The sculpture was first discovered in the garden rockery of a cottage in Dowlish Wake, a village near Ilminster, where it had been functioning as a makeshift gravestone for Winkle, the owner's cat.
Sculpture Depicting St Peter by Unknown Artist, 10th11th century
© The Museum of Somerset
- Oolithic limestone
- 45 x 45 x 12 cm
- Art Fund grant:
- £35,000 ( Total: £150,000)
- Acquired in:
- Sam Fogg
A visitor was struck by the skill and scale of the frieze, prompting specialists to identify the work as an outstanding Anglo-Saxon carving dating to the 10th or 11th century. Carved from Oolitic limestone, this carving probably formed part of a larger composition, most likely an architectural frieze. Unusually, the figure is identified by an inscription: the Latin text SC[S PE]TRUS, indicating that the subject is Saint Peter. The saint is depicted as a young, beardless figure wearing a tonsure, holding his right hand across his chest with two fingers raised in blessing. Peter was held to be the foundation upon which the late Anglo-Saxon church was built, giving him particular significance in religious works of the period. While the work's provenance is unknown, the available evidence suggests that it originated from an important site in south Somerset, possibly a monastic house. The nearby Muchelney Abbey, originally dedicated to saints Peter and Paul, is one possible origin, as is the now-ruined Anglo-Saxon minster at Ilminster.
Belived to have been found by Mr J Beeston; sold by Mrs R Beeston at Sothebys, December 2004 where acquired by private collector; sold at auction, March 2014, where acquired by Sam Fogg Ltd