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Still looking for Christmas present inspiration? This 500-year-old king can help.

PUBLISHED: 15:27 12 December 2019 | UPDATED: 16:05 12 December 2019

This stained glass roundel made in Norwich 500 years ago and showing a king at a festive feast is our object of the month for December  Picture: Norfolk Museums Service

This stained glass roundel made in Norwich 500 years ago and showing a king at a festive feast is our object of the month for December Picture: Norfolk Museums Service

Norfolk Museums Service

A 500-year-old festive feast in a circle of stained glass is our object of the month for December and comes with a side-order of Christmas greetings from Norfolk Museums Service

This 16th century commonplace book has been adopted by the Eastern Daily Press and Norwich Evening News.  Picture: Norfolk Museums ServiceThis 16th century commonplace book has been adopted by the Eastern Daily Press and Norwich Evening News. Picture: Norfolk Museums Service

Are you still looking for a quirky or imaginative Christmas present gift for a loved-one?

This 500 year old festive feast in stained glass form is one of the items up for adoption as part of Norwich Castle's Keep Adopting scheme.

It works similarly to adopting an animal at a wildlife sanctuary and items have included jewellery, coins, statues, weapons and even an entire Norman doorway. Or how about a Roman ear wax scoop, a "bollock dagger"* or a "bastard sword"**?

Prices range from £25 to £750 with some objects allocated to just one adopter and others shared between several. The money goes towards the project transforming the Norwich Castle keep.

Each adoption includes a certificate, digital image of the object, acknowledgment on the Castle's Adopt an Object website and an invitation to visit the adopted object when it goes on display after the Castle Keep reopens in 2021.

For full information visit visit adoptanobject.co.uk

*Bollock daggers were used in battle as a supplementary weapon alongside swords, and also carried by everyone from peasants to knights and used as knives.

**Bastard swords were extra long and heavy, wielded with two hands by medieval knights.

The stained glass roundel is our Norfolk Museums Service object of the month for December.

It shows a bearded old king seated on an elaborate throne at a feasting table. The cosy atmosphere is highlighted by the cold blue colours of the landscape and castle beyond. The warm gold of the king's large crown is matched by the precious tableware and the golden skin of the roast chicken - all carefully laid out on a white tablecloth. The shape of the king's crown is echoed in the gold decoration of his enormous cup and even in the shape of a pie on the table. This is a truly royal feast.

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The scene was once part of 12 roundels, focusing on the seasonal work through each month of the year. These Labours of the Months cycles were very popular throughout the middle ages carved on to church facades and fonts, painted in illuminated manuscripts and later in the windows of religious and secular buildings.

A figure harvesting wheat was often used for August, while someone ploughing fields or sowing seed represented September or October.

This roundel, with its emphasis on feasting and kingship, probably represented December or January - Christmastide.

Eight of this cycle still survive. Two are in the V&A museum in London and show a man warming himself beside a fire (perhaps January or February,) and a woman bathing (perhaps May.) Two others in a private collection show a man mowing or collecting hay (June or July) and a woman reaping (August).

The four roundels in the Norfolk Museums Service collection are a man pruning trees (March), a man harvesting grapes (September), a man seeking shelter from a hailstorm (April or November) and the feasting king.

The roundels with the hailstorm and the bathing lady are particularly unusual and may be unique.

The cycle is exceptional, in part, because of its artistry. The colours are rich and vibrant and details such as the expressive human faces and the intricate depiction of the natural world are brilliantly done.

It is also very unusual because experts believe they know who made it and who commissioned it. It is thought that the roundels were made by a Flemish glassmaker and artist, John Wattok, who was working in Norwich during the first half of the 16th century. The potential patron was probably Thomas Pykerell, a merchant and thrice Mayor of Norwich.

- Research by project assistant curator Dr Agata Gomolka.

- A stained glass roundel showing a king at a feasting table, from a cycle of the Labours of the Months, Norwich School of stained glass, c. 1500-1520s, from the collection of Norwich Castle Museum and Art Gallery. Purchased with the support of the Friends of the Norwich Museums.


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