Cross Fragment of the Mourning Virgin
|Medium:||champlevé enamel on copper with gilding and glass|
|Dimensions:||10 7/16 x 6 1/2 x 1 3/8 in. (26.5 x 16.5 x 3.5 cm)|
|Credit Line:||acquired by Henry Walters, 1927|
|Description:||This finely worked plaque representing the Virgin Mary was originally placed on the left arm of a very large cross made under the auspices of the Abbey of Grandmont, one of the most influential patrons of Limoges enamel work in the early 13th century.|
This fragment once adorned the arm of a large composite cross made of gilded copper and enameled plaques which were mounted on a wooden core. The wooden support is lost as are most of the enameled plaques that covered the cross. This fragment is comprised of three pieces; the gilded copper figure in relief representing Virgin Mary, her round, slightly concave halo, and the flat, T-shaped plaque filled with blue enamel and flowering vine scroll left in reserve. Two rivets attach the Virgin to the flat enameled plaque behind her. The halo is attached to the Virgin's head by the same means. There are 22 holes along the borders of the flat terminal plaque. The T-shaped plaque is surrounded by an engraved and chased border in reserve filled at the top and bottom with a running vine-scroll and at the left with a foliate pattern reminiscent of the word "Allah" in Kufic script.
In 2005, Mark T. Wypyski, Research Scientist, Department of Scientific Research, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, conducted elemental analysis on samples of enamel from Walters 44.22 using energy dispersive X-ray spectrometry and wavelength dispersive X-ray spectrometry in the scanning electron microscope. The composition of the enamel was found to be consistent with that of Limoges enamels produced until the early 13th century. Additionally, the composition of the copper of the plaque and the use of mercury gilding accords with medieval manufacture.
A Limoges enamel plaque, representing the Resurrection of the Dead (London, Victoria and Albert Museum, M.140-1945) has nearly identical pseudo-Kufic script patterns and similar foliate scrolls in reserve on an enamel background, as Griffith Mann, Curator of Medieval Art at the Walters Art Museum, and Marian Campbell, Department of Metalwork, Victoria and Albert Museum, have noted.
While Walters cross fragment bears no legible inscription, the Victoria and Albert panel has an enamel inscription in the lower border beneath the depiction of three figures rising out of their tombs. The verse inscription reads: PROPOSITO FIXO CRVCIFIXVS CV CRVCIFIXO. This exact verse is found in only one known Latin source, Dionysius Sammarthanus, Notitia Historica in S. Stephanum (historical notes on the Life of Saint Stephen of Muret). This verse celebrates the release of the spirit of Saint Stephen of Muret , the founder of the Abbey and Order of Grandmont, at his death in 1124, and equates Stephen's strict monastic life as a worthy sacrifice given like that of Christ upon the cross. This inscription is so specific to Saint Stephen of Muret, it likely adorned a cross made for Grandmont or one of its dependent houses.
The appliqué figure on the Walters panel resembles other works made for the Abbey of Grandmont in the "1200 style” such as a series of plaques depicting Christ's Apostles believed to have been made for the high altar of the Abbey Church of Grandmont. The altar was destroyed in 1790 and the enamel panels scattered to collections in New York (Metropolitan Museum of Art, 17.190.123), St. Petersburg (State Hermitage Museum, F 194), Paris (Musée du Louvre, MR 2650); Musée du Petit Palais, OD 1239 and OD 1239) and Florence (Museo Nazionale del Bargello, Inv. 649).
Collection Chappée, Le Mans (?); Brimo De Laroussilhe, Paris, by purchase; Henri Daguerre, Paris, by purchase; Henry Walters, Baltimore, 1927, by purchase; Walters Art Museum, 1931, by bequest.