Little Easton, Essex (†Chelmsford?) c.1175
Apostle/Evangelist or Prophet
This imposing seated figure is painted on the north wall at Little Easton, opposite the much later Passion Cycle. It may, as Tristram suggested, be one of a series of Apostles or Prophets¹, the others now vanished.
At any rate, much care and skill has gone into the painting – the figure is massively solid, but gracefully posed in a seated position holding a large book. The head (which has a trace of a halo) is presented in profile, and the arm reaching across the body suggests to me that there was once something else, perhaps a lectern or writing desk, on the right of the painting. The pose is altogether an ambitious one, with the left arm and hand (this latter not easy to see now) reaching across the body to cradle the book while the rest of the upper torso moves to the right.
The strip of pigment visible above the head of the figure is likely to have been a scroll, which might once have identified the figure. Tristram suggested that an Apostle or Evangelist was more likely than a Prophet, since the feet seem to be bare. The halo and the large book strengthen this likelihood, I think. Below the figure is a stele or plinth with a broad painted border. Tristram suggested that this showed a man cutting wood, or, more specifically, pruning a stylised tree, and might therefore be part of a Labours of the Months series, a rare remaining example of which is at Easby in North Yorkshire.
¹ Tristram 1, p.54