Bosom of Abraham Trinity

English
Medieval (Gothic)
1420–50
Unidentified artist, English, 15th century


Object Place: Europe, Nottingham, England

Dimensions

95.9 x 38.1 x 12.7 cm (37 3/4 x 15 x 5 in.)

Accession Number

27.852

Medium or Technique

Stone; alabaster with polychromy and gilding

On View

Museum Council Gallery (Gallery 254)

Collections

Europe

Classifications

Sculpture

This startling image combines two devotional themes-the Trinity and Souls resting in the bosom of Old Testament-patriarch Abraham. The Trinity includes God, seated and blessing with his right hand; the crucified Christ; and the Holy Spirit symbolized by the dove painted at the top of the cross. A cloth draped across God’s chest contains small figures representing souls. This image offered comfort to its viewers, including the donors of the sculpture, who kneel at God’s feet, and hold scrolls which once contained their prayers. This large and ambitious alabaster carving would have been placed above an altar.

Provenance

From Spain, possibly the Cathedral of Jaca, and sold in Madrid [see note 1]. By 1919, Frank Gair Macomber (b. 1849 - d. 1941), Boston; 1927, sold by Macomber to the MFA for $1500. (Accession Date: December 8, 1927)

NOTES:
[1] According to Walter L. Hildburgh, who was the among the foremost experts on English alabaster carvings, this sculpture was "found in Spain" and "passed through Madrid," although his sources of this information are unknown. See W. L. Hildburgh, "Iconographic Peculiarities in English Medieval Alabaster Carvings, Part I," Folk-Lore 44 (March 1933), p. 50, n. 51 and ibid., "Some Presumably Datable Fragments of an English Alabaster Retable," Antiquaries Journal 24, nos. 1-2 (January-April, 1944), pp. 36-37. The sculpture was subsequently published by Anselmo Gascón de Gotor Giménez, Nueve Catedrales en Aragón (Zaragoza: Libreria General, 1945), pl. 5, with a caption indicating it was held by the cathedral of Jaca. By the date of this publication the sculpture had long since been at the MFA, and whether it had once been at Jaca is not known.

Credit Line

Decorative Arts Special Fund