The Head of St. John the Baptist

England, Nottingham, late 15th century
Alabaster high relief with the original partial polychromy, 25.5 x 18 cm
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Henry VII

The Tudor period

England’s heyday

The Tudor era is the period between 1485 and 1603. The first monarch of the House of Tudor was Henry VII. He inherited a country weakened by the Black Death and famine, with a population of only two million. Henry’s politics, focussed on freedom and economic prosperity, were successful. England became extremely powerful both economically and with regard to foreign affairs. Around 1600,  the population had risen to four million.

Paint

The art of applying

Cennino Cennini

The artist of this alabaster relief carefully added paint later, as can be seen in the remnants of gold, red and black pigment. The art of applying paint was, at that time, a science in its own right that played a major role in the field of painting itself, in particular. The work Libro dell’arte o trattato della pittura, written by Cennino Cennini around 1400, was especially well known. This manual, initially available in the form of a transcript, later became the most influential textbook on painting in the Middle Ages.

The Divine Trinity

The Holy Spirit

A white dove

In Christianity, the Holy Spirit is one of the three persons of the Trinity. It is often represented by the dove, fire or wind in art. The Holy Spirit is said to have descended to Jesus in the form of a dove during his baptism in the Jordan. In the first few centuries after the death of Christ, artists struggled to find a way to depict the invisible Holy Spirit. They ultimately chose the dove as a symbol, thus continuing the pictorial tradition established in Antiquity of a bird standing for gentleness and love: it was believed that the dove did not have a gall bladder and was, therefore, free from all things bitter and evil.