Historic Heads


The Anglo-Saxon period, which, in respect of Art, seems to mingle both classical reminiscences and Byzantine traditions with a grandly fantastic native element, offers more interest. Christ is here more strictly separate; the disciples have one class of features, being chiefly given with classically formed profiles, the angels and archangels another, and Christ a third. This is of an abstract and weird character, conveying a strange sense of the supernatural, perfectly in keeping with the abstract nature of the more general conception, which represents our Lord in glory. The head rises grandly above the stony stare, the divided hair is cinctured with a fillet and jewel, and the beard is formed into three points. The lines are few and equal, as if by a hand accustomed to incise them in a harder material. Another form, with a bushy wig of hair, of which we annex an illustration (No. 11), is more fantastic, though not without a certain grandeur. This is taken from an Anglo-Saxon MS. In the British Museum, of the year 1000.

. . .Our next specimen (No 13, over leaf) is English in origin, taken from a psalter (Biblila Regia, 2 A. XXII,. In the Biritish Museum, of about the year 1250). This is reduced from a head half the size of life. Here the fact that the type of Christ’s head is the same as contemporary persons is strikingly borne out, for the head of Henry III (1216-72). discovered on the wall of the Windsor cloisters, is curiously identical in form an expression though more rude.


Lady Elizabeth Eastlake, in History of Our Lord, 1890

1 thought on “Historic Heads”

  1. I find it utterly hilarious reading the previous post then this one, seeing that the portraits cover approximately the same fraction of the body…

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