Show me:
and
Clear all filters

  • 25 items Explore
  • 35 items
  • 25 items Explore
  • 48 items
  • 89 items
  • 3,454 items Explore
  • 97 items Explore
  • 3 items
  • 4 items
  • 42 items
  • 11,061 items Explore
  • 209 items Explore
  • 1,235 items Explore
  • 8,499 items Explore
  • 5,051 items Explore
  • 72 items Explore
  • 167 items Explore
  • 10,621 items Explore
  • 13,625 items Explore
  • 4,646 items Explore
  • 1 items
  • 5 items
  • 153 items Explore
  • 2,038 items Explore
  • 2 items
  • 4,759 items Explore
  • 24 items Explore
  • 437 items Explore
  • 1 items
  • 19,205 items Explore
  • 34 items Explore
  • 1,900 items Explore
  • 1,113 items Explore
  • 6 items
  • 4,645 items Explore
  • 456 items Explore
  • 29 items
  • 920 items Explore
  • 1 items
  • 1 items Explore
  • 5 items
  • 7 items
  • 19,351 items Explore
  • 791 items Explore
  • 19 items
  • 73 items Explore
  • 33 items
  • 800 items
  • 25 items
  • 61 items
  • 28 items
  • 319 items Explore
  • 6 items
  • 44 items Explore
  • 1 items
  • 2 items
  • 145 items
  • 2 items
  • 9 items
  • 121 items Explore
  • 119 items
  • 1 items
  • 1,021 items Explore
  • 1 items
  • 800 items
  • 95 items
  • 27 items
  • 108 items
  • 27,979 items Explore
  • 1 items
  • 3,837 items Explore
  • 1,519 items Explore
  • 403 items
  • 158 items Explore
  • 9,712 items Explore
  • 9,685 items Explore
  • 4 items
  • 1 items
  • 5 items
  • 39 items
  • 3 items
  • 4 items
  • 5,138 items Explore
  • 7,439 items Explore
  • 4,411 items Explore
  • 1,512 items Explore
  • 930 items Explore
  • 3,493 items Explore
  • 5 items
  • 334 items
  • 1 items
  • 1 items
  • 3,438 items Explore
  • 20 items Explore
  • 354 items Explore
  • 797 items Explore
  • 1,095 items Explore
  • 510 items Explore
  • 1,047 items Explore
  • 1,138 items
  • 89 items
  • 125 items Explore
  • 6,953 items Explore
  • 170 items
  • 310 items
  • 4 items
  • 27 items
  • 61 items
  • 304 items Explore
  • 2 items
  • 2,923 items Explore
  • 1,575 items Explore
  • 82 items
  • 43 items
  • 19,430 items Explore
  • 1,241 items Explore
  • 138 items
  • 1,485 items Explore
  • 32 items
  • 1 items
  • 132 items Explore
  • 24 items
  • 40 items
  • 20 items
  • 252 items
  • 314 items
  • 747 items Explore
  • 1,897 items
  • 349 items Explore
  • 2 items
  • 2,426 items
  • 2,525 items
  • 3 items
  • 3 items
  • 2 items
  • 4,390 items Explore
  • 1 items
  • 34,257 items Explore
  • 1 items
  • 3,285 items Explore
  • 274 items Explore
  • 8,059 items Explore
  • 31 items
  • 25 items
  • 731 items Explore
  • 3 items
  • 65 items
  • 161 items
  • 52 items
  • 21,728 items Explore
  • 916 items
  • 18 items
  • 22,121 items Explore
  • 2 items
  • 2,333 items Explore
  • 1 items
  • 1,052 items Explore
  • 4 items
  • 59 items
  • 499 items
  • 3,289 items Explore
  • 175 items
  • 453 items Explore
  • 3 items
  • 21 items
  • 90 items Explore
  • 76 items
  • 281 items Explore
  • 1 items
  • 6 items
  • 128 items
  • 293 items
  • 736 items
  • 868 items
  • 1 items
  • 369 items Explore
  • 272 items Explore
  • 11,395 items Explore
  • 760 items Explore
  • 6,038 items Explore
  • 10 items
  • 7,377 items Explore
  • 27 items
  • 5,360 items Explore
  • 4 items
  • 3,732 items Explore
  • 9,201 items Explore
  • 7,745 items Explore
  • 200 items
  • 19 items
  • 142 items
  • 7 items
  • 1,024 items Explore
  • 18 items
  • 4,095 items Explore
  • 4 items
  • 1,096 items Explore
  • 223 items
  • 1 items
  • 3,495 items Explore
  • 1 items
  • 20 items
  • 696 items Explore
  • 18 items
  • 134 items
  • 6,346 items Explore
  • 14,235 items Explore
  • 3,127 items Explore
  • 1 items
  • 8 items
  • 9,318 items Explore
