- Museum number
Rectangular champlevé enamel plaque depicting the apostle St James. Originally from a shrine or portable altar.
Back: Gilding along the left edge. Mounting-mark III; III repeated near top edge. Horizontal line to form a border near top and bottom edge, apparently recent. Deposit of discoloured varnish over the whole surface. Front: On the left and right sides there is a recessed beaded border made by a tool with a hollow tip of approx. 2.5 mm width; four original angle pinholes for attachment to a wooden core. The top and bottom are chamfered (the chamfer has been cut off at bottom right), and do not have the beading. A reserved edge within the beaded borders and chamfer is 2 mm wide and surrounds an enamelled frame of mid-blue within off-white, which is 3 mm wide; the enamelled frame is broken into by the halo, the ground and the feet of the figure. The young Apostle is identified in vertical letters of deep blue to his left as + IACOBVS. He is standing looking to the right, gesturing with his right hand and holding a book in his covered left hand; he has long hair falling on to his right shoulder. The drawing of the head and feet is filled with blue enamel (which has now gained red tints in the head, because the walls of the champlevé fields have thrown oxidized copper). The Apostle's long tunic is of turquoise/ yellow/ green; over this he wears a second tunic, where deep blue sometimes replaces the green in the turquoise/ yellow fields, whereas above the waist the tunic reverts to the turquoise/ yellow/ green combination. A long mantle of deep blue/ pale blue/ off-white falls from his shoulders. The halo is of turquoise within green within yellow, like much of the tunic. The ground on which the Apostle stands is of turquoise/ off-white. Opaque red studded with yellow and white dots decorates the collar and cuff, opaque red studded with white and turquoise the book-cover, whereas the edge of the book is of pale green/ yellow. There has been some loss of glass in the enamelled frame, apart from which enamel and gilding are in near-perfect condition.
- Production date
Height: 109 - 110 millimetres
Width: 49 - 50 millimetres
Weight: 130 grammes
- Curator's comments
- Part of 1850,1126.1 In set with 1983,0304.1
By 1850 the plaque was pinned in the centre of an Active ensemble of enamels, gemstones, glass and stamped silver plaques made up in the form of a medieval book-cover. The four rectangular champlevé enamel plaques of the outer frame, with their systematically organised foliage motifs, are nineteenth-century pastiches of the later twelfth-century foliage enamels which are commonplace productions of the Mosan and Middle Rhenish workshops, found particularly on the larger shrines, such as the St Anno shrine at Siegburg and the St Albinus shrine in Köln; here they are arranged to form a border, as if to a full-page manuscript illumination. Such decorative foliage plaques were often detached and replaced by imitations during the restorations of the nineteenth century, so that they were the familiar stock of contemporary German goldsmiths such as Gabriel Hermeling of Köln. However, the stamped silver inner frame, with its motifs of little four-petalled flowers and fleurs-de-lys, suggests a French origin for the 'book-cover', and this is confirmed by what can be deduced about the provenance of the other three related plaques; if the nineteenth-century foliage enamels are French, then they are precocious examples of the French revival of interest in Mosan champlevé enamel (cf. Bachelet's enamels for the Troyes châsse, discussed under registration no. 1900,0618.1.
The palette is: off-white, pale blue (5PB 3/4-7.5PB 3/4), deep blue (7.5PB 2/6-2/8), turquoise (10BG 3/4-4/4 or 7.5BG 3/4-4/4), green (2.5G 3/2-4/2 or 7.5GY 4/4-5GY 5/4), yellow (5Y 6/6-7.5Y 6/6), red (10R 3/6).
Composition of the alloys: (XRF analysis, British Museum Research Laboratory)
98% Cu, <0.3% Zn, 1.1% Pb, <0.05% Sn, <0.1% As, <0.1% Ni, 0.3% Sb, 0.1 % Fe, 0.1% Ag.
