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Professor To Give Talk On Outstanding, But Little Known, Medieval Guildford Artist

Published on: 17 Oct, 2013
Updated on: 19 Oct, 2013
Deatil from a page of the Sherborne Missal.

Detail from a page of the Sherborne Missal.

A Cambridge professor is to give a talk on one of Guildford’s largely uncelebrated historic figures.

Brother John Siferwas, was one of the outstanding illuminators of manuscripts of the Middle Ages, and a Dominican Friar in Guildford.

Professor Nigel Morgan, who is Emeritus Honorary Professor of the History of Art at the University of Cambridge and a retired fellow of Corpus Christi College, has researched and published extensively in the fields of medieval stained glass and illuminated manuscripts.

His talk will cover English Mediaeval Illuminated Manuscripts c1400 but, given the location, he will make special reference to John Siferwas of the Dominican Friary of Guildford and say something about the Dominican order.

Professor Nigel Morgan

Professor Nigel Morgan

The talk has been arranged by the Little Acorns Local History Group as the highlight of their 2013 – 2014 season. It will take place at The Guildhall at 10 am, Tuesday November 19. Entry  £3 per person.

The Little Acorns History Group was formed some years ago by several people who had enjoyed the Local History classes given by Matthew Alexander at Guildford Museum. The group continue their interest in local history through a programme of meetings and visits, including internal and external speakers.

Matthew Alexander, Guildford’s Hon Remembrancer and former museum curator writes:

John Siferwas was ordained an acolyte at Farnham in 1380, and went on to enter the Dominican friary at Guildford. He was a talented artist and his ‘illuminations,’ or book decorations, were highly valued.

Siferwas (right) is the first Guildfordian for whom we have a true likeness.

Siferwas (right) is the first Guildfordian for whom we have a true likeness.

His finest surviving work is the Sherborne Missal, now in the British Library. It was commissioned by the Abbot of Sherborne in Dorset, in about the year 1400.

A page of the Sherborne Missal.

A page of the Sherborne Missal.

The lettering was by John Whas, a Benedictine monk, but it was Siferwas who decorated the pages. He and Whas are both depicted several times in the designs, as are the Abbot and the Bishop of Salisbury.

Siferwas and Whas can be seen as black-robed figures in the missal.

Siferwas and Whas can be seen as black-robed figures in the missal.

They are recognisably the same people in each representation, and can be considered to be the first reliably-accurate portraits of Englishmen. In addition, the decorations include many well-observed pictures of birds.

For further details of the talk please contact: Graham and Elizabeth Oliver: 01483 892456 or Nick Bale: 01483 459997.

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