Monumental Brass Society

Edmund West

Date of Brass:
Epiphanius Evesham


April 2020

The sculptor Epiphanius Evesham came to the attention of the public in the early 1930s after his signature was noted by Ralph Griffin on a monument in Kent. Griffin communicated the discovery to Mrs Esdaile, the leading authority on post-reformation British sculpture. The article she subsequently published in The Times led to a number of other examples of Evesham's signatures becoming known, amongst them one on a brass sundial and another on a brass plate commemorating Edmund West on the end of a tomb chest at Marworth, Buckinghamshire. A seventeenth-century reference to Evesham known to Mrs Esdaile and referring to him as a most exquisite artist was in connection to the brass of John Owen, now lost, in old St Paul's Cathedral in London, so it was clear to her from the beginning that he was also a brass engraver.

Evesham was the son of a Herefordshire gentleman, believed to have been born of the feast of the Epiphany in 1570 and apprenticed to a London craftsman. According to the 1593 will of John Bowstred, marbler, he then had an a servant named Epiphanius. Whether Evesham had been his apprentice is unclear. Evesham produced his first sculpted monuments in the mid to late 1590s but then emigated to France around 1600, establishing himself as a Parisian sculptor after some initial difficulties. He is documented as producing some monuments and other work during the time he spent in Paris and a small number of minor signed works are known in France. At sometime after completing the monument to Mathieu Maillot, died 1616, he returned to London, where in 1621 he was recorded as a stranger, presumably having taken French citizenship during his time in France.

Evesham offered something rather different from the rather rigid approach usually adopted on the work of his contemporaries, especially in his panels on monuments showing the families of the deceased such as at Lynstead, Kent, on the tomb of Christopher, Lord Teynham, died 1622, where each of the five daughters are depicted reacting differently to their father's death. The plate at Marsworth is another example, as the family are shown around the semi-reclining figure of Edmund West, two infants in a cradle (were they twins?), one daughter offering a book to her kneeling mother, another with her arm reaching up the wall of the chest on which her father lies. Other unconnected arms stretch out to restrain the left arm of the figure of death, to the right of Edmund's head, as he reaches around a curtain while preparing to thrust his dart in his right hand. The upper part of the brass depicted a setting of clasical arcitecture. While this plate ins the only brass component of the monument, which is set altar-wise in the south chapel of the church, there are a number of engraved black stone panels along the front and back sides of the tomb chest, six with incised standing single figures, three of them hooded. The latter are analogous to those depicted around the catafalque of Lord Rich, on a panel similarly engraved on black stone incorporated into the monument at Felsted, Essex, erected under the terms of the 1620 will of Lord Rich's grandson and firmly attributed to Evesham. There are four of these engraved panels on the front of the chest at Marsworth but only three on the back. They are interspersed by carved panels of alabaster. At the centre of the front is a shield with the arms of West impaling Tyrrell surrounded by a wreath and the sculpred panels to either side have cartouches with skulls and cross bones. On the south end is an heraldic achivement carved in alabaster with a shield with the arms of West, helmet with a crest and mantling while the north end has the brass. The back side is a little way detached from the wall and more difficult to examine. The black engraved panel at the north end shows a youth with a shovel, the carved panel immediately to its south has a skull in a wreath-like cartouche with an engraved black panel beyond with a hooded figure. The centre panel is carved with a wreathed shield with the same arms as those in the centre of the opposite side and there is a blank black panel beyond it and another panel similar to the northernmost carved panel completes the back side, there being no black panel at the southern end of this side. Evesham's small signature reading Eveham fecit is at the bottom centre of the brass itself. The end of the chest with the brass originally faced west before being placed as an altar.

The wife shown on the brass was Edmund West's second, Theodosia Tyrrell, who survived him, dying in 1628. His first wife, Mary Clare, is commemorated with her swaddled infant by a ,ore conventional brass laid down after her death in 1606. Edmund was succeeded by his son of the same name born about 1608. He is shown standing at the foot of his father's figure on the brass.

Copyright: Jon Bayliss

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