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  • Object type

  • Museum number


  • Description

    Triptych; silver case engraved with curling foliage, two doors on the front held by a sliding clip which open to reveal a triptych with minute carving in wood: Descent from the Cross at the centre; Christ carrying the Cross upper left, figure missing lower right, St Veronica upper left, Christ as Man of Sorrows lower right. In the background some kind of composition set with remnants of brightly-coloured humming-bird feathers.


  • Date

    • 1500-1600
  • Production place

  • Materials

  • Technique

  • Dimensions

    • Height: 59 millimetres
    • Width: 54.5 millimetres (open)
    • Width: 29 millimetres (closed)
    • Depth: 10 millimetres (open)
    • Depth: 16 millimetres (closed)
    • Weight: 34 grammes
  • Curator's comments

    This would have been brightly-coloured with the original hummingbird's feathers in the back ground. The silver exterior is similar to those found on reliquaries from Castile and Leon, 17th C, in the Hernandez-Mora-Zapata collection (book in P&E) but the carvings might suggest a Flemish origin slightly earlier? Compare much finer miniature boxwoods in WB. These on this triptych may well be Mexican work, particularly given the use of feathers in the ground which was a Mexican speciality, compare knop of a chalice in Los Angeles marked for Mexico which has a knop with crystal over figures and feathers similar to this. See Oman, Hispanic Silver in VAM and Tait Jewels p. 235 for discussion of WB 183 which has similar boxwood carvings under crystal but no feathers. Compare very similar triptych in VAM, 266-1866, Deposition at centre and Passion scenes at side, very close door decoration in silver. See Oman, Golden Age of Hispanic Silver, VAM 1968, cat. 104a. VAM one has more of its feather decoration left. Now published by Marjorie Trusted in The Arts of Spain, 2007, p. 170, fig. 139. Also one in Rogers Fund MMA, on their website.
    See two further examples of this kind of boxwood carving on hummingbird feathers in Bargello, Carrand collection: one is inv 721C which has element of Crucifixion as in central element on this Bm triptych, by same artisan or at least workshop, but set in the Bargello example in a 15th C gilt copper pax. A gold triptych has three scenes and feather ground, inv 1035C, in which central scene compares with the jewel in Edinburgh supposedly from Mary Queen of Scots, inv KL 1999.181.
    Rock crystal jewel in Louvre DOA OA 6180 with same Crucifixion scene as on this BM jewel indicating same artisan or workshop.
    Cahiers national de la Renaissance on the Ecouen Triptyque Azteque de la Crucifixion 2004 attempts to make an inventory of all known pieces using Mexican featherwork: mentions VAM piece but not this one.

    This piece published by Dora Thornton in British Museum Magazine, Spring 2008, p. 45.



  • Bibliography

    • Perry 2011 p.81 (illustrated) bibliographic details
  • Location

    Not on display

  • Exhibition history

    2012-2013 Nov-Mar, Bonn, Kunst- und Ausstellungshalle, Treasures of the World's Cultures
    2011 6 Oct-19 Feb, London, The British Museum, Grayson Perry, Tomb of an Unknown Craftsman

  • Subjects

  • Associated names

  • Acquisition name

  • Acquisition date


  • Department

    Britain, Europe and Prehistory

  • Registration number



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Object reference number: MCN12582

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