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  • Object type

  • Museum number


  • Description

    Champlevé enamel plaque depicting Saints James and Jude, as authors of Epistles, seated beneath arches.

    Stratford 1993
    The massive plaque of virtually pure copper is rectangular but with a double-arched top, the right arch slightly higher than the left. The edges are original and gilded, the profile of the top arched edges being rounded, the others flat. The plaque is bowed in the centre and more than 1 mm thick. Clumsily soldered to the back is a brass handle, a later addition to turn the plaque into a pax. Front: Eight original pinholes for attachment to a wooden core, three on each side through small reserved gilded areas in the side columns, two in the centre at the top (between the arches) and bottom (below the central column). The two Apostles are fully enamelled, except for their heads, hands and feet; they are seated on cushions on rectangular thrones, facing inwards towards each other. St James on the left has a writing desk on his knees and is holding the quill and knife of a scribe, while a long scroll descends from his writing desk downwards across the central column into the right field. On it the inscription in two lines reads: IACOBVSDEI/ D(OMI)NIN(OST)RI N(OST)RIIH(S)VXPISERVVS (except that the nostri is repeated, these are more or less exactly the opening words of the Epistle of St James: 'James, a servant of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ'). The line-drawing of James' hair and beard, the diamond pattern of his collar, his scroll and its inscription, the cushion and a row of arches which acts as his footstool are all filled with opaque red enamel, whereas his face is drawn in deep blue enamel, contrasting with his red hair and beard. He is dressed in a long tunic of yellow, shaded with zones of pale green and bordered with white, while his overmantle is of mid-blue shaded with zones of deep blue within a border of white or white/pale blue. His writing desk is decorated with a row of small arches which alternate deep blue with turquoise, and has an upper and lower edge of white/yellow/pale green. His halo is turquoise within purple within mauve within white. The background and the throne are reserved and gilded, with an engraved overall crisscross pattern of lozenges: each lozenge is studded with a tiny circle in its centre and there is a prick-mark at the junction between each lozenge. St Jude on the right holds an open book on his knees, to which his left hand is pointing. The book is inscribed IVDA/ S/ IHC/ SVSE/ XPIV/ VS . R, the inscription to be read in part across from one page to the other, in part down the left page followed
    by down the right page, the letters not exactly in the correct order, but undoubtedly the opening words of the Epistle of St Jude: Judas, Iesu Christi servus ('Jude, the servant of Jesus Christ'). The drawing of Jude's head, hair and features is here all filled with deep blue enamel, but red is again used for the inscription and the decorated collar. He wears a long mid-blue tunic shaded with deep blue and edged with white, and an overmantle of pale mauve shaded with deep purple and again edged with white. His halo is deep blue within deep green within pale green within white. The background and throne have the same engraved lozenge pattern. The framing architecture consists of two round-headed arches, the left one deep green/pale green/white, the right one purple/deep blue/white; the arches are supported by columns decorated with speckled enamel, fired from granules of white, turquoise, blue, green, yellow and red, and the ground beneath the two Apostles is also filled with the same speckled enamel. The capitals and bases are trapeze-shaped with a rectangular block above or below; they are decorated with either the same speckled enamel or combinations of white/purple, white/mid-blue/deep blue, white/purple/turquoise, white/turquoise/green. Two small oval fields between the central column, its capital and its base have a deep blue dot surrounded by white. There are losses of enamel in the bottom right corner, on the central column and on the right-hand arch. The palette is: off-white, yellow (2.5Y 6/6-5Y 6/6), pale green (5GY 5/4-5/6), deep green (2.5G 3/4-4/4), turquoise (10BG 4/4), pale blue (5PB 5/4-4/4), mid-blue (5PB 3/4), deep blue (7.5PB 2/6), pale mauve (5RP 3/1), purple (5RP 2/2-3/2), opaque red (10R 3/6).


  • Culture/period

  • Date

    • 1170-1185
  • Production place

  • Materials

  • Technique

  • Dimensions

    • Height: 134 millimetres (left arch)
    • Height: 136 millimetres (right arch)
    • Width: 103 millimetres
    • Weight: 312.6 grammes
  • Inscriptions

      • Inscription Type

      • Inscription Position

      • Inscription Content

        IVDA/ S/ IHC/ SVSE/ XPIV/ VS . R
      • Inscription Type

      • Inscription Position

      • Inscription Content

  • Curator's comments

    Stratford 1993
    Composition of the alloys: (XRF analysis, British Museum Research Laboratory)
    (plaque) 99% Cu, <o.3% Zn, 0.6% Pb, 0.4% Sn, <0.1% As, <0.1% Ni, 0.1% Sb, 0.1% Fe, 0.2% Ag.
    (handle - qualitative XRF analysis) brass, with small amounts of tin and lead.

