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Winter Exhibition of Medieval Art - Sam Fogg Gallery

Preview by Lizzie Guilfoyle

SAM FOGG is celebrating a medieval Christmas with an exhibition of art from the Middle Ages in his gallery in Clifford Street – from Tuesday, December 4, 2007 to Friday, January 11, 2008.

Works of art from all over medieval Europe will be on show, including precious objects, sculpture, stained glass, manuscripts and paintings. Prices range from £3,000 upwards.

One of the highlights is a charming oak figure of Saint Ursula surrounded by young virgins, carved in Brussels in the last quarter of the fifteenth century. According to legend the devout Princess Ursula, returning from a pilgrimage to Rome, was captured in Cologne by the Huns who were besieging the city.

The eleven thousand virgins who accompanied her were slaughtered, but the king of the Huns was overcome by Ursula’s modesty and beauty and promised to spare her life if she would marry him. Ursula refused, upon which the king killed her with an arrow.

Here her noble status is represented by her rich attire – voluminous robes studded with jewels and a large necklace. She would also have worn a crown (now lost). The virgins are the diminutive figures sheltered by Ursula’s cloak, each beautifully attired and with a different hat. The style of carving and distinctive face type are typical of Brussels.

One of the treasures in the show will be a small Angel (pictured) carved in wood and retaining its original gilding and polychrome, characteristic of sculpture from northern Italy, possibly Piedmont, between 1480 and 1500. The angel has short curly hair, a rounded, child-like face and rosy cheeks. He wears a long robe and holds the bottom of what would have been a candelabrum. This delightful figure was probably one of a pair flanking an altarpiece.

Also on view is a painting of The Holy Family with an Angel Musician by the Master of Frankfurt, Antwerp, c. 1500-10. This is the central panel of a triptych, of which the wings, representing Saint Catherine and Saint Barbara, are now in the Museo del Prado in Madrid. The Master of Frankfurt, a Netherlandish artist but named after an altarpiece now in that city, can probably be identified as the prominent and well documented painter, Hendrik van Wue Luwe [?], who was active in Antwerp from 1483 until 1533.

A well preserved figure of Saint Crispian, from Champagne, c. 1520, is one of the key pieces in the exhibition. An interesting and charming piece, it is carved in stone and retains much of its original polychrome. Saint Crispian, the patron saint of cobblers, shoemakers and leather workers, is a relatively unusual subject for medieval sculpture and this figure is likely to have been one of a series of craftsmen carved for a town hall or civic building to promote the different guilds of that city.

The saint is depicted in contemporary dress, with large puffed sleeves, a brimmed hat and wearing ‘cow’s muzzle’ (square-toed) shoes which were fashionable from the 1490s. He works at a bench, cutting leather with a large implement, with other tools of his trade hanging on either side.

There will be a number of pieces of stained glass in the show. One of particular note is a panel attributed to Arnold of Nijmegen (active c. 1490-1536) showing three figures, a woman, a young man and an old man, from Flanders, Tournai (?), c. 1500. The glass maker exploited the rich colours of pot-metal glass to render fantastic costumes, notably the head-dresses.

The style, the bold coloration, and the scale of representation evoke certain windows with historical subjects executed around 1500 by Arnold of Nijmegen for the ambulatory of the Cathedral of Tournai that were later reinstalled in the transept. Known as Aert van Ort, the artist was born in Nijmegan and died in Antwerp. He began his career in Tournai and also worked in Rouen, where he enjoyed the patronage of Cardinal d’Amboise.

One of the fine manuscripts to be included in the show is a large Hymnal illuminated by the Master of 1446, c. 1430-40. The Master of 1446 was a Bolognese painter named after a book of statutes made for the Hospital of Santa Maria del Baraccano, Bologna. It includes numerous decorated letters and no less than seventeen illuminations.

Sam Fogg, 15d Clifford Street, London, W1S 4JZ.

Times: Monday to Friday – 9.30 am to 5.30 pm. Closed December 22, 2007 to January 2, 2008.

For more information call (0)20 7534 2100 or visit the website.