Brass of the month
November 2005: Upper Hardres, Kent
November's brass of the month from Upper Hardres, Kent commemorates John Strete (d. 1406). It is a rare survivor of a type of brass mostly known only from indents, in which the deceased is depicted kneeling in prayer before a devotional image, either on a bracket, as here, or within a crosshead. Sometimes, as in the case of the monastic indents at Ely, the object of devotion is the cross itself. The earliest known example of this type of iconographic brass is the indent in St. Mary the Virgin, Oxford, ascribed to Adam de Brome, the founder of Oriel College (d. 1332).
Strete is shown praying to SS. Peter and Paul, the patron saints of Upper Hardres, who are depicted with their usual emblems of key and sword. The images on the bracket once mirrored the patronal images set above the high altar in the chancel where Strete was buried. The Strete brass is a product of the London B workshop, which was responsible for another rare intact iconographic brass, that of John Mulsho (d. 1400) and wife at Newton-
The scroll which twines round the shaft of the bracket, thereby unifying the composition, has a rhyming couplet that reads (in translation): ‘Key-
The brass at Upper Hardres is also significant in the history of academical costume as the earliest monumental depiction of a Cambridge graduate. John Strete is shown wearing a cassock, hood and pileus or skullcap, which indicates his status as a Master of Arts. He had graduated M.A. by 1363, when he was included in a University roll for papal graces and was granted reservation of a benefice in the gift of St. Augustine’s Abbey, Canterbury.
The beauty of the composition has long been recognised, and it was taken as a model by Pugin and other Victorian designers of brasses.
Copyright: Nicholas Rogers
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