Troston, Suffolk (†St Edmundsbury & Ipswich) C.14
Martyrdom of St Edmund
Edmund stands at the left, silhouetted, like all three figures in this painting, against the plaster layer from below which he was recovered. This is an unusually spare, economical painting, but the participants in the drama are crowded together without much apparent concern for spatial logic.
Many thick arrows emerge already from the saint’s bare legs and his torso, but an archer in a short doublet, his head and shoulders in sharp profile, is shown in the act of firing another – comparison with the length of those already in Edmund’s flesh suggests that they have penetrated deeply. Behind this man stands another, taller, figure, apparently looking on. Much detail has gone, including both the legs of one, and most of those of the other of these two figures; if Edmund ever had a crown, that has gone too; although the expression of resignedly patient suffering remains eloquent on his bowed head.
It is hard to say whether the darkly pigmented faces of Edmund’s executioners, particularly the taller one, are intended to signify their infamy and ‘heathen’ status or are simply the result of age and, possibly, retouching, but treatments of this subject vary widely in their details, and there was never a standard way of depicting this Martyrdom.
Troston has several other paintings – a St Christopher, two versions, one from the 13th century, of St George and the Dragon, and the central part of a Doom over the chancel arch. All are forthcoming.