Reliquary Casket

French
13th century
c. 1200–1220
Champlevé enamel on copper, wood core
8 7/8 x 9 1/2 x 4 1/8 in. (22.6 x 24.2 x 10.5 cm)
AP 1979.26
Currently On View
A major center of the manufacture and export of exquisitely crafted reliquaries in the Middle Ages was Limoges, located in southwestern France along several ecclesiastical and pilgrimage routes. Limoges workshops producing liturgical objects employed the technique of champlevé enamel, whereby brilliantly colored, powdered glass was placed in cavities gouged into a copper plaque that was then fired at high temperatures. This Reliquary Casket (châsse), which probably contained the relics of several saints, features eight half-length, raised, and gilded figures of saints against a richly enameled ground decorated with halos, scrolling floral motifs, and wavy cloudbanks. These figures are portrayed with various liturgical gestures, such as upraised palms. The full-length saints holding books on the gabled end panels are engraved in reserve on the enamel ground. The casket, with its gabled roof and cresting, recalls not only a tomb enshrining the relics, but also a cathedral representing the church and hence the Heavenly Jerusalem, where the saints eternally abide.

Provenance

(Stephan and Gaspard Bourgeois, Cologne); (their sale, J. M. Heberle, Cologne, 19-27 October 1904, no. 363). (Henri Daguerre), Paris. Otto H. Kahn [1867-1934], Paris and New York; purchased by (Joseph Brummer) [1883-1947], New York and Paris; 5] (his sale, by Orders of the Executors, Parke-Bernet Galleries, Inc., New York, 11-14 May 1949, no. 728); purchased for $2000 by (Ernest Brummer [1891-1964]); (Ernest Brummer, Paris, New York, and Zurich), to 1964; Mrs. Ernest Brummer, 1964-79; (Brummer sale, Galerie Koller AG, Zurich, 17 October 1979, no. 225); purchased by Kimbell Art Foundation, Fort Worth, 1979.