Sculpture 12


Not sleeping but dead
Painted tomb effigy of Sir George Snygge, who died in 1617, St Stephen’s, Bristol
A particularly fine monument, though the folds of his robe are less convincing


11 thoughts on “Sculpture 12

    1. Medieval tomb effigies have largely lost their paint, so it’s often hard to tell if their eyes are open or not, and modern stone tombs generally eschew paint anyway (to let the naked stone ‘speak for itself’). Here is a close-up of one such effigy, contemporary with my example, and it looks as though her eyes are definitely open!

      Many Jacobean effigies showed the deceased (and their spouses and often numerous offspring) kneeling and praying, and my recollection is that they have their eyes painted open.

      This gentleman, though I’ve labelled him Not sleeping but dead, is resting on his side: perhaps I should have labelled him Daydreaming of the life to come, but it wasn’t so punchy or biblical-sounding!


      1. Yes, I thought he looked a bit devil-may-care as he gazed into the Great Abyss. A kneeling position, head bowed in supplication, seems more apt. But then we couldn’t see the deceased’s face. And I can imagine the wealthy aristocrat (or the family) commissioning the monument: “None of your holy roller stuff, if you please. We want something that’ll make people say, ‘Ooh, Georgie, wouldn’t you like that on your tombstone?'”


    1. It is striking, isn’t it?

      Regarding the fall of the robe, the only explanation I can come up with is that many medieval tomb effigies may have been carved to look as though they were standing statues (such as those marvellous elongated figures at Chartres cathedral), and were then placed as recumbent figures on tombs.

      Presumably that convention continued into the late Renaissance and beyond even though it was inappropriate.


  1. Was at the Cloisters a week ago and took a good look at the effigies. Of 7, 2 were open-eyed (1 knight + 1 woman). No pattern, because another knight had his eyes closed.
    Anyway, main purpose of visit was Janet Cardiff’s “40-Part Motet” installation. Hooray for hearing Thomas Tallis in the Fuentidueña Chapel. Gorgeous. As good as hearing Anonymous Four and Sequentia perform there, because I could sit, stand, or move around as the mood struck.


    1. Thanks for this link, Lizzie. I’ve sung Spem in Alium twice now, under different conductors but both times in St Davids Cathedral, a great medieval space in which to perform this stupendous piece. Being able to walk around the speakers to hear individual voices as well as sit in the middle to get the ensemble effect must have been tremendous. And in that chapel too!


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