The Wilton Diptych is a small portable diptych of two hinged panels, painted on both sides. It is a rare religious panel painting from late Medieval England.
It was painted for King Richard II of England, who is depicted kneeling before the Virgin and Child in what is known as a donor portrait.
He is presented by his patron saint, John the Baptist, and by the English royal saints Edward the Confessor and Edmund the Martyr.
The painting is in tempera, a painting process in which the paint was ground to powder and mixed with egg yolk then painted in thin glazes.
The background and many details are inlaid with gold leaf. In some parts, the panel has been molded beneath the gilding to add dimensionality.
In the right panel with the Virgin and Christ Child, the garments are mainly blue, with the paint pigment coming from the semi-precious stone lapis lazuli.
The brilliant blue is symbolizing the divine nature of the right panel. The roses in the angels’ hair would formerly have been a deeper pink, but some of the colors have faded. The flowery garden symbolizes the gardens of Paradise.
The composition of the two pictures is very different. The scene of Richard and his patrons is dignified but static, whereas the view of the Virgin and Child is full of movement created by the angel’s gestures and wings.
The left panel has the figures standing on a hard rock surface.
When closed, the diptych reveals on one side a White Hart, Richard’s emblem with a golden coronet around its throat and a golden chain, sitting on a grassy meadow with branches of Queen Anne’s rosemary.
On the other side of the closed diptych is a coat of arms associated with King Edward, the Confessor, together with the coats-of-arms of the Kings of England.
The outer sides of the diptych
The artist has never been identified, and the closest resemblances to his style come from illuminated manuscripts from the 1410s.
At this period, it was common in Northern Europe for panel paintings to be made by artists with a background in manuscript illumination.
This masterpiece was created at a time when the International Gothic style was at its most similar across the courts in Europe, making a definitive identification of the nationality of its painter challenging.
Tempera is a permanent, fast-drying painting medium made of colored pigments mixed with a water-soluble binder medium such as egg yolk. Tempera also refers to the paintings done in this medium.
Richard II of England
Richard II (1367 – 1400) was King of England from 1377 until he was deposed in 1399. Richard’s father Edward died in 1376, leaving Richard as heir apparent to his grandfather.
Upon the death of his grandfather, the 10-year-old Richard succeeded to the throne.
During Richard’s first years as king, the government was in the hands of a series of regency councils, influenced by Richard’s uncles.
England then faced various problems, most notably the Hundred Years’ War. A major challenge of the reign was the Peasants’ Revolt in 1381, and the young king played a central part in the successful suppression of this crisis.
Less warlike than either his father or grandfather, he sought to bring an end to the Hundred Years’ War. A firm believer in the royal prerogative, Richard restrained the power of the aristocracy and relied on a private retinue for military protection instead.
In contrast to his grandfather, Richard cultivated a refined atmosphere at court, in which the king was an elevated figure, with art and culture at its center.
The king’s dependence on a small number of courtiers caused discontent among the influential, and in 1387 control of government was taken over by a group of aristocrats known as the Lords Appellant.
Richard eventually regained control and took his revenge on the Appellants, many of whom were executed or exiled. Historians have described the next two years as Richard’s “tyranny.”
In 1399, after John of Gaunt, Richard’s uncle died, the king disinherited Gaunt’s son, Henry Bolingbroke, who had previously been exiled. Henry invaded England in June 1399 with a small force that quickly grew in numbers.
Meeting little resistance, he deposed Richard and had himself crowned king. Richard is thought to have been starved to death in captivity, although questions remain regarding his final fate.
Richard’s reputation has been shaped to no small extent by William Shakespeare, whose play Richard II portrayed Richard’s misrule and his deposition as responsible for the 15th-century Wars of the Roses.
- Title: Wilton Diptych
- Artist: Unknown Master, English or French (second half of 14th century)
- Created: 1395
- Medium: Tempera on oak panel
- Dimensions: 53 x 37 cm
- Museum: The National Gallery, London
Power and Judgment | Saint John the Baptist: From Birth to Beheading
Richard II by William Shakespeare
The Life and Death of King Richard the Second, commonly called Richard II, is a history play by William Shakespeare written in about 1595.
It is based on the life of King Richard II of England and is the first part of a tetralogy. It is followed by three plays concerning Richard’s successors: Henry IV, Part 1; Henry IV, Part 2; and Henry V.
Although the First Folio (1623) edition of Shakespeare’s works lists the play as a history play, the earlier Quarto edition of 1597 calls it The tragedy of King Richard the second.
