Conservationists working on Shakespeare’s Schoolroom & Guildhall have uncovered a new figure in a rare medieval wall painting. Identified by experts as John the Baptist, this figure is part of a 15th century painting referring to motifs from the seal of the Guild of the Holy Cross.
John the Baptist is shown with a halo above his head holding a staff and book and cradling a small lamb. From head to waist, the figure is approximately 40cm high and is situated on one of the timber uprights of the building’s south gable.
Conservationist Richard Lithgow, who made the discovery, says, “To find this figure is highly significant and beyond any expectations we could have. The scheme is what we would term a Trinity painting with John the Baptist depicted alongside God the Father, Christ the Son and the Holy Spirit. Whilst we knew that remnants of the picture remained intact, we were not expecting to see either a fully formed figure, or a figure positioned on one of the timbers, which has almost certainly helped it to remain as well preserved as it has.
It is a very rare moment to find something so well preserved and as historically important as this painting of John the Baptist, which would have been created some time between 1425 and 1450.”
The process of conserving this piece of artwork has been meticulously planned over the last ten years, with the Trustees and conservation team of Shakespeare’s Schoolroom & Guildhall working in consultation with Historic England and Dr Kate Giles of York University.
Ronnie Mulyrne, Trustee of Shakespeare’s Schoolroom & Guildhall, says, “It is astonishing that a work of art – more than five hundred years old – can still week by week, day by day almost – surprise and excite us with fresh discoveries.”
This discovery was made during the process of restoration that is underway prior to the building’s opening to the public as a visitor attraction on 23 April.
Swooping into Shakespeare’s Schoolroom & Guildhall this February half term is a bird watching adventure and a bird crafting activity. Both will take place from Saturday 10 February to Sunday 25 February.
Join author Rob Eastaway as he explores the surprising connections between Shakespeare and – of all things - maths, in this highly engaging talk.