sunday best #14: The Wilton Diptych

The Wilton Diptych
The Wilton Diptych
Unknown artist
c. 1395–99

Douglas Robertson says:

As a maker, in whatever discipline you practice, one thing you need to do every now and again is to feed your creative soul.

One of my favourite places for this type of artistic nourishment is The National Gallery, in London’s Trafalgar Square. Filled with the nation’s art treasures, the gallery has a wealth of beautiful and engaging art works.

Collections of this type are in all of the world’s major cities, and can be a bit overwhelming in terms of the sheer number of works on view. This can lead to a bit of art overload. The problem is that with so many art works on view, by the time you leave you will have forgotten what you have seen! For this Sunday Best, I would like to recommend a tactic to prevent that feeling of art gallery ‘exhaustion’.

One of the key things to do is not to over-do it. Choose an area that you would like to take a closer look at; 19th Century social realism, impressionism, Constable’s landscapes or Turner’s seascapes, to name but a few possibilities. If you can, home in on one particular artist or piece of work.

The piece I’m choosing to look at (albeit virtually) is The Wilton Diptych.

The Wilton Diptych (c. 1395–99) is a small portable diptych of two hinged panels, painted on both sides. It is an extremely rare survival of a late Medieval religious panel painting from England. It is a truly breathtaking piece of work, and to give you a sense of scale, each panel is about the size of an A3 piece of paper. The piece depicts Richard, surrounded by three saints, Edward the Confessor, Edmund the Martyr, and John the Baptist, and he is being presented with England by the Christ Child and the Virgin Mary, who are surrounded by angels wearing Richard’s emblem, the White Hart.

Try not to pay just a passing glance at your chosen area. Take a notebook with you and write down your thoughts and ideas about the works. Spend a good bit of time in the company of paintings, and if you can, buy a postcard of your favourite piece. Don’t be tempted to start going around the rest of the collections, leave that for another day.

Now, when you come out of the gallery, find a good coffee shop, order your self a drink, and sit down and relax and try to recall the best parts of your visit. I’m not saying this is a fool-proof way of getting the most from art galleries, but it is a tried and tested method, especially the coffee shop bit!

Douglas Robertson
“The Wilton Diptych” is recommended by Douglas Robertson (see also his six things).
  • Painted: (c. 1395–99)
  • Current availability: On view in the National Gallery, London

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