Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Virgin and Child with Angels

Title: Virgin and Child with Angels

Artist: Unknown Master (French)

Medium: Tempera on oak panel

Size: 36.8 x 26.7 cm

Date: 1395

Location: National Gallery, London.

The 'Wilton Diptych' was painted as a portable altarpiece for the private devotion of King Richard II, who ruled England from 1377 to 1399. The diptych is thought to have been made in the last five years of Richard's reign, although its artist remains unknown. It is called the Wilton Diptych because it came from Wilton House in Wiltshire, the seat of the Earls of Pembroke.

When closed, the outside of the Diptych bears King Richard's arms and his personal emblem of a white hart chained with a crown around its neck. The inside left panel simply portrays Richard II being presented by three saints, which in turn faces the right panel, a heavenly vision of the Virgin and Child and a company of eleven angels created by immaculate painting and gilding. In honor of Richard II, the angles are all outfitted with badges repeating the theme of the White Stag. Such imagery supports the divine right of kings, a political and religious doctrine that asserts a monarch derives his right to rule directly from the will of God. The doctrine implies that any attempt to depose the king or to restrict his powers runs contrary to the will of God and may constitute heresy.

It is not known who painted the Wilton Diptych; artists from England, France, Italy and Bohemia have been suggested. This is not unusual as the practice of signing a finished painting was not widespread before the late 15th century. It would probably not have occurred to the majority of early artists to put such a personal stamp on the object that they had created, particularly if it was be used in religious devotions.

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