Discussion for registration nos, 1850,1126.1A and 1983,0304.1:
Pressouyre (acknowledging Mme Gaborit-Chopin) linked the St James plaque (1850,1126.1A) with two plaques of Apostles in the Musée des Beaux-Arts, Calais (Inv. 951-906 - St Philip: H. 112 mm, w. 49 mm; Inv. 951-907-St Simon: H. no mm, w. 50 mm. Information Mme Sophie Dargère). The Calais plaques came from the local Gamier collection. They were seriously damaged by fire during the Second World War, so that their study is now rendered virtually hopeless. Fortunately they were published in 1939, together with a third enamel plaque in Calais (see ‘Willibrord-Herdenking 735-1939 - Catalogus van de Tentoonstelling van Vroeg-Middeleeuwsche Kunst’, Utrecht, 16th June - 15th September 1939, p. 44 (nos 131-3)) and they did not escape the eye of Hanns Swarzenski (Swarzenski 1953, p. 157). From an old photograph, confirmed by examination of the damaged plaques, it is clear that in format and dimensions as well as in iconography and style, they come from the same object as 1850,1126.1A. The appearance of 1983,0304.1 from a French collection in the Paris auction rooms in 1983 adds a fourth plaque to the series. The four Apostles (Simon, Philip, James and Jude) all hold books and all four plaques have beaded sides and chamfered upper and lower edges. Morgan 1973 gave the measurements of 1850,1126.1A incorrectly, so that he did not make the direct association between Calais and London. He postulated that these plaques came from book-covers, which would explain why only the sides of 1850,1126.1A are beaded, being part of a border frame. However, given the existence of four plaques, each of 11 cm in height, with presumably another eight Apostles lacking, the hypothesis of a book-cover becomes implausible, even if it was the cover of an enormous Bible. The most likely sources for the plaques are: (1) a shrine like the Shrine of St Heribert at Deutz, whose tall rectangular enamel plaques of Prophets divide the main areas of the body of the shrine (the upper and lower edges of these plaques are not beaded, while their sides are), cf. also the general disposition of much smaller enamel plaques on the body and roof of the St Alban Shrine from Nesle-la-Reposte (registration no. 1900,0618.1); (2) a portable altar, with the Apostles arranged on the long sides or around all four sides of the altar, cf. for instance the iconography of the Apostles on the portable altar from St Pantaleon in Köln (Catalogue ‘Ornamenta Ecclesiae’ 1985, 2, p. 337 (E102)). There is no surviving example of a series of single Apostle plaques used in such a context. However, the scale of the plaques militates in favour of a portable altar, unless the plaques come from a small shrine.
The advantage of the portable altar hypothesis is that it would allow the third plaque in the Musée de Calais to be accommodated as part of the same ensemble on the top surface of the altar. Judging by the old black and white photograph, this plaque looks similar to the two Apostle plaques in style and technique, and according to the Utrecht catalogue it was of exactly the same size, though horizontal in format. It was decorated with the half-length figures of Moses and Elijah, two of the protagonists of the Transfiguration, with rays of light falling on them and on the lower border of the plaque. It must have come from a scene of the Transfiguration, which occupied more than one plaque, a scene without parallel not only in Mosan enamel (though it can be found in ivory) but also on portable altars. The format, single beaded lower border and style of the third Calais plaque invite comparsion with two plaques, now in the Musée de Cluny and the Keir Collection, which seem to come from another portable altar of similar dimensions (Gauthier and François 1981, pp. 33-4 (no. 49)). Dimensions: Keir Collection plaque H. 4.6 cm, w. 10.6 cm; Cluny plaque H. 4.6 cm, w. 11 cm.
As to the style and technique of the London and Calais plaques, they could well represent a local northern French tradition. There are examples surviving in Champagne (in the Treasury of the Cathedral of Troyes, some from le Gault-la-Forêt) which also provide evidence of the influence of the enamel workshops of the Mosan region in northern France. However, the London-Calais plaques are not directly related to the enamels of Champagne, which were in their turn produced by more than one workshop (see registration no. 1900,0618.1). They are another and parallel offshoot of the Mosan tradition.
Exhibited 1 May 1850 by George Isaacs, in ‘Journal of the British Archaeological Association’, VI, 1851, p. 154; George Isaacs sale, Puttick & Simpson, 191 Piccadilly, London, 12 November 1850, lot 145; Catalogue Manchester 1959, p. 44 (no. 101); Neil Stratford, in ‘Santiago de Compostela. 1000 ans de Pèlerinage Européen’, catalogue of exhibition Europalia 85 España, abbaye Saint-Pierre, Ghent 1985, p. 326 (no. 293).
- Not on display
- Exhibition history
2015 29 Jan-18 Oct, Finland, Tampere, Museum Centre Vapriikki, Pilgrimages from Finland
1985 28 Sep-23 Dec, Belgium, Ghent, St Peter's Abbey, Santiago de Compostela: 1000 Years of European Pilgrimage
- Acquisition date
- Acquisition notes
- Purchased by Augustus Franks as the centrepiece of a nineteenth-century 'book-cover' at the George Isaacs' sale in November 1850, and acquired from Franks for £14 by the Museum. No previous history known.
- Britain, Europe and Prehistory
- Registration number