Letter: The Wilton Diptych illuminated

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The Independent Online
Sir: Andrew Graham-Dixon has missed the point ('A precious stone set in a silver sea', 5 October). The Wilton Diptych was painted when the cult-like veneration of the Blessed Virgin Mary was at its height. Contemporary faith in the intercessionary powers of Christ's mother is reflected in numerous late-14th-century Lady Chapels, dedicated to the Virgin and located behind the high altar.

Far from being 'enigmatic', the Wilton Diptych shows Richard II appealing to the Virgin to intercede with the Christ Child on his behalf. In this he is supported by his three patron saints and by a company of angels, each of whom wears his white hart badge, in the manner of medieval retainers. Indeed, one suspects that these angels were intended to represent those who, in their earthly lives, owed 'worship' to their king and probably enjoyed his approbation.

The diptych is full of heraldic references, such as the angels' chaplets of roses and the broom- pod (Planta Genista) collars worn by the king and the angels. It is hard to believe, therefore, that the pennon of St George, emblem of England and of the Order of the Garter, 'has until now been regarded as a symbol of Christ's Resurrection'.

Yours faithfully,

STEPHEN FRIAR

Sherborne, Dorset

5 October

(Photograph omitted)

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