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Medieval Wall Painting
in the
English Parish Church

South Newington, Oxfordshire (†Oxford) C.1330

The Annunciation

Annunciation, South Newington

South Newington has many important paintings from the 14th and 15th centuries, the 15th century examples much less skilful than the earlier ones, but equally interesting. The Virgin and Child, the murder of St Thomas Becket, the Execution of Thomas of Lancaster, an elegant St Margaret and the Dragon and a very appealing 15th century Passion Cycle are also now here. This, though, is The Annunciation, painted on the north wall, towards the east end and the chancel, as is common with paintings of this subject. Although much damaged, it was, along with all the other 14th century paintings here, an exceptionally fine example once.

The Virgin, stands at the right, her right hand raised in acknowledgment, and a book held in her left (these details are faint and confused now, and her red mantle has largely merged with the background). At the left is Gabriel – his dark mantle was once green, and is an example of how unstable pigments change colour with age – and his wings were once red, green and yellow. He holds an inscribed scroll, and traces of the inscription remain – possibly the word ‘Maria’.

Between the two figures is a lily-pot, painted in cream with a branching flower emerging from it, and below the pot is a shield bearing the arms of Mortayne¹, probably for Margaret, the wife of Thomas Giffard, whose own arms appear elsewhere on paintings in the church. Whether Margaret had any connection with the Mortayne/Moretaine family who were Lords of the Manor of Marston Morteyne, some 40 miles to the east, I do not know, but it seems quite likely. She and her husband were probably responsible for commissioning the 14th century work at South Newington.

Website for St Peter ad Vincula, South Newington

¹ In heraldic language, a shield ermine, a chief dancetty gules [ET Long, Medieval Wall Paintings in Oxfordshire Churches, Oxfordshireiensia, Vol.XXXVII, 1972, p.100-101].