Unknown German Artist
late 15th century
18.75 x 18.75 x 3.06 in. (47.63 x 47.63 x 7.78 cm)
Medium and Support:
Lent by the Metropolitan Museum of Art, Gift of Irwin Untermyer, 1964 (64.101.1505)
Bellarmine Hall Galleries
In Germany and the Southern Netherlands, decorative plates such as these were displayed on sideboards in homes and used in the liturgy in churches; because religious imagery was common in domestic decoration, it is uncertain where these examples were originally located.
Stags were metaphors of Christ, due to the ancient Roman belief that deer killed snakes (symbolic of Satan), and then purified themselves in the water of a stream or river (baptism). The angels surrounding the plate’s rim support a Christian interpretation of the scene, as do the lilies behind the stag which symbolize purity. The significance of the text on the stag’s banner is unknown; often in this period inscriptions were used more for decorative effect than for information, and sometimes were not even actual words.
The stag is the mascot of Fairfield University, because the University originally was part of the Diocese of Hartford, and “Hartford” refers to a stag crossing a river or stream.