  • 37 items
  • 2 items
  • 21,320 items Explore
  • 131 items
  • 38 items
  • 13,166 items Explore
  • 3,393 items Explore
  • 2,289 items Explore
  • 44 items
  • 41,365 items Explore
  • 638 items Explore
  • 415 items
  • 23,281 items Explore
  • 218 items
  • 3 items
  • 1 items
  • 20 items
  • 27 items
  • 257 items Explore
  • 4 items
  • 217 items Explore
  • 2 items
  • 13,207 items Explore
  • 3 items
  • 10,261 items
  • 9 items
  • 10 items
  • 14 items
  • 25 items
  • 1 items
  • 4,534 items Explore
  • 918 items Explore
  • 1 items
  • 41 items
  • 1 items
  • 1 items
  • 220 items
  • 702 items Explore
  • 42 items
  • 2,284 items Explore
  • 1,662 items Explore
  • 15 items
  • 1,928 items Explore
  • 151 items
  • 84 items
  • 772 items Explore
  • 3,313 items Explore
  • 41 items
  • 17 items
  • 12 items
  • 10,647 items Explore
  • 23,088 items Explore
  • 1 items
  • 1,374 items
  • 180 items Explore
  • 8 items
  • 92 items
  • 3 items
  • 13,323 items Explore
  • 3,571 items Explore
  • 2,644 items Explore
  • 4,776 items Explore
  • 22 items
  • 45 items
  • 6,901 items Explore
  • 4,796 items Explore
  • 271 items Explore
  • 2,300 items Explore
  • 2,922 items Explore
  • 3 items
  • 1,863 items Explore
  • 291 items
  • 223 items Explore
  • 448 items Explore
  • 6,122 items Explore
  • 8,817 items Explore
  • 1,859 items Explore
  • 5,797 items Explore
  • 3,344 items Explore
  • 11,070 items Explore
  • 86 items
  • 11 items
  • 1,644 items Explore
  • 7 items
  • 24 items
  • 51 items
  • 5 items
  • 1 items
  • 2,889 items Explore
  • 620 items Explore
  • 62 items
  • 17 items
  • 151 items Explore
  • 1 items
  • 87 items Explore
  • 1 items
  • 463 items
  • 996 items Explore
  • 3,604 items Explore
  • 5 items
  • 9,405 items Explore
  • 48 items Explore
  • 3 items
  • 42 items
  • 3 items
  • 13,714 items Explore
  • 1,163 items Explore
  • 92 items
  • 10,566 items Explore
  • 1,005 items Explore
  • 1,924 items
  • 7,023 items Explore
  • 21 items
  • 12,944 items Explore
  • 1,418 items Explore
  • 6 items
  • 9,584 items Explore
  • 16,313 items Explore
  • 4 items
  • 1,670 items Explore
  • 175 items
  • 58 items
  • 5,684 items Explore
  • 8,787 items Explore
  • 48 items
  • 25 items
  • 2 items
  • 59 items
  • 3 items
  • 7,380 items Explore
  • 402 items Explore
  • 13 items
  • 4 items
  • 1 items
  • 6 items
  • 4 items
  • 103 items Explore
  • 7 items
  • 5 items
  • 480 items
  • 299 items Explore
  • 8,367 items Explore
  • 55 items
  • 23,038 items Explore
  • 7,350 items Explore
  • 5 items
  • 26 items
  • 3,838 items Explore
  • 465 items
  • 339 items Explore
  • 12,691 items Explore
  • 55 items
  • 20 items
  • 7 items
  • 4 items
  • 315 items Explore
  • 434 items
  • 183 items
  • 3,704 items Explore
  • 27 items
  • 1,227 items Explore
  • 2,494 items Explore
  • 732 items Explore
  • 36 items
  • 1,135 items Explore
  • 97 items Explore
  • 42 items
  • 217 items Explore
  • 73,075 items Explore
  • 1 items
  • 3,065 items Explore
  • 2,845 items Explore
  • 26 items
  • 3,623 items Explore
  • 1,832 items Explore
  • 4 items
  • 17,291 items Explore
  • 5,508 items Explore
  • 7 items
  • 633 items Explore
  • 85 items
  • 1 items
  • 468 items
  • 39 items
  • 76 items
  • 29 items
  • 335 items
  • 3 items
  • 41 items
  • 1,176 items Explore
  • 109 items
  • 805 items
  • 17 items
  • 11,026 items Explore
  • 27 items
  • 13 items
  • 1,546 items Explore
  • 1 items
  • 214 items
  • 16,818 items Explore
  • 85 items
  • 17 items
  • 1 items
  • 9 items
  • 8 items
  • 324 items
  • 2 items
  • 626 items Explore
  • 1,587 items Explore
  • 8 items
  • 1,034 items Explore
  • 2 items
  • 261 items

