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Department of Decorative Arts: Early Middle Ages
© 1997 Musée du Louvre / Martine Beck-Coppola
Early Middle Ages
This paten is a Byzantine work, made in Constantinople. A medallion of cloisonné enamel on gold at the center represents the Last Supper, and small plique enamel decorations are applied to the rim. The paten is typical of objects produced in workshops for the court of Constantinople in the late 9th and early 10th centuries. Thirteenth-century Crusaders probably took this piece from a palace or church in Constantinople.
A sardonyx paten
The art collector Adolphe Stoclet acquired this paten from the Pidal family in Madrid, who were known for their protection of religious orders in Spain. The paten is thought to have come from one of the Dominican monasteries in Madrid. It is a small, concave dish, made of sardonyx set with a fine rim of gilded silver. The small size of the piece indicates that it was used in a private chapel. The paten has a beaded and milled rim set with six gemstone cabochons and three plique enamel decorations. The color and shape of the bowl suggest that it dates from late antiquity. Revealing their admiration for ancient art, Byzantine goldsmiths often re-set gemstones cut in antiquity. They shared this admiration with artists from Western Europe, as the Louvre's serpentine paten (MR 415), incorporating antique work, indicates.
The central enamel medallion
The medallion in the center of the paten is decorated with a meticulous depiction of the Last Supper. The apostles are seated round a semi-circular table, with Christ at one end. On the lapis blue table stand four dishes, one containing a fish. Judas is grasping the fish, echoing the scene of the Passion when Jesus denounces the first man to help himself to the food as the one who will betray Him (Matthew 26, 21, and Luke 22, 21). This iconography was widespread in Byzantium, both in antiquity and in the 9th century, following the iconoclastic schism. This medallion is an exceptional piece of en plein enamel. The wires reducing the lines of the image to the bare essentials, the round eyes, the bright colors, and the use of both opaque and translucent enamels indicate that this work is among the earliest Byzantine enamels dating from after the iconoclastic crisis. An alabaster paten in the Treasure of Saint Mark in Venice also has an enamel medallion in the center. This medallion featuring the Last Supper is also very similar to the ones decorating the votive crown of Emperor Leo VI (886-912) in the Treasure of Saint Mark.
Plaques of plique enamel
Around the rim of gilded silver are three plaques of plique enamel. This technique is very different from that used in the central medallion. It was developed about 1300 in Paris. The plaques are thus the product of a very different and much later artistic milieu. Opaque circles, hearts, and clubs are arrayed against a translucent green background. This style is typical of plique enamelling by Parisian goldsmiths of the Gothic period. Such plaques were used all over Europe to decorate both contemporary and antique objets d'art in gold. These three enamel plaques must have been added to replace three Byzantine enamels. This suggests that the paten, probably taken from a palace or church in Constantinople by Crusaders, was already in western Europe at that time.
- DURAND, J., Patène, L’objet d’art de la saison, n°7, janvier-mars 1999.
- DURAND, J., La Revue du Louvre, n°4, 1998, p 17-20.
Late 9th or early 10th century AD
Constantinople, Byzantine empire
Sardonyx, gilded silver, copper, and cloisonné enamel on gold
Diam. 12.6 cm
Purchased in 1998 with the participation of M. Michel David-Weill and the arrears of the Dol-Lair, Victor Pavie, Luzarche d'Azay, Carle Dreyfus, and Hérisson bequests
dite Patène Stoclet
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