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tabernacle / case

  • Object type

  • Museum number

    WB.233

  • Description

    Miniature tabernacle; carved in openwork boxwood with scenes from Life and Passion of Christ; oviform body surmounted by long pear-shaped pinnacle, resting on hexagonal stem which rests, with intervention of six crouching lions, on base of same shape; pinnacle surmounted by Pelican in her piety, which is removable, thus releasing four petals into which the upper part is divided; these are depressed by a ratchet while figure of Virgin and Child rise in centre; inside are represented, in relief, Annunciation, Nativity, Circumcision and Adoration of the Magi; foliage in relief outside; body divided horizontally into two parts and opens on hinge; lower half contains Resurrection, Maries at the Sepulchre, Harrowing of Hell, etc; inscribed. all in full relief; upper half protected by two doors; within is Crucifixion with numerous figures of horsemen and others; inside doors are subjects in relief, Bearing of the Cross, Deposition; outside divided into eight arches filled with tracery and crocketed on the divisions; bottom of every other arch is niche with subject from the Passion: Mocking of Christ, Christ before Pilate, before Herod, Flagellation; gallery round middle divided by eight pinnacles; lower part covered with foliage, much undercut; hexagonal stem with three scenes in full relief: Entry into Jerusalem, Agony in the Garden and Betrayal; above are six crouching lions supporting a ring into which the stem fits; fitting into stem is group of three scenes under canopy: washing of the disciple's feet, scourging of the money-lenders in the Temple and the Last Supper; original case of cuir bouilli mounted in gold filigree with panels of floral scrolls, badges and coats of arms of Charles V as King and Emperor; inscribed.

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  • Producer name

  • School/style

  • Date

    • 1500-1530
    • 1562 (Base)
  • Production place

  • Materials

  • Technique

  • Dimensions

    • Height: 22.2 centimetres (total)
    • Weight: 155.46 grammes (total)
    • Length: 10.6 centimetres (base)
    • Width: 9.3 centimetres (base)
    • Length: 12.5 centimetres (body open)
    • Diameter: 6.1 centimetres (body both halfs)
    • Width: 10 centimetres (body doors open)
    • Diameter: 4.7 centimetres (body doors)
    • Height: 6.5 centimetres (body closed)
    • Height: 3 centimetres (body open)
    • Weight: 48.45 grammes (body)
    • Width: 10.9 centimetres (four petals open)
    • Length: 14.7 centimetres (case)
    • Height: 25.5 centimetres (case)
    • Width: 13 centimetres (case)
  • Inscriptions

      • Inscription Type

        inscription
      • Inscription Script

        Gothic
      • Inscription Position

        case
      • Inscription Language

        Latin
      • Inscription Content

        time deum
      • Inscription Type

        inscription
      • Inscription Script

        Gothic
      • Inscription Position

        body
      • Inscription Language

        Latin
      • Inscription Content

        ihesus maria
      • Inscription Type

        inscription
      • Inscription Position

        body
      • Inscription Language

        Latin
      • Inscription Content

        ATTOLITE . PORTAS PRINCIPES VRAS' ET ELEVAMINI PORTE
      • Inscription Type

        inscription
      • Inscription Script

        Gothic
      • Inscription Position

        body
      • Inscription Language

        Latin
      • Inscription Content

        D crux que spe unica hoc passionis tempore auge piis justicia reisqi dona veniam
      • Inscription Type

        inscription
      • Inscription Position

        body
      • Inscription Language

        Latin
      • Inscription Content

        SI PASSIO CRSTI AD MEMOR CE VOCETVR NICHIL EST QD
      • Inscription Type

        inscription
      • Inscription Script

        Gothic
      • Inscription Position

        body
      • Inscription Language

        Latin
      • Inscription Content

        Suscepeu aut ihesum et edurerut Etseatra
      • Inscription Comment

        John xix.16
      • Inscription Type

        inscription
      • Inscription Script

        Gothic
      • Inscription Position

        body
      • Inscription Language

        Latin
      • Inscription Content

        deplorat nil tu extinctum pueru istum
      • Inscription Type

        inscription
      • Inscription Position

        body
      • Inscription Language

        Latin
      • Inscription Content

        TVAM . CRVCE' ADORAM' DNE' TVAM GLORIOSAM
      • Inscription Type

        inscription
      • Inscription Script

        Gothic
      • Inscription Position

        body
      • Inscription Language

        Latin
      • Inscription Content

        hic venit dominus noster qui fecit celum et terra
      • Inscription Type

        inscription
      • Inscription Position

        foot
      • Inscription Language

        Latin
      • Inscription Content

        +DOMINICVS ACAVALA ME FECIT ANO 1562
  • Curator's comments

    Provenance: Unknown other than that the tabernacle was exhibited in 1836 (see bibliography). It is not known how or when it entered the collection of Baron Ferdinand Rothschild.

