Material Memories

By Marius Kwint; Christopher Breward et al. | Go to book overview

two
Elizabeth Parker's ‘Sampler’:
Memory, Suicide and the
Presence of the Artist
Nigel Llewellyn

Atext stitched onto the surface of an intriguing work in the textile collection of the V&A (Figure 2.1) ends with the words:1 ‘I had nowhere else to go[.] How can such repentence as mine be sincere[?] [W]hat will become of my soul [?]’. This textile raises questions about authorship and the ways in which works of art display traces of the artist's presence on their very surface. In addition, it illustrates a general thesis about memory and moral instruction in the context of the art of death.2

In many Christian traditions, the dead join the angels as mediating spirits between heaven and earth and amongst their countless ranks Anthony Gormley's The Angel of the North has recently gained much public notice (Figure 2.2).3 With its massive scale and repetitious ornament, The Angel has a place in the English tradition of the Sublime.

____________________
1
V&A Museum no. T6–1956.
2
For a fuller account of this thesis see Nigel Lewellyn, The Art of Death: Visual Culture in the English Death Ritual c. 1500– c.1800 (London, 1991).
3
For the classical origins of this imagery see Gunnar Berefelt, A Study on the Winged Angel (Stockholm, 1968). The Hierarchia Coelestia written c. AD 600 by Dionysius the Areopagite (the Pseudo–Dionysius) ranks the orders of angel: see Mirjana Tatic-Djuric, Image of the Angels (Vaduz, 1964) and Arnold Nesselrath et al., The Invisible Made Visible: Angels from the Vatican (Alexandria, Virg., 1998). For press coverage of The Angel of the North see The Guardian 16 Feb. 1998; The Independent 16, 21, 28 and 31 Feb.; The Times 16 Feb. 1998.

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