This intriguing scene depicts the miracle, recorded in the early biographies of the saint-king, in which during the communion rite of the Mass, he saw the consecrated host (that being the communion wafer) turn into the vision of Christ. It is clear from the dress that this picture depicts a scene from the 1400s. The cross of St George on the cushion also confirms this reading, as it is clearly intended to indicate a later English King. Henry VI became king as a child and was often depicted in the 19th century as a fresh-faced youth.
Here, the artist has represented this miraculous event as an ethereal glow of light. Indeed, in this interpretation the ordinary viewer cannot see the figure of christ, but it is visible to the saintly king who adores what his fellow companions cannot see, with rapt devotion. The two angels kneeling in adoration are part of King Henry’s vision, and the fact that the doors of the tabernacle are open (in which, in Catholic theology, Christ is physically present in the consecrated communion wafer) makes it clear that this miracle is occurring during the communion rite of the Mass (the only time at which the doors of the tabernacle are unlocked and open).
In ‘Visions in Late Medieval England’, John Blackman, a man whom lived in the 15th century, refers to Henry’s eucharistic vision; ‘the king often saw our Lord Jesus presenting himself in human form in the sacrament of the alter in the hands of the priest’.
Frederick Vigers was born in Croydon, Surrey in 1860. He worked as a painter, decorative artist and designer. His clients included Arthur H. Lee & Sons, Story & Co., Alex Morton and Co.
Through out his life he lived in Horsham (Sussex), Walton on Thames (Surrey) and London.
Over his career Vigers exhibited at the Royal Society of Artist Birmingham, Walker Art Gallery Liverpool, Manchester City Art Gallery, Royal Academy, Royal Society of British Artists and Royal Institute of Oil Painters.