Select a time period

Or choose a specific year

Clear all filters

Reliquary bust of St Agnes

workshop of Niclaus Gerhaert von Leyden (North Netherlands c. 1430 - Vienna 1473)

Category

Art / Sculpture

Date

c. 1465

Materials

Walnut

Measurements

539 x 414 x 246 mm

Place of origin

Strasbourg

Order this image

Collection

Anglesey Abbey, Cambridgeshire (Accredited Museum)

NT 514456

Summary

Walnut, reliquary bust of St Agnes, workshop of Niclaus Gerhaert von Leyden (North Netherlandish, born c. 1430, active Strasbourg, c.1462-died 1473, Vienna), c. 1465. A carved reliquary bust in walnut wood of Saint Agnes, made in Strasbourg in the workshop of Niclaus Gerhaert von Leyden. The saint is depicted at half length, cradling in her left arm her attribute, a lamb. With her right hand, Agnes gestures towards an oval recess in the centre of her breast, now plugged with wood, which would originally have contained a relic. Her long hair is carefully arranged into long braids bound with a thin ribbon, arranged at the sides of her head and brought back over her forehead, the whole kept in place with a band shaped into the form of a crown at the front. The bust is roughly hollowed out at the back. Most of the saint’s fingers and the lamb’s tail are restorations; the bust’s original polychromy has been entirely stripped off and the surface is now much darkened and blunted with wax and varnish. There is considerable worm damage in places. The bust is one of a set of four reliquary busts of female saints made in the workshop of Niclaus Gerhaert von Leyden in Strasbourg c. 1465, which formerly adorned an altar in the Abbey Church of Saints Peter and Paul in Wissembourg, Alsace. They seem to have been removed from the church in the later nineteenth century, probably c. 1870. Saints Barbara and Catherine are today in the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York (inv.nos. 17.190.1735 and 17.190.1734) and Saint Margaret of Antioch in the Art Institute of Chicago (inv.no. 1943.1001).

