Wall painting on the south wall of the first floor of the Byward Tower in the Tower of London.
A rare and susbtantial fragment of a 14th-century mural that once depicted the Crucifixion of Christ, now more often referred to as 'The Byward Angel'. The central part of the design was destroyed by the construction of a chimney breast in the 16th century: the whole mural was painted over with limewash and a Tudor Rose design added (only half of which survives). The remaining figures were rediscovered in 1953 and depict (from left to right): St John the Baptist (holding a lamb); the Virgin Mary, mother of Christ, St John the Evangelist and St Michael the Archangel (the 'Byward Angel' holding a pair of scales). Mary and the latter St John were at Christ's crucifixion and are the normal attendants in images of the scene, identifying the missing central design.
In the 14th century, the Byward Tower was occupied by the King's Exchange, part of the Royal Mint, and suitably decorated as a high status chamber of the royal household: the green background populated by golden parakeets, fleur-de-lis and lions, is meant to resemble a woven silk hanging; this decoration also appears on a roof beam in the same room. The choice of design may also have had specific meaning in this location: just as St Michael weighs the souls of the dead at the Last Judgment in Christian theology, then royal servants are reminded to go about their business weighing real gold and coins with due honesty.
The mural is executed in a 'secco' techinique, where coloured pigments, including yellow ochre, red vermilion, blue azurite, green verdigris and lead white are added to linseed oil as a binding agent, and painted onto dry plaster. Gilt has also been used for details including the saints' haloes.