    Discussion: An open-work circular medallion, enamelled with Christ enthroned in a quatrefoil between two angels (Louvre, OA MR.R 254 - acquired with the Révoil collection in 1828; see J. J. Marquet de Vasselot, ‘Catalogue sommaire de l'orfèvrerie, de l'émaillerie et des gemmes’, Musée du Louvre, 1914, no. 34), is undoubtedly by the same goldsmith: technique and drawing-style are identical. The palette is also the same: off-white, pale blue, deep blue, turquoise, pale green, yellow, pale mauve and deep purple; and two particular features (zones of deep purple modelling the pale mauve and white mantle of Christ; white borders to the draperies) are common to both enamels. The Louvre plaque is also compatible in its dimensions (Diameter: 99 mm) and has the same unusual engraved lozenge pattern as a background behind the fully enamelled figures. It bears an inscription filled with red enamel on its circular border:
    ('I am without a beginning, God, author of all things to all mankind. Ruling all things, I hold them subject to my law'). The precise source of this rhyming elegiac couplet has not been traced in the published collections of medieval verse incipits, and Robert Favreau informs me that the inscription has not so far been recorded in the Inventaire des inscriptions médiévales françaises at Poitiers. The hexameter is based on Revelation I, 8 (ego sum . . . principium) and I Cor. IX, 22 (Omnibus omnia factus sum); the pentameter is similar, according to Professor Favreau, to certain formulae used as inscriptions on tombs and liturgical objects, without being precisely the same.
    In the publications of Mitchell, Borenius and Chamot, a further group of enamels was connected with one or both of the British Museum and Louvre plaques: seven rectangular plaques with scenes from the lives of Sts Peter and Paul, apparently from a large shrine or altarpiece, and all measuring H. 84-87 mm, W. 125-128 mm. They can probably be attributed to England c. 1170-80 on the basis of stylistic comparisons with illuminated manuscripts (these comparisons are proposed by Neil Stratford, in Catalogue ‘English Romanesque Art’ 1984, pp. 273-5 (nos. 290 a_f)). The connection with this object and the Louvre plaque is beyond dispute. Even the major difference, that the figures of this object and the Louvre plaque have fully enamelled draperies as opposed to figures almost fully engraved, is mitigated by the fact that on the few occasions when draperies are enamelled on the Peter and Paul plaques, the palette and its distribution is exactly as on the Museum and Louvre plaques, with white edging and deep purple zones modelling the pale mauve; we also find a parallel use of speckled enamel on one of the rectangular plaques. Peter and Paul cycles are rare in Romanesque art (though see Erika Dinkler-von Schubert, 'Per murum dimiserunt eum'. Zur Ikonographie von Acta IX, 25 und 2. Cor. XI, 33, in ‘Studien zur Buchmalerei und Goldschmiedekunst des Mittelalters. Festschrift für Karl Hermann Usener’, Marburg, 1967, pp. 79-92). It is therefore significant that the Museum's plaque presents a most unusual parallel iconography, that of two of the writers of the Epistles, James and Jude, with the first words of their respective Epistles, while among the seven Peter and Paul plaques is one which shows St Paul among his disciples holding a scroll inscribed: Ad . ROMANOs/ Ad . CHORINT(HIOS) . Ad ./ PHILIPPENSES, referring to his Epistles to the Romans, Corinthians and Philippians (New York, Metropolitan Museum of Art, 17.190.445). Given the similarity in the drawing style between the seven plaques and the Museum and Louvre plaques, it is even tempting to suggest that they all come from the same object. This would have to have been a large shrine with the narrative plaques of the lives of the two principal Apostles on the roof, other writers of the Epistles under arches along the sides of the châsse (this is where this object would find its place) and the Louvre's à jour medallion of Christ between the two angels on one of the gable ends of the shrine. Until further related plaques come to light, this hypothesis must remain fragile.
    The already published stylistic comparisons with English manuscripts apply as much to the British Museum and Louvre plaques as to the seven Peter and Paul plaques. There are also particular features of the James and Jude plaque and the Christ plaque, which cement the English relationship of the whole series. The unusual presentation of a Majesty figure in a quatrefoil can be paralleled in the Winchester Bible and in the 'Simon Master' manuscripts from St Albans and other centres (Oakeshott 1981, pl. 60; Thomson 1985, II, pl. 179). In the work of the so-called 'Apocrypha Master' in the Winchester Bible, we find the unique (in twelfth-century enamel) diapered backgrounds of both plaques. The 'Apocrypha Master's' compositions, particularly his 'declamatory' figures facing a listening group, and his drapery style have left a marked impression on the goldsmith of the Peter and Paul enamels; only in the bulk and more fluid conventions of the draperies does the group betray his somewhat later date, probably in the 1170s or 1180s. This is a monumental drawing style, which is probably more or less contemporary with the 'late' hands of the Winchester Bible.
    Doubts have been expressed about the authenticity of the Louvre and British Museum plaques, though never in print; these are born from the highly idiosyncratic drawing of the heads and the unique palette, not from any anachronistic details (there are none). However their intimate connection with the Peter and Paul plaques speaks prima facie strongly in their favour. It is generally accepted that the series of seven rectangular plaques is authentic, even though not one of them is recorded prior to the 1870s and there exist certain fakes copied from the individual plaques (e.g. in the Museo Lázaro Galdiano in Madrid; another fake, copied after one of the two plaques in the Victoria and Albert Museum (Catalogue ‘English Romanesque Art’ 1984, no. 290d), was sold at Christie's on 15 March 1985). If the Louvre and British Museum plaques were fakes, they would be pastiches or copies after the Peter and Paul plaques which they by no means are. Furthermore, by 1850 the Museum's plaque was in an English collection and had already been converted into a pax (a tablet decorated with a sacred image, as an instrument for transferring the Kiss of Peace after the Agnus Dei from the celebrant to the clergy and laity (Braun 1932, pp. 557-72; Jungmann 1962, II, pp. 408-9)); paxes are first recorded in the mid-thirteenth century and were widely popular in the later Middle Ages, but the image of two Apostles is not an appropriate image for a pax, which invariably has a Christological message. It can be assumed therefore that the brass handle was added in the first half of the nineteenth century, to make the plaque more interesting to antiquarian collectors. However, the most compelling argument in favour of the authenticity of the whole group is the fact that the Louvre Christ plaque was acquired already in 1828; its previous owner was the Lyon collector Pierre Révoil, and judging by his personal history, it is unlikely to have been acquired by him much after 1820 (for Révoil, see Louis Courajod, La collection Révoil au Musée du Louvre, in ‘Bulletin Monumental’, 1888, pp. 143-74, 257-86; Garmier 1980, partic, pp. 53-5; Catalogue ‘Le 'Gothique' retrouvé avant Viollet-le-Duc’, Paris, Hôtel de Sully, 1979-80, pp. 92-8). Although there were 'medieval' fakes in the Révoil collection, it is hardly conceivable that such an original, technically accomplished, non-Limoges and 'archaeological' enamel could have been made prior to the 1830s. This object must therefore be accepted for the time being as a member of a highly individual group of English enamels, possibly all from the same object, perhaps a shrine whose iconography related to Saints Peter, Paul and the other writers of the Epistles. If there are no direct parallels for these plaques within the small corpus of surviving Mosan, German and English enamels, nevertheless their drawing style would suggest an insular origin in the 1170s or 1180s.

