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Medieval Wall Painting
in the
English Parish Church

South Newington, Oxfordshire (†Oxford) C.14

The Virgin & Child

Virgin & Child, with donors, South Newington, Oxford

This very beautiful Virgin and Child of about 1330 is on the north wall at South Newington. It is one of the finest paintings anywhere in the English church. The Virgin is crowned and in her left hand she holds a wand or rod surmounted by a fleur-de-lys, rather faint against the highly decorative background now. Her robe and mantle fall in elegant folds.

The rather small Christ Child, who holds a red apple, is held on her right arm, his free hand resting on his mother’s neck. The pair stand within a painted niche elaborately canopied, its background patterned with scrollwork. Below them is an illusionistic painted corbel with a shield bearing the arms of Giffard (three lions passant argent). To the left are two kneeling figures, hands extended in prayer. The upper, male, figure wears a long hooded robe which was once striped red and green, and a black girdle. This latter has a purse with a lock, still quite visible, on it, and a prominently displayed dagger thrust through it. Below the man is a woman, conventionally dressed in a green robe and white headress, part of her figure unfortunately damaged.

Nothing is certain, but all the evidence suggests that these people are Thomas Giffard and his wife Margaret Mortayne, and that they are the donors of this painting, and indeed, quite possibly of all the 14th century paintings in the church (there is also some 15th century work here). In all probability Thomas Giffard is also the man kneeling before St Michael in another painting newly added to this site, in the church. The Annunciation at South Newington, which also includes the arms of Mortayne, has been on the site for some time, as have the murder of St Thomas Becket and the Execution of Thomas of Lancaster, a fascinating 15th century Passion Cycle and, newly on the site, St Margaret and the Dragon.

Website for St Peter ad Vincula, South Newington