A rare 15th century Nottingham alabaster relief of Saint Fiacre
Lot 277
A rare 15th century alabaster relief of Saint Fiacre, possibly Meaux
Sold for £25,000 (US$ 42,020) inc. premium
Lot Details
A rare 15th century alabaster relief of Saint Fiacre, possibly Meaux
Holding a book in his right hand and a shovel in his left, wearing a green and red striped habit, on a green naturalistic ground, with traces of original gilding to beard and book clasp, later mounted on a 19th century red velvet covered stand, the figure 42cm high, 51cm high including the stand.


  • In the 15th century most of the alabaster workshops were based in the Chellason Hill area of Derbyshire and the Tetbury area of Staffordshire, where alabaster was quarried from 1160 onwards. The alabaster excavated became famous for its characteristically creamy and milky texture, which made it easier to carve and to paint than other materials. It became popular in the use of tomb carving, although unsuitable for any outdoor works, and was transported by water and road across England to various sculpture centres and even internationally as far north as Iceland and as far south as Spain. It was particularly favoured in Nottingham, which became the major centre of alabaster production in Europe.

    However, this alabaster relief is particularly rare as it may have come from the French city of Meaux rather than Nottingham. Saint Fiacre was the patron saint of gardeners. He founded a monastry and hospice at Meaux, and the garden there became famous for growing herbal remedies credited with miraculous cures. Devotion to this saint was particularly strong in this area, and we know that alabaster was also quarried at this site. For example, the Bishop of Meaux commissioned a series of alabaster reliefs for the choir of the cathedral, in around 1500, and at the start of the 17th century records show that an Italian traveller commented that alabaster statues were being sold in the city.

    A similar relief depicting Saint Fiacre is in the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, The Cloisters Collection, 1925 (25.120.227).

    Related literature:
    Musees Royaux d'Art et d'Histoire, Exposition de Sculptures Anglaises et Malinoises d'Albatre, Gh. Derveaux-Van Ussel, Bruxelles, 1967.
    F. Cheetham, English Medieval Alabasters, Oxford 1984, no. 138. for a similar piece.
  1. Bruce Addison
    Specialist - European Sculpture and Works of Art
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    United Kingdom
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