Alabaster was so prized that cases of the uncut stone bore locks to deter thieves. This sculptural tour de force is rendered from a large block of English alabaster—more luminous than marble, admired for its light color, and soft to carve though known to harden over time. Contrary to sculptural custom, much alabaster, including this personification of Charity, was not painted in color; indeed, one sixteenth-century observer noted that "smearing color" on alabaster "deprived it of its nobility." Here, the unpainted stone was originally gently highlighted with gilding, allowing the delicate veining of the alabaster to breathe life into Charity’s skin. Probably made as part of a sculptural tabernacle or as a column figure for a church, she was designed to be seen from three sides.
[Elizabeth Cleland, 2017]