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Armilla: The Resurrection

© 2008 Musée du Louvre / Martine Beck-Coppola

Decorative Arts
Middle Ages

Author(s):
Barbier Muriel

Like its pendant in the Germanisches Nationalmuseum in Nurnberg, this armilla, a shell-shaped ceremonial armlet worn at the shoulder, is thought to have come from the tomb of Prince Andrei Bogolyubski (d. 1174), Grand Duke of Vladimir and Suzdal in Russia. He is believed to have received it as a gift from the emperor Frederick I Barbarossa. The style and technique of the piece reveal all the virtuosity of the Mosan artists of the twelfth century.

A religious iconography

Edged with a trefoil frieze and pierced with six attachment holes, the Louvre armilla portrays the Resurrection. Haloed, Christ emerges from his sarcophagus, setting aside his burial shroud as he leans on a long-shafted cross. Two guards are asleep at the foot of the sarcophagus, with two haloed angels flanking the scene. The pendant portrays the
Crucifixion.

Rhenish and Mosan enameling

This piece illustrates the technical mastery of the Rhenish and Mosan artists working in champlevé enamel. The colors are extremely subtle, vivid, and varied. Some colors have been blended to imitate the marble of the tomb, others used to achieve skillful shading-off. Here the Mosan enamelers have drawn to the full on their technical expertise: note the thinness and impeccable contours of the resist areas, the engraved facial features, and the details of the cloisonné edging. Its sheer virtuosity ranks this armilla among the finest examples of enameling from this region.

A style characteristic of Mosan art

The valleys of the Rhine and the Meuse were a major producer of enamel in the twelfth century. The survival of the classical tradition is visible in the treatment of the folds and the figures, yet we are struck, too, by the authority, grace, and nobility of Christ and the two angels. Clearly influenced by Byzantine art, they herald, in the delicacy of their features and the level of technical assurance, the antiquity-inflected work of the goldsmith Nicholas of Verdun, creator of the pulpit of Klosterneuburg (1191).

Bibliography

Gauthier Marie-Madeleine, Les Émaux du Moyen Âge occidental, Fribourg, 1972, pp. 174-175 et 367-368.

Technical description

  • Rhine-Meuse region (c. 1170-80)

    Armilla: The Resurrection

    Thought to have been found in the tomb of Andrei Bogolioubski (died 1174 in Vladimir)

  • Champlevé enamel on gilded copper

  • Gift of the Society of Friends of the Louvre, 1934

    OA 8261

  • Decorative Arts

    Richelieu wing
    1st floor
    Suger
    Room 2
    Display case 7

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Additional information about the work

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