- Museum number
- Object: St Stephen's Chapel Wall Paintings
Wall-painting from the east end of the north wall of St Stephen's Chapel, Westminster Palace; tempera and oil on stone, gilded gesso; approximately seventeen fragments bearing scenes and inscriptions from the Book of Job; several painted architectonic elements.
- Production date
- 1355-1363 (approximately)
- Curator's comments
Text from Alexander & Binski 1987, see bibliography:
'Although begun by Edward I, the chapel did not recieve its painted decoration untill the reign of his grandson, Edward III. This decoration, the most magnificent programme of the century, was rediscovered and recorded, and some few fragments saved, in the period 1795-1800, before its final destruction in 1800 in Wyatt's remodelling of the chapel.
The scheme, which can be reasonably reconstructed from antiquarian material and from original royal accounts, included Infancy and patron subjects on the east wall, biblical narratives (some surviving) and possibly scenes from the Lives of Saints arranged in two tiers of four scenes each below the five windows of each side wall: angels holding draperies behind the wall arcade; warrior saints on the window piers. In addition, all architectural elements were painted or gilded. Hugh of St Albans was master of the numerous painters impressed for the work, though records of equal payments suggest a sharing of the design role. The purchase of lavish quantities of expensive materials is recorded; the elaborate technique has parallels in contemporary mural painting in England and Italy, as well as France and Bohemia.
Italian sources may be adduced for a number of elements including the handling of perspective space, the use of Tuscan architectural vocabulary, iconographical motifs, consistent directional lighting, and facial types and modelling. However, the style of the various paintings is by no means uniform and presents, rather, a blending of features selected from English and Continental idioms. Such diversity and experimentation is only to be expected given the courtly ambience.'
St Stephen’s was the royal chapel at the Palace
of Westminster, London. King Edward I wanted St
Stephen’s to compete with the Sainte Chapelle
in Paris, the chapel of the French monarchy built
50 years earlier. However, Edward I died before
his ambitions could be realised and the chapel
was not completed until the reign of his
grandson Edward III in 1363. The chapel was
decorated with wall paintings, some showing
scenes from the Old Testament. They were
painted in the Italianate style using expensive
pigments such as ultramarine and vermilion.
The paintings include scenes from the Book of
Job. In one, Job’s sons and daughters
are killed when the house of their eldest brother
is blown down by a mighty wind. Satan, sent to
test Job’s faith in God, is shown in a central
arch. In the next scene Job receives news of
- On display (G40/dc10/sB)
- Exhibition history
1987-1988 6 Nov-6 Mar, London, Royal Academy of Arts, Age of Chivalry: Art in Plantagenet England 1200-1400
- Associated titles
Associated Title: Book of Job
- Acquisition date
- Britain, Europe and Prehistory
- Registration number