Full description

This beautiful life-size carved wooden reliquary bust is a depiction of the early Christian martyr Saint Agnes (c. 191- c. 304 A.D.). Like other early Christian Virgin martyr saints, the well-born Agnes devoted herself to God from early in her short life, rejecting a number of suitors who in revenge reported her to the authorities as a practising Christian. Agnes survived various attempts to kill her before, finally, a Roman officer slew her with his sword. Her bones are today kept in the Roman churches of Sant'Agnese fuori le mura and Sant'Agnese in Agone. Agnes’s attribute of the lamb comes from her name and its close relationship to Agnus, the Latin word for lamb, a creature symbolic of Jesus Christ. Her name further derives from the Greek word hagnē meaning ‘chaste’ or ‘pure’. Agnes is accordingly the patron saint of young girls and of chastity. The bust, acquired by Lord Fairhaven before 1940 as an anonymous sixteenth-century carving, has been recently recognised as the missing work from a group of four reliquary busts of female saints, made in Strasbourg in the workshop of the sculptor Niclaus Gerhaert von Leyden in around 1465. Although very few of Niclaus Gerhaert’s works survive, he is one of the most significant and influential of all late Gothic sculptors. Gerhaert’s very few autograph works, such as the stone sculpture of a pensive man with his head supported on his hand (Strasbourg, Musée de l’Oeuvre Notre-Dame) or the head of a Sibyl (Liebieghaus Skulpturensammlung, Frankfurt-am-Main) are remarkable for their bravura technique and their naturalism. Both qualities may be seen in the Saint Agnes, in which the handling of the carving is extremely sophisticated, with a warm empathy between the saint and the small lamb that she holds. Stylistic features that mark the bust as a product of Niclaus Gerhaert’s workshop include the long oval faces, the rounded and slightly projecting chin with a dimple, a slender, quite sharply pointed nose, heavily-lidded eyes and high-arched eyebrows and the smallish mouth, set in a grave, enigmatic smile. As well as the Saint Agnes, the group includes similar half-length busts of Saints Barbara and Catherine (both now Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York) and Saint Margaret of Antioch (Art Institute of Chicago). All four have similar oval recesses in their breast to hold relics. They were made in the 1460s, when Niclaus Gerhaert was living and working in Strasbourg, for the abbey church of Saints Peter and Paul in Wissembourg (Weissenburg) in Alsace. Although we do not know how the four busts were displayed in the abbey church, it was rich in relics, with relics for all four female saints recorded in inventories. The busts were probably set into a large and elaborate altarpiece, perhaps even the high altar. They form two pairs, Barbara and Catherine, who look outwards and so were probably placed towards the bottom of the altar, perhaps in the predella section, and Agnes and Margaret, who look downward, so would very likely have been positioned a little higher within the structure of the altarpiece. Like almost all religious institutions in France, the abbey church in Wissembourg suffered greatly during the French revolution. It was at this time that its relics are likely to have been lost, along with much of its furnishings. The four reliquary busts may well have survived in the church until around 1870, when plaster casts were taken of them for the Musée de l’Oeuvre Notre-Dame in Strasbourg. In an 1880 inventory of the museum, the busts were described as coming from Wissembourg. They must have entered the art market in Paris in the late nineteenth century, with three eventually finding their way into American museums, whilst the Saint Agnes was acquired by Lord Fairhaven from an unknown source between 1932 and 1940. The survival of the plaster copy of the Saint Agnes allowed the identification of the bust at Anglesey Abbey as the missing fourth reliquary bust (Thanks to Dr Paul Williamson, former Keeper of Sculpture, Ceramics and Metalwork at the Victoria & Albert Museum for drawing attention to the plaster in Strasbourg). Unrecognised at Anglesey Abbey until recently, the Saint Agnes is of major importance as the only work by Niclaus Gerhaert and his workshop in a public collection in the United Kingdom and as a masterpiece of late Gothic sculpture. Jeremy Warren 2020

Provenance

Acquired by Huttleston Rogers Broughton, 1st Lord Fairhaven (1896-1966) between 1932 and 1940; listed in the Anglesey Abbey inventory 1940, p. 65, The Prior’s Room, valued at £10; bequeathed to the National Trust by Lord Fairhaven in 1966 with the house and the rest of the contents.

Credit line

Anglesey Abbey, The Fairhaven Collection (The National Trust)

Makers and roles

workshop of Niclaus Gerhaert von Leyden (North Netherlands c. 1430 - Vienna 1473), sculptor

References

'Anglesey Abbey, Lode, Cambridgeshire. An Inventory and Valuation of Furniture, Books, Ornamental Items & Household Effects .. prepared for Insurance Purposes’, Turner, Lord and Ransom, April 1940, p. 65. Christie, Manson & Woods 1971: The National Trust, Anglesey Abbey, Cambridge. Inventory: Furniture, Textiles, Porcelain, Bronzes, Sculpture and Garden Ornaments’, 1971, p. 151. Warren 2020: Jeremy Warren, ‘A reliquary bust from the workshop of Niclaus Gerhaert von Leyden‘, The Burlington Magazine, Vol. 162 (February 2020), pp. 36-41

View more details