Patronage in Gothic England

To the greater glory of God – but not forgetting to include the patron – was the guiding principle of the creative art of the Middle Ages.

Of the many treasures in the National Gallery few have preserved their secrets as successfully as the Wilton Diptych. Its date, its provenance, its meaning have all aroused controversy. Only its beauty is uncontested. The essence of the problem lies in the Christian symbolism of the two wings of the altarpiece. Artistically they form a single composition. Richard II, shown kneeling in the left-hand panel, reaches out to receive the banner of St George being handed to him by the Christ Child depicted in the panel opposite. The gaze of the king, and of the three saints sponsoring him, is directed towards the Child, and that of the latter towards the banner which he is preparing to take from an attending angel. All are enveloped in a mood of mystical dreaminess accentuated by the fact that no two pairs of eyes actually meet each other.

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