‘ymage of death’ roundel

I couldn’t resist posting this lovely image from Gordon Plumb’s photostream. It is worth posting on two counts, because of its interesting iconography, but also because of its value in terms of historiography. So often with medieval stained glass you either have the glass and no contemporary documentary evidence to associate with it, or you have loads of documentary evidence for glass that has long gone. Here at Stanford on Avon in Northamptonshire, is a wonderful example of documentary evidence and remaining glass marrying up.

The documentary evidence is a will. In 1500 Henry Williams, vicar of Stanford on Avon made his will and he wrote:

‘I wyll that the glasse windowes in the chancell wth ymagery that was thereyn before allso with my ymage knelying in ytt and the ymage of dethe shotyng at me, another wyndowe before Saynt John with ymagery in ytt now with my Image knelying in ytt and deth shoting at me theys to be done in smalle quarells of as gude glasse as can be goten.’

In other words Williams wanted the glass that was already in the chancel at Stanford augmented with multiple images of himself being shot at by a figure of death! Our panel is the only survivor of these multiple images. Williams is dressed in a red cassock with a fur tippet over it and from a roundel an emaciated corpse rising from the grave, the figure of death, aims his long bow at him. A fascinating memento mori.

Further reading:
R. C. Marks, The Medieval Stained Glass of Northamptonshire (Oxford, 1998), p. 183.

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