Towneley Altarpiece

 Towneley Altarpiece

Introduction

We do not know exactly when the 16th century altarpiece was brought to Towneley but it was probably purchased by Lady O'Hagan after she inherited Towneley in July 1886. There is no mention of the altarpiece in any 19th century inventory. A report of the visit by members of the Burnley Literary and Scientific Club in the Burnley Express for September 10th 1881 records "In the chapel the well-known tabernacle was greatly admired" but there was no mention of the altarpiece. The earliest mention of the altarpiece appears in 1889 when a visitor was told it had been purchased in Bruges. It went into storage by the time Lady O'Hagan left Towneley in March 1902.

The altarpiece re-appeared in 1921, when it came into the possession of Mary Elizabeth Towneley, cousin of Lady O'Hagan. She had joined the Order of the Sisters of Notre Dame in 1872 and shortly before her death, in 1922, she created a convent at Ashdown Park, Sussex. When the convent closed in 1968, the altarpiece was purchased for Towneley with help from the National Art Collection Fund.

The Altarpiece Overview

The altarpiece is a 16th century work resting on top of an altar table with 19th century carved scenes set in front of the altar. The altarpiece itself consists of six scenes narrating the Passion of Christ, starting with Christ at the column and ending with the Entombment. Each compartment is carefully proportioned, the tracery extending to fill half of each scene in the side sections. The altarpiece is crammed with detail and there are another six small scenes in the margins of the three upper compartments. It was made in Antwerp around 1525. A detailed description appears in Imported Images Netherlandish Late Gothic Sculpture in England, c.1400-c.1550 by Kim W. Woods, published Paul Watkins Publishing, Lincolnshire in 2007. See Woods note below.

Imported Images Netherlandish Late Gothic Sculpture in England, c.1400-c.1550 [ .. more]

Extract from The Burlington Magazine Volume CXLI Number 1152 March 1999-04-12 KIM WOODS [ .. more]

Extracts from Mary Elizabeth Towneley - A Memoir (Burns Oates and Washbourne, London 1924) [ .. more]

Provenance of the Towneley Altarpiece [ .. more]



Christ crowned with thorns

Album Captions

  • Christ crowned with thorns
  • Christ at the column
  • Amsterdam mark
  • Christ carrying the cross
  • Christ carrying the cross
  • the Crucifixion scene
  • the Crucifixion scene
  • Two boys with hobby-horse
  • the foreground of the Crucifixion scene
  • the Lamentation
  • the Lamentation
  • the Entombment
  • the Entombment
  • Sacrament of Baptism
  • Sacrament of Confirmation
  • Sacrament of Extreme Unction
  • the meeting of Abraham and Melchisedek
  • the Sacrifice of Isaac
  • Moses praying for his people

Author: tk - August 2016