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Antony Cairns ADMIN December 12, 2013
Church effigies in: stone, alabaster, marble, wood and brass.

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Group Description

The first attempts at commemorative portraiture emerged in the 13th century, executed in low relief, horizontal but as in life. Gradually these became full high-relief effigies, usually recumbent, as in death, and, by the 14th century, with hands together in prayer. In general, such monumental effigies were carved in stone, alabaster or wood, or cast in bronze or brass. Often the stone effigies were painted to resemble life, but on the vast majority of medieval monuments, the paint has long since disappeared. The cross-legged attitude of many armoured figures of the late 13th or early 14th centuries was long supposed to imply that the deceased had served in the Crusades, had taken crusading vows, or more specifically had been a Knight Templar; but these theories are now rejected by scholars. Feet were often supported by stylised animals, usually either a lion indicating valour and nobility (generally for men), or a dog indicative of loyalty (generally for women). Sometimes the footrest was an heraldic beast from the deceased's family coat of arms.

By the early 13th century, the effigies were raised on tomb-style chests (known as tomb chests or altar tombs) decorated with foliage, heraldry or architectural detailing. Soon such chests stood alone with varying degrees of decorations. By the end of the century, these often had architectural canopies. Figured "weepers" (often friends or relatives identified by their coats of arms) were popular decorative features. In the 15th century, the figures were often portrayed as angels or saints, and the chest might include a cadaver. The most refined monuments were made of alabaster. Around the 13th century, smaller two-dimensional effigies incised in plates of brass and affixed to monumental slabs of stone became popular too. These memorial brasses were somewhat cheaper and particularly popular with the emerging middle class.

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