Elizabethan flagons from St Mary Woolnoth
These beautifully engraved flagons were acquired for the medieval church of St Mary Woolnoth in 1697. The name may derive from the wool market which was held nearby in medieval times. The church was rebuilt to the designs of Nicholas Hawksmoor between 1716-1727; the only City church by that architect. It is the official City church for the Government of British Columbia. In the 1930s a Lord Mayor of the City of London lent one of the flagons to Christ Church Cathedral in Victoria, British Columbia
Pair of flagons
These flagons are beautifully engraved with grotesques attributed to Nicaise Roussel, an immigrant from Flanders. There are similarly decorated flagons in the Kremlin Museum, Moscow, 1594-5 and in Westacre Church, Norfolk, 1607-8. These bear the marks of different goldsmiths demonstrating that Roussel worked as a specialist engraver on silver. Originally intended for domestic use in serving ale, in an ecclesiastical context they would be used for storing communion wine.
Nicaise Roussel came to London from Bruges in about 1570 and became a member of the Dutch church in Austin Friars. By 1617 he had 'dwelt here 44 years'. His designs arranged by John Bar, an immigrant from Lorraine, were published in 1623 and dedicated to George Heriot, royal goldsmith and jeweller to James I. They were reissued between 1667 and 1672 by John Overton. The combination of plant-forms, monsters and grotesques gives these flagons an extraordinary vitality.