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Alexander Nagel

[Fr. postautel, retable; Ger. Altar, Altaraufsatz, Altarbild, Altarretabel, Altarrückwand, Retabel; It. ancona, dossale, pala (d’altare); Sp. retablo]

An image-bearing structure set on the rear part of the altar (see Altar, §II), abutting the back of the altarblock, or set behind the altar in such a way as to be visually joined with the altar when viewed from a distance. It is also sometimes called a retable, following the medieval term retrotabulum [retabulum, retrotabularium].

The altarpiece was never officially prescribed by the Church, but it did perform a prescribed function alternatively carried out by a simple inscription on the altarblock: to declare to which saint or mystery the altar was dedicated. In fact, the altarpiece did more than merely identify the altar; its form and content evoked the mystery or personage whose cult was celebrated at the altar. This original and lasting function influenced the many forms taken by the altarpiece throughout its history. Since the altarpiece was not prescribed by the Church, its form varied enormously. For this reason, it is often impossible, and historically inaccurate, to draw neat distinctions between the altarpiece and other elements occasionally associated with the altar apparatus. For example, movable statues, often of the Virgin and Child, were occasionally placed on altars according to ritual needs, and at those times fulfilled the function of the altarpiece....




P. T. Craddock

Alloy of copper and tin. In the West bronze was largely superseded by Brass, the alloy of copper and zinc, by the 5th century ad; many brass artworks, however, are commonly described as ‘bronze’. In early times Classical languages had just one term for copper and copper alloys, thus for example the Chinese had the word tang, the Tibetans li, the Greeks khalkos and the Romans aes. (For copper–zinc alloys produced by cementation (see Brass, §II) the Greeks had the term oreikhalkos and the Romans the related term aurichalcum, but these were not often used in general literature.)

The equivalent Anglo-Saxon general term was ‘brass’, and up to the 17th century this simply meant copper or one of its alloys. Various terms for copper–zinc alloys, such as latten and maslin, were in use in the late medieval and early post-medieval periods (see Blair and Blair, pp. 81–106). At about this time the term ...



Tim Smare

Reproduction of a three-dimensional object produced by means of a mould.

While moulds can be fashioned directly, for example by carving wood or stone, both mould and cast are usually made in a pliable or amorphous material, such as plaster of Paris, wax or clay. The model is encased in the chosen material, so as to hold an impression of its shape and surface in negative: the mould is then carefully removed and the hollow interior filled to make the positive cast. A piece-mould, a mould constructed in numerous sections, is used to facilitate removal, the small sections sometimes held in place by an outer ‘case’ mould. The modern process of casting has been simplified by the use of synthetic rubbers that can be peeled away from undercut forms and reused. Other, less versatile, flexible materials for moulds include wax, gelatin and latex rubber (see Plastic, §1). Alternatively, a one-off cast can be made with a waste-mould. If the original form is modelled in soft clay, a plaster mould of few sections is easily removed, but if there are undercut forms the mould is ‘wasted’ or chipped away from the cast. ...




Harriet Sonne de Torrens

Mainland peninsula of modern-day Denmark and one of the three provinces (Jutland, Zealand and Skåne, southern Sweden) that constituted medieval Denmark. The conversion of the Danes to Christianity initiated a reorganization of the economic, social and legal structures of Denmark that would change the shape of Jutland dramatically between the 11th and 14th centuries. Under Knut the Great, King of Denmark and England (reg 1019–35), Jutland acquired a stable diocesan system (1060) that enabled a systematic collection of tithes and the growth of religious institutions between 1050 and 1250. During this period, agricultural practices changed as manor houses and landed estates were established, producing wealth for the ruling families. Under Valdemar I (reg 1157–82) and Knut VI (reg 1182–1202), Jutland witnessed a great building activity; on Jutland more than 700 stone churches were constructed, some replacing earlier wooden churches, each needing liturgical furnishings. Workshops, such as that of the renowned sculptor Horder and many others, were actively engaged in carving stone baptismal fonts (e.g. Malt, Skodborg, Ut, Stenild), capitals, reliefs (Vestervig, Aalborg) and tympana (Gjøl, Ørsted, Stjaer, Skibet), wooden cult figures, Jutland’s golden altars (Lisbjerg, Sahl, Stadil, Tamdrup) and wall paintings. Evidence of the earliest wall paintings in Jutland, ...


Gordon Campbell

[objets de vertu]

Decorative work in a fine material (e.g. glass, porcelain, semi-precious stones, silver or gold) that is attractive because of its antiquity, beauty and quality of workmanship. ‘Vertu’ (It. virtù) refers to a taste for curios or other works of art. The traditional form objets de vertu combines French and English spellings; as the Italian sense of ...