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(Click on image to enlarge.)
click here to enlarge "1309 - 1409"
oil on panel 30 x 24 inches
Owned by Clare College


The royal theme of this painting was inspired by the long tradition of royal patronage throughout the University’s history.

The large open manuscript on the bookstand is an illustrated Apocalypse written in the 1330s (MS 20, Parker Library, Corpus Christi College). It is written in Latin and Anglo-Norman and was made for a wealthy nobleman, Sir Henry de Cobham. It subsequently passed to Juliana de Leybourne, Countess of Huntingdon (d. 1367) who bequeathed it to St Augustine's Abbey, Canterbury. From there it passed into the collection of Archbishop Matthew Parker (d. 1575) who left it to Corpus Christi College in his will. The Apocalypse or Book of Revelation was a popular subject for contemplation in the later middle ages. The left-hand page (f. 18v) illustrates Revelations 8:13, St John watches as an eagle cries ‘Woe, woe, woe to the inhabitants of the earth’. The right-hand page (f. 19r) illustrates Revelations 9:1-3: St John watches as an angel blows the fifth trumpet, the pit of hell opens and locusts stream out.

The psalter in the foreground (MS 76, Sidney Sussex) was made by artists of the Milemete Group, most probably in Oxford, c. 1330, for a patron in the diocese of Exeter. The small books supporting the psalter contain treatises on astronomy and mathematics, chronicles and historical texts (Parker Library, Corpus Christi).

To the right of the Sidney psalter, we find an English planispheric astrolabe from the 14th century (Wh.1264, Whipple Museum). The astrolabe is an astronomical instrument used to observe and calculate the position of celestial bodies. The instrument works on a principle called stereographic projection. This allows the 3-dimensional celestial sphere representing the heavens to be drawn on a flat disc marked with a grid of curved lines. The movements of the sun and stars can be traced against this grid, once their positions have been determined. Most astrolabes are equipped with sights to make the necessary observations, enabling the user to find the time of day or night. These sights can also be used to find the heights of buildings, trees and hills. A further function of the astrolabe was to model the appearance of the heavens for times past and future, making it useful in astrology.

The red and gold tapestry behind the Book of the Apocalypse is a detail of the altar frontal in Queens’ Chapel, and is not of the period, but was chosen as tapestries were often used as wall hangings in this period. The altar frontal was originally an Arts and Crafts design by Bodley, made by Watts and Co., but was unfortunately destroyed by fire in 1970. The present day Frontal was purchased in the early 1980s from Watts and Co, of the same, or similar, material and design to the original.

The stained glass in the background is from the Cambridge Greyfriars, dating from the 1330s and 1340s and the second half of the 14th century, and was discovered in fragments during excavations in Cloister Court, Sidney Sussex in 1958. The coats-of-arms of the colleges founded in this period have been inserted into the pattern of the stained glass, namely Clare (1326), Pembroke (1347), Gonville & Caius (1348), Trinity Hall (1350) and Corpus Christi (1352).
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