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Medieval Wall Painting
in the
English Parish Church

Belton, Suffolk (†Norwich) Late C.14/Early C.15

Three Living & Three Dead (modern copy)

This is a modern copy of what was originally below the painting of St Christopher at Belton. At the time that the copy was made, the speech-scrolls issuing from the mouths of all three of the Living (on horseback at the left) were still legible. The first man (nearest the centre) is saying “benedicter, what want ye?”, the second “A wondrous sight is this that I see”. The third says “…will I flee”, and suits the action to the word by turning his horse round. The three men are kings, and their clothes and horse-trappings are very elaborate.

copy of the Three Living & Three Dead, Belton

The Three Dead are at the right and all are naked skeletons. The encounter is set in a landscape with undulating hills in the background, and the Dead stand beside a structure I have not yet managed to identify.

Whatever this turns out to be, it is its presence here, along with the wayside Cross in the centre of the painting and the fact that the kings are on horseback that convinces me that this was not painted by an English artist In particular, I have not yet seen a wayside Cross or Calvary in an English painting of the subject, and I doubt if there are any, but this detail is so common in French versions as to be normal.

There is nothing inherently unlikely in the idea that an artist from France or the Low Countries came to paint at Belton – Hermann Scheere, the great Flemish miniaturist, worked in England in the early 15th century. And if I am right, did our Continental painter also work at Gisleham, only a few miles away?

† in page heading = Diocese