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Practicalities of production: making Norfolk’s medieval screens

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England is the pre-eminent country for medieval painted wooden screenwork and East Anglia its richest region, for within Norfolk, Suffolk and Cambridgeshire over five hundred examples remain, dating from the 14th-16th centuries. This large body of polychrome woodwork mainly takes the form of chancel or rood screens. Rood screens were previously part of a larger structure of which much is lost, specifically the Crucifix or rood, its attendant figures and the rood loft, a balcony on top of the screen. However, the dados of screens often survive with much of their paint intact, and roughly one hundred and twenty screens in the region depict figures, among them saints, prophets, kings and angels. Screens have a wealth of information to be mined, in terms of their carpentry construction and painted decoration. Patterns of workshop production can be ascertained through close recording of details such as jointing methods, moulding profiles and carving style and technique. Equally underdrawing style, stencil motifs, cast relief decorations and presence of figure paintings derived from print sources can locate the activity and geographical range of the same groups of artists. The design structure of screens means that painting had mainly to be done on site, indicating that screen painters were often itinerant.

This talk is part of the Medieval Art Seminar Series series.

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