Stone heads

Stone head 14

Head of John the Baptist, Victoria & Albert
Head of John the Baptist, Victoria & Albert Museum
Arms of Merchant Taylors guild above door, Bristol
Arms of Bristol Merchant Taylors Guild above door

Above An alabaster head of John the Baptist as demanded by Salome, in the V&A. English, 15th century
Below The porch hood of the Guild of Merchant Taylors Guild, central Bristol, showing their arms and, on the left, the head of John the Baptist on a platter

The head in the V&A is carved from gypsum alabaster, a fine-grained, soft and smooth stone. Cheaper and easier to work than marble, alabaster was common in sculpture in England where marble was not available to be quarried.

The Baptist, according to the description in Mark’s Gospel, “wore clothing of camel’s hair with a leather belt around his waist”.

This accounts for the appearance of a pair of camels as supporters on the coat of arms and John’s adoption as an appropriate patron saint for the tailors of Bristol when thy received their charter in 1399.

The porch doorway was built in 1740 and restored in 1960.


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