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Work Four plaques from the same cross: Christ Blessing - Saint Mark, and The Sacrifice of Abraham - Cherub, and Heraclius and Chosroes - Saint Luke, and Abraham and Melchisedech

Department of Decorative Arts: Middle Ages

Christ blessing

© 1996 RMN / Daniel Arnaudet

Decorative Arts
Middle Ages

Author(s):
Bardoz Marie-Cécile

These four plaques of champlevé enamel on gilt copper adorned a double-faced Mosan cross produced in the period between 1160 and 1170. Three of the plaques composed the horizontal arm on the front of the cross (Christ Blessing in the center, and, on either side, the plaques of Saint Mark and Saint Luke). The plaque of Heraclius and Chosroes was on the back. Other plaques from the same cross can be found in Germany in the Cologne and Stuttgart Museums, as well as at the Musée Dobrée in Nantes.

The plaque of Christ Blessing

This square plaque is framed with a decorative border adorned with polychrome florets. In the center, the half-length figure of Christ appears between the Alpha and the Omega, signifying that He is the beginning and the ending of all. His head is surrounded with a disk-shaped halo bearing the sign of the cross as he holds up his right hand in a gesture of blessing and presents an open book with his left hand. The book's two pages show the inscription PAX VOBIS: "may peace be with you." The enameling of the plaque is a combination of champlevé and cloisonné. The champlevé technique was used in the general outline of the silhouette, and the cloisonné in the tiny cross motifs, the design of the clothes and the details of the face.

Plaques from a double-faced Mosan cross

Pierced with four fixation holes, the plaque of Christ Blessing probably served as the central piece on a double-faced cross. The Louvre also owns three other plaques using an identical technique and showing close similarities. They too belonged to this same cross, covering both its faces. One side showed the images of Saint Mark, the Sacrifice of Abraham, Saint Luke, the Meeting between Abraham and Melchisedech and the plaque of Christ. The reverse presented more scenes from the Old Testament prefiguring the Passion of Christ, as well as the plaque with the Cherub and the plaque of Heraclius and Chosroes.

The continuation of Wibald of Stavelot's patronage

These works are to be considered in the context of the years that followed the abbacy of Wibald of Stavelot (1130-1158). A councillor to the two emperors, Lothar III (1125-1137) and Conrad III (1138-1152), entrusted by them with diplomatic missions, Stavelot was also a patron of the arts. He is responsible for the production of some of the most beautiful Mosan champlevé enamels such as the Stavelot triptych (The Pierpont Morgan Library, New York), and he commissioned one of the most celebrated medieval artists to work for him: the goldsmith "G", identified as Godefroy Huy, deceased in 1174. These four plaques, with their subtle coloring and elegant draftmanship, have a classic beauty, which reveals the continuing influence of Stavelot. They can therefore probably be dated from the period 1160-70.

Bibliography

Durand Jannic, Au département des Objets d'art du Louvre une plaque centrale de croix mosane du XIIe siècle représentant le Christ bénissant, La Revue du Louvre, 5/6, 1996, pp. 48-53.
"Christ bénissant", in L'Objet d'art de la saison, n 1, 1997.

Technical description

  • Meuse Valley (c. 1160-70)

    Christ blessing

  • Champelevé and cloisonné enamel on gilded copper

    H. 7.20 cm

  • Former Oettingen-Wallerstein collection; acquired in 1996 , 1996

    OA 11830

  • Decorative Arts

    Richelieu wing
    1st floor
    Suger
    Room 502
    Display case 7

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