Permanent Galleries

The Trinity, 15th century

The Trinity, 15th century
alabaster with polychrome and gilding
22.5 x 10.13 inches (57.15 x 25.73 cm)
Acquired with funds provided by Mr. and Mrs. Robert Raclin

From the fourteenth to the sixteenth centuries, alabaster relief panels carved in Nottingham were in demand for churches throughout England and Europe. Alabaster is a soft stone that can be carved easily and broken easily, and most of the medieval alabaster panels that survive today contain breakages. Because the artists depicted characters from biblical stories in ordinary medieval dress, the panels give an immediate impression of the look of everyday life in late medieval England.

Alabaster carvers usually produced the panels as a set of relief sculptures to be assembled as a horizontal altarpiece in a church. Often the panels told a story, such as the Passion, reading from left to right. Whereas in the making of medieval books the various tasks of illustrating, writing, and preparing the paper usually were carried out by different specialist workers, the alabaster carver executed all of the jobs himself. These included carving and painting the stone, as well as carpentering and decorating the wooden frames in which the finished panels would be displayed.

In the Snite Museum’s Trinity, a seated, crowned God the Father raises His hands in blessing over the head of the smaller-scale crucified Son held between His knees. The filled-in dowel hole beneath the Father’s beard probably originally held a carving of a white dove representing the Holy Spirit, which has broken off in the course of time. Two angels carrying the chains of censers flank the Father’s head, and two smaller angels hold chalices to the bleeding hands of Christ to catch his holy blood. Below Christ’s feet, two more angels collect his blood in a single chalice. Traces of color can be seen inside the folds of robes, in the gold of the Father’s crown, and in the green of the lower background, on which small white flowers have been painted.