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The Dormition (Death) of the Virgin : Purton, Wiltshire (Bristol) C.14

Photo:T.Marshall Death (Dormition) of the Virgin Mary, Purton, Wiltshire (352KB)

Much more commonly found in the Eastern church, the Dormition (falling asleep) of the Virgin Mary in the Lady Chapel at Purton is rare in the west, and very rare indeed in the English parish church. Nevertheless a few examples of the subject are in these pages, and this well-painted example from Purton now joins them. It cannot quite match the example at Chalgrove in Oxfordshire for refinement, but it is high-class work nonetheless.

The supine figure of the Virgin herself, lying across the picture space at the bottom of the painting, head to the right and long curling hair loose to signify her perpetual virginity, is particularly fine.
Above Mary stand nine of the disciples (Judas Iscariot was dead by now, and a tenth disciple, now gone with the original plaster removed in a Victorian restoration, may have been somewhere at the lefthand edge). The fourth figure from the right has particularly finely painted facial features. In the approximate centre of the group, one of the disciples, probably Peter, holds up a tiny child-like figure representing the Virgin’s soul, about to be assumed into Heaven. This specific detail is vanishingly rare in England, and I have not seen another. Another uncommon feature is the preponderance of a pale green pigment found only rarely in England. It may be malachite or terre verte, but unusual pigments are further testimony to the care and expense which has been lavished on this subject.

There are other paintings at Purton - a very interesting Warning to Sabbath Breakers further west on the south wall, and several other scenes, including Christ’s Appearance to Mary Magdalene and the Weighing of Souls over the chancel arch. But this one is by far the rarest and most important. It deserves to be better known.

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 Dormition (Death) of the Virgin, Purton, Wiltshire NEW
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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14/10/2011

© Anne Marshall 2011