'The Baptism of St. Oswald', c. 1864
Ford Madox Brown (1821 – 93)
56cm x 51cm
Accession Number LL3645
This painting is not currently on display
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Between 1864-6, Madox Brown’s six stained-glass designs of incidents from the life of St Oswald were used in a three-light window at St Oswald’s, Durham. Morris, Marshall, Faulkner and Company made the glass, and both William Morris and Philip Webb contributed smaller details for the same window. Both these studies are linked to these designs.
St Oswald (died 642 AD) grew up near the Columban monastery of Iona in Scotland where he was received into the Christian Church. When he succeeded to the kingdom of Northumbria, he led a holy life and spread Christianity among his subjects. He was canonised on his death and many miracles are supposed to have been wrought by his body which now rests in Durham.
Harold Rathbone who sold ‘The Baptism of St Oswald’ to Lever, suggested that the artist’s daughter Cathy may have coloured it in. The less finished ‘St Oswald and St Aidan’ shows Oswald giving alms and silver plate to the starving crowd at his palace gate, while Aidan, a monk from Iona who was visiting him at the time, kisses his hand in gratitude for his kindness. Mary Bennett suggests that this study may not have been executed by Madox Brown and is possibly a copy by one of his children.