Dr Ellie Pridgeon FSA promoting the study of medieval wall paintings

Article Review – The Holy Kinship Wall Paintings, Thornhill and Latton

on July 7, 2012

Mellie Naydenova-Slade’s article on Holy Kinship imagery makes interesting reading, and is an important modern addition to the study of medieval wall paintings, particularly those located in private chapels:

Naydenova-Slade, M., ‘Late Medieval Holy Kinship Images and Family Commemoration: The Evidence from Thornhill, West Yorkshire and Latton, Essex’, in Barron, C.M. and Burgess, C., eds., Memory and Commemoration in Medieval England, Harlaxton Medieval Studies XX, Donington 2010, 218–233.

As the author explains, the Holy Kinship is the term used to describe the extended family of Christ, which became popular in the fifteenth century with secular patrons.   Traditionally, scholars have acknowledged that the Kinship image may have been used by eminent families to promote their lineage by association with Christ’s family.  Naydenova-Slade argues that Kinship images in family chapels may also have  intended bring to mind deceased relatives.  In particular, she draws attention to the typologically-unusual mural at Thornhill, which depicts  St Anne with all three husbands.  This emphasis on male ancestors of Christ may indicate a lineage where the male line is significant.

Wall Painting, Latton, Essex

The second wall painting examined is the Holy Kinship at Latton, Essex.  The chantry chapel was founded in 1466 by Peter and Catherine Arderne, and includes a founders’ tomb and a brass depicting Arderne and his wife.  The sole surviving fragments of the wall painting scheme are visible above the tomb (described  and illustrated in Gough, Sepulchral Monuments: Fifteenth Century).   Miriam Gill first identified the fragmented wall painting as the Holy Kinship (Gill, M., Late Medieval Wall Painting in England: Context and Content, c.1330-c.1530, Unpublished Ph.D. Thesis, Courtauld Institute 2002.).  There is also a surviving inscription running beneath the Kinship images (a versicle from the Office of the Dead).

Naydenova-Slade suggests that the patrons of the Latton wall paintings were not, as traditionally assumed, Peter and Catherine Arderne, but their children Anne and Elizabeth.  This is based on the fact that the inscription appears to have been painted before the Holy Kinship image, and that their name-sake saints (Elizabeth and Anne) appear in the scheme.  The author also argues that stylistically the Kinship painting dates from the early sixteenth century, and that it was deliberately placed above the tomb  for association with their parents (the figures assuming the place of weepers).  The image thus celebrates parenthood,  ensures the memory of the family line, and commemorates and celebrates the life of the founders.


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