A French statue of St Anthony
- Art Funded
- Mullany Fine Art
This carved limestone statue of St Anthony was produced in northern France towards the end of the 15th century.
The bearded saint is shown dressed in a hooded cloak. A T-shaped cross – known as a tau cross – is seen on the left- hand side of his cloak. The figure is elderly, with a wizened face and veined nose, his eyes directed at an open book in his right hand. In his left hand he holds a rough wooden staff, while a bell hangs from his finger. His habit is tied with a buckled belt rather than the usual knotted rope.
St Anthony was a popular saint in the Middle Ages and his relics were thought to have powerful curative properties, especially for skin diseases. Members of the Hospital Brothers of St Anthony – close to the church in France where his relics were housed – wore a black habit, distinguishable from the Benedictines by its blue tau cross, also known as St Anthony’s cross.
The original provenance of this statue is not known, but it has a roughly chiselled reverse, suggesting it may have stood in a niche or been part of a larger figurative scene. The detailed carving reflects the late-Gothic shift to a more realistic depiction of such figures. Iconographic elements in the statue include a pig at the saint’s feet, a symbol of St Anthony’s work as a swineherd in his youth.
This work becomes a central piece in the proposed new medieval gallery at Norwich Castle Museum & Art Gallery.
Former owners based near Rouen, France; acquired in 2015 Mullany Fine Art. An Art Loss Register certificate has been received.