Height: 69.500 cm
Gift of Sir A.W. Franks
Room 40: Medieval Europe
Brass of John Langston
Medieval, around AD
From Oxfordshire, England; probably made in London
Memorial brasses developed in France and Germany in the thirteenth century and rapidly spread to the Low Countries and England. They responded to a need to commemorate the dead within the restricted confines of a church. Brasses were cheaper than sculptural effigies, took up less space and were more decorative than incised stone slabs.
This knight in armour has been identified as John Langston (died 1506). At some point in the nineteenth century the brass was separated from the other family brasses in Caversfield Church, Oxfordshire, and was bought by The British Museum in 1861.
The knight's identity remained a mystery until a rubbing of the complete brass, taken at Caversfield in 1821, was discovered, that settled the matter conclusively. The rubbing depicts the knight, John Langston, with his wife, Amice Danvers, and their twenty-two (!) children. The figures of ten boys and twelve girls are represented very closely together and in miniature. The rubbing is held by the Society of Antiquaries in London.
The brasses of Amice and her children remain at Caversfield Church, although not in their original location, and the inscription which identified the family has been placed erroneously at another of the Langston family tombs. Since a written description of the brasses at Caversfield in 1847 makes no mention of the figure of John Langston, it is likely that it had already become loose and had been removed by this date.
M.W. Norris, Monumental brasses: the craft (London, Faber, 1978)
J. Robinson, Masterpieces: Medieval Art (London, British Museum Press, 2008)
R. Emmerson, 'A missing brass figure from Caversfield identified', Oxoniensia, 42 (1977)