An Experiment with Gold Leaf

Fig. 1

Fig. 2

Shroud brasses contain human skeletons or cadavers in shrouds (see, In Search of Medieval Inspiration, Part 3(iii), on this website). Figures 1 and 2 show skeletal brasses and are of Richard and Cecilie Howard, who died in 1499, and come from Aylsham Church, Norfolk. Such figures often have their hands together in prey mode (not crossed as above) as shown in Figs. 3 & 4 below, of Agnes and John Symondes, who died in 1511, and whose brasses are to be found at Cley Church, Norfolk. Sometimes, the open shrouded figures lie with their hands at their sides.





















                                      Fig. 3                            Fig. 4


I wanted to experiment with the naivety of the Howard images and the preying position and body angle of the Symondes’. 


















                                      Fig. 5                              Fig. 6



                                    Fig. 7                                Fig. 8




















                                    Fig. 9                              Fig. 10


Figures 5-10 show the combination of these figures with different lighting on a two-dimensional figure. During the Medieval period, saints were normally portrayed with gold leaf around them, and I wanted to use this medium as an ironic metaphor for ungodly clergy, who often posed as saintly to their parishioners when, in reality, many were milking the faith for all they could get out of it, both for themselves and their brethren. The wealth of the Church was astonishing during this period, when it hoarded precious metals, got fat from the labours of the laity who worked Church land, and rich with unsubstantiated promises of salvation to the gullible. As a power-based institution, it was largely parasitical, preying on the weaknesses and fears of the uneducated, when life was unpredictable and short, and my gold leafed cadaver represents this.