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Work Reliquary Crown

Department of Decorative Arts: Middle Ages

Reliquary crown

© 1999 RMN / Martine Beck-Coppola

Decorative Arts
Middle Ages

Author(s):
Barbier Muriel

Long called the Crown of St. Louis and thought to have been made in Paris, the Crown of Liège, acquired by the Louvre in 1947, is now known to be a Mosan piece. Given by St. Louis, King of France, to the Dominican monastery in Liège, this reliquary crown has been the subject of much controversy, but is now known to be a precious example of the dissemination of the new Paris style in the second half of the twelfth century.

Relics of the passion

In Constantinople, King Louis IX (St. Louis) had bought fragments of relics, notably the Crown of Thorns, for which he built the Sainte Chapelle in Paris. He detached fragments from the relics, had them set in reliquaries, and gave them as gifts. In its small cavities the Crown of Liège, as it is known, houses two kinds of relics: bones of unnamed apostles, confessors, martyrs, and virgins; and relics of the Passion of Christ (fragments of the Holy Lance, the True Cross, and the Crown of Thorns). This piece testifies to the piety of Louis, king and saint, and to his veneration of the relics of the Passion.

In all likelihood a Mosan piece

The Crown of Liège comprises eight plaques ornamented with fleurons, set off with precious stones and stamped oak leaves, and separated from each other by statuettes of angels. At the center of each plaque is a cavity to receive the relics, each of which is named on the scrolls held by the angels. On account of the finesse of the stamped and chased metalwork, the floral decoration, and the character of the statuettes, the piece was long regarded as Parisian; however, it is now thought to be Mosan, albeit influenced by Parisian silverwork of the thirteenth century. The angels, for example, are inspired by the style of Paris or Reims of the third quarter of the thirteenth century, but have a slightly "provincial" look to them, together with a restraint in the folds that is often the mark of a local workshop. The Crown of Liège is proof, therefore, of the dissemination of a new style developed in Paris and adapted elsewhere.

Bibliography

Verlet Pierre, La Couronne de saint Louis, Bulletin des musées de France, novembre 1947, pp. 14-17.

RP Denis, Un chef d'oeuvre de l'orfèvrerie mosane au musée du Louvre, Bulletin du Vieux Liège, n 162, tome VII, juillet-septembre 1968.

Technical description

  • Meuse Valley (Liège?) (third quarter of the 13th century)

    Reliquary crown

    Provenance: Dominican convent in Liège

  • Gilded silver, precious stones

  • Former Princes of Saxony collection; acquired in 1947

    OA 9445

  • Decorative Arts

    Richelieu wing
    1st floor
    Jeanne d'Evreux
    Room 3
    Display case 12

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Additional information about the work

On the angels' scrolls: "le ligno... - de corona Dû - Ioh Bapt. Mar. Magd. - de Martirib. - De virginib - De côfess. - De apostoli. - De lancea Dû."