This tempura painting by Professor Tristram, dated 1927, shows a reconstruction of a medieval wall painting featuring the Coronation of St Edward I the Confessor which was originally painted in 1262-72. This painting recreates a medieval wall painting which previously decorated the walls of St Stephen’s Chapel, now St Stephen’s Hall.
St Stephen’s was built as the king’s chapel in the Palace of Westminster by Edward I, Edward II and Edward III and was decorated with a series of lavish medieval religious wall paintings. Originally the Chapel was built as a site for royal worship, but in the mid 16th century St Stephen’s became the Commons Debating Chamber and the religious paintings were covered with wooden panelling.
St Stephen’s remained the Commons Chamber un the 19th century, and in the early 1800s Surveyor of the King’s Works James Wyatt was requested to alter the Chamber to accommodate extra seats for 100 new Irish Members of Parliament. Wyatt’s workmen removed the wooden panelling to reveal the hidden wall paintings, and artists Charles Stodhart and Richard Smirke (Society of Antiquaries), and Edward Croker (V&A and Ashmolean museums) were permitted to record the rare artworks before building work continued which destroyed the medieval artworks.
In the early 20th century Professor Ernest William Tristram (1882-1952) created a series of detailed reconstructions of the medieval wall paintings of St Stephen’s Chapel, based on the early 19th century drawings. Professor Tristram was a leading authority on medieval art and renowned for his discovery, preservation and copying of medieval wall-paintings. He studied and taught at the Royal College of Art, and published the first and most comprehensive study of English Medieval Wall Paintings.
The Westminster panels are painted in traditional egg tempera technique, finished with a thin glaze of oil, on wood panel with gilded raised gesso stamped decoration. Tristram’s painting style imitates the medieval technique, and captures the detail, colour, and vibrancy of the now lost medieval artworks.
Find out more
Find out more about the art and history of St Stephen’s Chapel through The St Stephen's Chapel, Westminster Project at the University of York.
Image: Reconstruction of medieval mural painting Coronation of Edward the Confessor by Professor Ernest William Tristram (1927) Parliamentary Art Collection WOA 3174