    Commentary from Tait 1981:-

    'The object is so ingeniously constructed that, like a flower, it opens, and section by section, reveals more and yet more areas of minute carving depicting scenes from the life of Christ. The process commences when the finial, a pelican in her piety, is lifted off and the four 'petals' below open outwards to reveal, carved on their inner faces, scenes of events surrounding Christ's birth and in the centre, carved fully in the round, the figure of the Virgin and Child, which simultaneously rises as the wooden ratchet (at the base of the pinnacle) is slowly turned. Similarly, the central "knop" of the tabernacle opens up like a rosary bead and the stem, with its fine tracery, is designed to be taken apart. An object of such exquisite workmanship and inventiveness would, undoubtedly, have been the cherished object of piety in some private oratory of a royal household. Although its outer leather case has the armorial bearings of the Emperor Charles V, who retired to a monastery in Spain and died there in 1558, and the object was stated (as early as 1834) to have been brought to England from Spain during the Peninsular War (1808-14), this distinguished provenance has yet to be established beyond doubt.'

    The only comparison for this tabernacle is a similar one with later enamelled foot which was inventoried in the Munich Kunstkammer in 1598 and is still in Munich: see Thornton 2015, below and Scholten 2016 as listed below.

    [The early 16th-century case was repaired and decorated with filigree c1670-1730. The bottom section of the base is dated 1562 and is slightly later than the rest of the object, but the tabernacle fits into its case with the additional base which would make it too late for the case to be made in Charles V's lifetime, but may indicate that it once belonged to him. Read 1902 shows the object with a further modern base, now removed.

    Williamson 2000 (Hazel Williamson, 'Guide to the collections of the National Museums of Scotland', National Museums of Scotland, Edinburgh, 2000) notes that house altars of different sizes and formats were made as part of the late 15th century shift in devotion towards the Passion and the Virgin's suffering, using objects like this as devotional and visual aids. The inscription 'O Crux Ave' is taken from a Latin hymn in praise of the Cross, The Vexilla Regis, (sung as part of the Good Friday liturgy) also appears on a boxwood triptych in the V&A of c.1500-1520 (inv. no. 264-1874).

    The closest comparison to the tabernacle is a boxwood monstrance, also with case, in the Residenz in Munich.]

    Bibliography: Samuel Rush Meyrick & Henry Shaw, 'Specimens of Ancient Furniture', London, 1836, p.57, pl. LXXII-LXXIII; Charles Hercules Read, 'The Waddesdon Bequest: Catalogue of the Works of Art bequeathed to the British Museum by Baron Ferdinand Rothschild, M.P., 1898', London, 1902, no. 233, fig. 37 and pls.XLVI., XLVII; Alfred Maskell, Wood Sculpture, London 1911, pp. 187-8 and plate XXX; O.M. Dalton, 'The Waddesdon Bequest', 2nd edn (rev), British Museum, London, 1927, no.233; H. Tait, 'The Waddesdon Bequest', BM London, 1981, pp. 26-31, figs. 14-16; Susan Jean Romanelli, South Netherlandish boxwood devotional sculpture 1475-1530, Doctoral Dissertation, Columbia University, New York 1992, pp. 145-7 a pp.199-203, cat.1; Heinz Schilling, 'Charles V and Religion, The Struggle for the Integrity and Unity of Christendom', in 'Charles V 1500-1558 and his Time', ed. Hugo Soly, Antwerp. 1999, pp.285-263; Paul Williamson, Netherlandish Sculpture 1450-1550, London 2002, cat.49; Evelin Wetter, '‘Zwei spätmittelalterliche Betnüsse aus den südlichen Niederlanden’, Riggisberg, 2011, pp. 69-70; Dora Thornton, 'A Rothschild Renaissance: Treasures from the Waddesdon Bequest', British Museum, London, 2015, pp.186-195; F.Scholten, Small Wonders, Amsterdam 2016, pp.47-8,185-90, 248, 359, 375; D.Thornton, "The boxwood dtabernacle as a devotional toy", in P.Shirley and D.Thornton, eds., The Waddesdon Bequest, a new look, London 2017, pp. 100-113, and P.Fletcher, "X-ray Computed Tomography of the boxwood bead" in same voljume, pp. 120-123.

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  • Bibliography

    • Read 1902 233 bibliographic details
    • Dalton 1927 233 bibliographic details
  • Location

    On display: G2a/dc16

  • Subjects

  • Associated names

  • Associated places

  • Acquisition name

  • Acquisition date

    1898

  • Acquisition notes

    This collection is known as the Waddesdon Bequest under the terms of Baron Ferdinand Rothschild’s will.

  • Department

    Britain, Europe and Prehistory

  • Registration number

    WB.233


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Object reference number: MCN6655

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