Length: 3.800 cm
Gift of George Salting
Room 40: Medieval Europe
Reliquary pendant of the Holy Thorn
Medieval, around AD
From Paris, France
A thorn from Christ's crown?
One side of the central leaf is not enamelled; it contains instead a miniature painted on vellum of the Nativity and the Annunciation to the Shepherds. It is very faded but when freshly painted it may have more closely resembled the brilliant colour of the enamels.
The purpose of the miniature is to conceal a relic of the Holy Thorn. The relic compartment is divided into seven, the central one reserved for a thorn said to come from the crown of thorns that Christ wore on the Cross. The thorn is still in place, with a small golden crown placed above it.
Who are the royal couple who ordered the reliquary to be made? There is no evidence to suggest their identities apart from the likely date of the object and its probable place of manufacture. The treatment of the figures of both the enamels and the illumination suggests a date slightly before the middle of the fourteenth century. The enamelling is very much in the fashion of Parisian metalworkers at this time. Given these stylistic attributions, the most promising candidates are Philip VI (reigned 1328-50) and his wife Jeanne de Bourgogne.
J. Robinson, Masterpieces: Medieval Art (London, British Museum Press, 2008)
F. Baron, Les fastes du Gothique: le siè (Grand Palais, Paris, 1981)