Brass Eagle Lectern

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Material: Brass
Dimensions: Wingspan: 55.5cm / 21 ⅝in
Place of Origin: England or Low Countries
Date: Circa 1490
Maker or Retailer: Unknown
Present Location: English parish church

Explanation:

This late medieval lectern belongs to a group of 46 surviving examples, many of which are still in liturgical use in churches. Thirty nine are recorded in England, one in Scotland, one in Ireland, four in Italy and one in Croatia. They have been grouped together on the basis of similarity both in style and in the methods used to make them.  Some have inscriptions that indicate when they were made; the maximum possible range of dates is from 1471 to 1543. Stylistic and technical similarity among the lecterns indicates production within a single metalworking tradition, possibly all in the same place. Where this place was, whether in England or in the Low Countries, is a matter of dispute.

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Stylistically, they are broadly similar to late medieval lecterns of undoubted Flemish origin; but they differ from them in detail. Flemish lecterns are more elaborate in design, often with a dragon beneath the talons of the eagle, figurative or architectural enrichment of the column and pierced ornamentation of the column and base.  None of these features occurs on the lecterns in the group to which the present example belongs.

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The components forming the eagles were individually cast using the lost wax method so that each bird is unique. The components of the column and base were cast directly in loam moulds and it has been suggested that some components may have been shaped with templates that were used in the production of more than one lectern.

References:

  • Brownsword, R. English pre-Reformation eagle lecterns. Journal of the Antique Metalware Society, Vol. 6, 1998, pp. 7-16.
  • de Ruette, M. Brass foundry workshops of the southern Low Countries and the Principality of Liege. A technical approach. Historical Metallurgy, 30, 1996, pp. 116-120
  • de Ruette, M. Les Lutrins coulés en laiton au moyen âge et à la Renaissance. In: Hermal, P. & Pacco, M. (eds) Art du Laiton Dinanderie. Société Archéologique de Namur, 2005, pp. 95-103
  • Didier, R. Lutrins et statuaire en laiton du pays Mosan au Moyen Age. In: Hermal, P. & Pacco, M. (eds) Art du Laiton Dinanderie. Société Archéologique de Namur, 2005, pp. 63-94.

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