Monumental brass of an unknown bishop
Medieval, about AD 1345-1350
From France or Flanders
This is the remaining fragment of a much larger monumental brass. It shows the head of an unknown bishop within an ornate architectural canopy. His mitre and the hook of his crozier are studded with jewels and depicted with great attention to detail. The crozier contains a representation of the Agnus Dei (the Lamb of God), the symbol of St John the Baptist, who may be the bishop's patron saint.
Above the bishop, his soul is represented by a naked, mitred figure which is being received by Abraham in a length of cloth. To the left and right of Abraham are angels with candles and the figures of St Peter (left). St Paul (right) with, probably, St John the Evangelist (far left) and another male saint with a sword, possibly St Matthew.
The brass was collected by the architect Augustus Welby Pugin (1812-52). Pugin was a prolific collector who began to acquire antiquities as a child. When he died his collection was sold and The British Museum bought a number of items. The most expensive item of metalwork at the sale was this brass (Lot 87), costing £24 10s. At the time it was described as English but it is now considered to be from Flanders (modern Belgium) or Paris.
Pugin is likely to have bought the brass in about 1847, since it is published by him three times between 1847 and 1848. He regarded the piece highly and used it as a model for monumental brasses that he designed himself.
P. Atterbury and C. Wainwright (eds), Pugin: a Gothic passion (New Haven and London, 1994)
M. Stephenson, A list of monumental brasses i (London, Headley for the Monumental Brass Society, 1926)
J. Robinson, Masterpieces: Medieval Art (London, British Museum Press, 2008)
Length: 68.000 cm
Width: 57.500 cm
Length: 68.000 cm
From the collection of A.W.N. Pugin