A Tour of the National Gallery
13th Century Paintings
- “The Virgin and Child Enthroned, with Narrative Scenes” by Margarito d’Arezzo – 1264
- “The Virgin and Child” by Master of the Clarisse – 1268
- “Crucifix” by Master of Saint Francis – 1270
14th Century Paintings
- Wilton Diptych – 1395
- “The Annunciation” by Duccio – 1311
- “The Healing of the Man Born Blind” by Duccio – 1311
15th Century Paintings
- “Arnolfini Portrait” by Jan van Eyck – 1434
- “The Battle of San Romano” by Paolo Uccello– 1440
- “Venus and Mars” by Sandro Botticelli – 1483
- “Portrait of Doge Leonardo Loredan” by Giovanni Bellini– 1501
16th Century Paintings
- “Mystic Nativity” by Sandro Botticelli – 1550
- “Virgin of the Rocks” by Leonardo da Vinci – 1506
- “The Madonna of the Pinks” by Raphael – 1507
- “The Raising of Lazarus” by Sebastiano del Piombo– 1519
- “Salvator Mundi” by Andrea Previtali – 1519
- “Bacchus and Ariadne” by Titian – 1523
- “The Ambassadors” by Hans Holbein the Younger – 1533
- “Mary Magdalene” by Girolamo Savoldo – 1540
- “Saint George and the Dragon” by Tintoretto – 1558
- “The Family of Darius before Alexander” by Paolo Veronese – 1567
- “Diana and Actaeon” by Titian – 1569
- “The Rape of Europa” by Paolo Veronese – 1570
- “The Death of Actaeon” by Titian – 1575
- “The Origin of the Milky Way” by Tintoretto – 1575
National Gallery – Wilton Diptych – London – Audio Guide
17th Century Paintings
- “Supper at Emmaus” by Caravaggio – 1601
- “Samson and Delilah” by Peter Paul Rubens – 1610
- “Christ in the House of Martha and Mary” by Diego Velázquez – 1618
- “The Judgement of Paris” by Peter Paul Rubens – 1635
- “Aurora abducting Cephalus” by Peter Paul Rubens – 1637
- “Equestrian Portrait of Charles I” by Anthony van Dyck – 1638
- “Venus at her Mirror” by Diego Velázquez – 1651
- “The Courtyard of a House in Delft” by Pieter de Hooch – 1658
- “Self Portrait at the Age of 63″ by Rembrandt – 1669
- “A Young Woman standing at a Virginal” by Johannes Vermeer – 1670
18th Century Paintings
- “Bacchus and Ariadne” by Sebastiano Ricci – 1713
- “A Regatta on the Grand Canal” by Canaletto – 1740
- “Mr. and Mrs. Andrews” by Thomas Gainsborough – 1749
- “Eton College” by Canaletto – 1754
- “An Experiment on a Bird in the Air Pump” by Joseph Wright of Derby – 1768
- “Self-portrait in a Straw Hat” by Louise Élisabeth Vigée Le Brun – 1782
The Hollow Crown: Shakespeare’s Richard II
19th Century Paintings
- “Portrait of Doña Isabel de Porcel” by Francisco Goya – 1805
- “The Emperor Napoleon I” by Horace Vernet – 1815
- “Dido Building Carthage” by J. M. W. Turner – 1815
- “Salisbury Cathedral from the Meadows” by John Constable – 1831
- “The Execution of Lady Jane Grey” by Paul Delaroche – 1833
- “The Fighting Temeraire” by Joseph Mallord William Turner – 1839
- “Rain, Steam, and Speed – The Great Western Railway” by J. M. W. Turner – 1844
- “Cimabue’s Celebrated Madonna is carried in Procession through the Streets of Florence” by Frederic Leighton – 1855
- “Madame Moitessier” by Jean-Auguste-Dominique Ingres– 1856
- “The Gare St-Lazare” by Claude Monet – 1877
- “Bathers at Asnières” by Georges Seurat – 1884
- “Sunflowers” by Vincent van Gogh – 1888
- “Tiger in a Tropical Storm” by Henri Rousseau – 1891
- “After the Bath, Woman Drying Herself” by Edgar Degas – 1895
- “Boulevard Montmartre at Night” by Camille Pissarro – 1898
The Tragedy of Richard II by William Shakespeare
20th Century Paintings
- “Misia Sert” by Pierre-Auguste Renoir – 1904
- “Portrait of Hermine Gallia” by Gustav Klimt – 1904
- Bathers (Les Grandes Baigneuses) by Paul Cézanne – 1905
- “Men of the Docks” by George Bellows – 1912
- “Water-Lilies” by Claude Monet (National Gallery, London) – 1916
‘The Wilton Diptych’ | Soundscapes
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“I wasted time, and now doth time waste me.”
― William Shakespeare, Richard II
Photo Credit 1) [CC BY 3.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0)], from Wikimedia Commons 2) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons