Comper's Masterpiece at Wymondham, Norfolk

One of the most accomplished ecclesiastical artists of any age is the 19th/20th century English artist, Sir Ninian Comper. In fact, I consider his sculptural works to be masterpieces, not just of the modern age, but of absolutely any age.

Dr. Allan Baron, whom many of you will recognize from LAJ, has documented yet another spectacular masterpiece by Comper on his own blog, Medieval Church Art. There he documents the spectacular altar screen of the parish church of St Mary and St Thomas of Canterbury, Wymondham in Norfolk -- the home to so many treasures of medieval English ecclesiastical art.

On the advice of Sir William St. John Hope, Comper was tapped in 1920 to beautify the church -- and what a beautification it was.

Dr. Barton writes:
"[Comper's] solution was to add to the wall an altar screen, with a tester and rood and it is one of his most monumental works. The main part of the work was completed in 1921, although the work of colouring and gilding the reredos was not completed until 1934. The inspiration for the altar screen was no doubt the surviving medieval examples at Winchester, St Albans and Southwark cathedrals. A few years after completing the work here at Wymondham, Comper was to work on the screen at Southwark. The inspiration for the arrangement of the tester and the rood was the pre-Reformation high altar arrangements at Westminster Abbey, as depicted in the Islip roll that records the funeral of Abbot John Islip of the 1532...

"Just as the Eucharist is the foretaste of the heavenly banquet, so Comper intended his altar screen to be a visual foretaste of heaven. The central focus of the screen is therefore a twice life-size image of the Majestas, Christ in Majesty. Christ is seated, his right hand raised in blessing, his feet resting on cherubim and he emerges from heaven in a Mandorla of clouds, his presence emphasised by rays of glory. He gold a book on which are written Alpha and Omega. There are censing angels on the four corners of the panel to herald Christ's appearance."
Here are a few teaser images, all taken by Dr. Allan Barton, of this phenomenal masterpiece.

This is how church art and sculpture is meant to be friends.

If you want to read more and see many more photos of this amazing work,  please visit Dr. Barton's site and read his article, All That Glitters is Gold.

All photos copyright Dr. Allan Barton. 

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