    Catalogue Society of Arts 1850, p. 39 (no. 315); George Isaacs sale, Puttick and Simpson, 191 Piccadilly, London, 12 November 1850, lot 143.


  • Bibliography

    • Stratford 1993 no31 bibliographic details
    • Lasko 1972 p311(no36) bibliographic details
    • Von Falke & Frauberger 1904 p78(pl26) bibliographic details
    • Chamot 1930 pp10, 37-8 (no19)pl14 bibliographic details
    • Mitchell 1926 pp161-73 bibliographic details
    • Borenius & Chamot 1928 pp276-87 bibliographic details
  • Location

    Not on display

  • Exhibition history

    2013 28 Nov - present, Norwich Castle Museum, Norman Connections LT loan

  • Subjects

  • Associated names

  • Acquisition name

  • Acquisition date


  • Acquisition notes

    Acquired in 1850 for £11-10s. from the dealer John Webb of Old Bond Street, following the sale of the collection of George Isaacs in November 1850. No previous history known.

  • Department

    Britain, Europe and Prehistory

  • Registration number


Pax; copper alloy; enamelled; double semi-circular head; beneath two Norman arches full-length figures of St James and St Jude, seated, holding inscribed scrolls; gilt diapered background.

Pax; copper alloy; enamelled; double semi-circular head; beneath two Norman arches full-length figures of St James and St Jude, seated, holding inscribed scrolls; gilt diapered background.

Image description



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Object reference number: MCM394

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