Passion Cycle, Ickleton, Cambs Painted Anglo-Saxon Inscription, Breamore, Hampshire Painted Rood (Crucifixion), Breamore Hampshire Suicide of Judas (later), Breamore, Hampshire Judgement with Apostles, Houghton-on-the-Hill, Norfolk
Allegorical Joust, Claverley, Shropshire David overcoming the Lion/(repainted) Knight representing a Virtue, Copford, Essex Raising of Jairus’s daughter, Copford, Essex Martyrdom of S.Edmund & other subjects, Fritton, Norfolk Apostle or Prophet, Little Easton, Essex
Christ in Majesty, Kempley, Gloucestershire The Three Marys (Maries) at the sepulchre, Kempley, Gloucestershire The Fall & its Aftermath, Hardham, Sussex Life of St. James, Stoke Orchard, Gloucestershire Apostles & angels supporting Christ in Majesty, West Chiltington, Sussex
St. Martin dividing his cloak, Wareham, Dorset Christ in Majesty, with Judgement details, Clayton, Sussex King Herod & an attendant, and the Flight into Egypt, Coombes, Sussex NEW Christ in Majesty, with Traditio Legis & and illusionistic painted figure, Coombes, Sussex NEW

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Anne Marshall 2002