Figure of St Peter

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Figure of St Peter

Holding a church and the keys of heaven, and trampling the Devil, this oak figure of St Peter once formed the corner-post of a house at the junction of High Street and North Street. No comparable figure is known to have survived in Britain. The figure has recently been the subject of a lengthy conservation programme in which decayed areas of wood have been consolidated in resin; these are indicated by stippled surface painting.

The figure displays the sharply angular drapery characteristic of the late 15th and early 16th centuries. He is believed to date to c.1500. Since no local tradition of large wooden sculpture is known, and indeed the figure is hard to place in an English context, the possibility arises that this is the work of an immigrant craftsman. The Low Countries or Germany are perhaps the most obvious origins for such an individual, but a third possibility could be northern France, where broadly comparable figures stand on house facades, for example at Morlaix. City documents of the early 16th century record a sizeable immigrant community including people from all these areas. The sculpture of the devil was replaced about a century ago.

It was located at No. 187 High Street, Exeter, and removed in 1986.

Acknowledgments: RAM Museum

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