THE ICON

Wilton Diptych

English or French (?), The Wilton Diptych, Reverse: Copyright the National Gallery, London

The White Hart image from the Wilton Diptych in the National Gallery, London, is an image of enduring medieval grace and nobility, and a lasting symbol of King Richard II’s reign. As part of her ongoing research, world renowned scholar on the painting Dr Dillian Gordon has suggested that the diptych was created by an artist trained in the Sienese style, perhaps one that was familiar with the works of Simone Martini who died in Avignon in 1344, though whether its origins are that of a court artist working in France or England are still unknown. Perhaps most importantly for art historians, Dillian has also provided a strong argument for dating the diptych to 1397-1398, following the marriage of Richard to his child bride, Isabelle of France.  The two panels of the painting (recto and verso) provide the viewer with a rich study in various aspects of Richard's life and reign. They also raise questions as to what Richard was hoping to achieve in creating it, if it was primarily intended as a private devotional piece.  It cannot be denied that the animal bears a striking gentleness in its gaze, almost inviting the viewer to reach out and touch its lily white fur. One cannot look upon the stag, gorged with a crown around its neck and chained while lodged on the grass, and not respond to the mysterious origins of the scene.