Art-history is at the heart of this whole project, since our primary objective is to investigate ‘one of the most important groups of Renaissance monuments in England’ – the monuments of the Howard family at Framlingham and related fragments excavated at Thetford Priory. We shall also examine pieces of sculpture which seem to come from earlier monuments, and other sculpted images from Thetford, aiming to identify, classify and interpret them.
The Howard Tombs are key works in the development of sculpture in England and may well have been produced by sculptors from across the channel: certainly, they have been described as ‘outstanding examples of Franco-Italian sculptural influence’. Building on the foundations established by earlier scholars, we shall deploy conventional art-historical techniques – study of form, style and subject matter – supplementing them with a battery of approaches drawn from the humanities (specifically history and archaeology) and scientific techniques – such as 3-D scanning, XRF, and Raman spectroscopy, in a collaborative enterprise comprising researchers drawn from three universities and from English Heritage.
We aim to reconstruct the monuments’ original context at Thetford and to recover the Howards’ strategies to commemorate themselves and their predecessors during the reigns of the Tudor monarchs Henry VIII, Edward VI, Mary I and Elizabeth I. We shall study how the monuments were constructed, which components are missing and why, and will use digital interpretive media to display and interpret these complex 3D historical objects for a range of audiences. Together with the other research groups and with the assistance of Jan Summerfield of English Heritage and Oliver Bone and his team from the Norfolk Museums Service, we will be organising an exhibition in the Ancient House Museum in Thetford.
In her doctoral research, Rebecca Constabel will focus on French sculpture in the sixteenth century, both to help determine the origins and background of the Howard tomb sculptors, and to clarify the time-frames of the different phases of work, but also to produce a new account of the developments of French monumental sculpture itself during a period of remarkable religious, political and cultural changes.
Dr Phillip Lindley