barber institute of fine arts
university of birmingham

New Acquisition – ‘St James the Great’

This striking alabaster sculpture of St James the Great – the latest acquisition for the Barber’s collection – has been charming visitors since his arrival in October.

Alabaster – Britain’s answer to marble – was quarried and carved in East Midlands towns and cities, such as Nottingham in the 14th and 15th centuries, and exported to adorn churches across Europe.

St James, a fisherman, was one of Christ’s first disciples – and his attributes include the scallop shell that adorns his wide-brimmed hat, and the whelk shells that edge his cloak.

This fascinating sculpture also sports a beard in a style popular in the reign of Henry VIII – indicating its production by an unknown artist in the early 16th century. Ironically, Henry’s break with Catholicism saw alabaster workshops closed down, on grounds of idolatry.

You can find ‘St James the Great’ in our Green Gallery.

The sculpture was purchased with the generous support of the Ruddock Foundation for the Arts.


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