Tuesday, April 19, 2016

Ancient Christian Artifacts at the Louvre

Our Ambrosian correspondent Nicola de’ Grandi was recently in Paris, and took these photographs of some of the ancient Christian artworks kept at the Louvre Museum.

A gilded piece of glass of the type frequent used as grave markers in ancient Christian burial sites; this was a fairly precious object both for its gold, but also because glass was difficult to make in antiquity, and considered a kind of jewel. The image is of the Prophet Jonah being thrown out of the boat, and swallowed by the “whale”, here a large sea monster. (The Hebrew word “bechamah” can also mean either. Jonah was a very popular subject for the ancient Christians as a symbol of the Resurrection of Christ, and of its necessary premises, the Incarnation and Passion. 
A processional cross in silvered bronze, 6th-7th century. 
A container for relics, silver, partly gilded, first half of the 5th century, from Brivio, Italy. On the lid, Christ calls Lazarus out of the tomb, while Mary Magdalene prays before Him; on the box, the Magi bringing their gifts to the Christ Child on the lap of His Mother.
A glass cup decorated with Biblical scenes, 4th century. (details in diagram below)
In the middle: Chrismon surrounded by stars. On the border (starting at 11 o’clock): Adam, the serpent, and Eve; Daniel in the Lions’ Den; Susanna and the Elders; Daniel before the serpent of Babylon.
Sarcophagis with Christ teaching the Twelve, from Rignieux-le-Franc (Ain), end of the 4th century.

Christian funerary mosaic, with Chrismon (detail below), birds and vine; from Tunisia, end of the 4th or beginning of the 5th century.

Sarcophagus with the Traditio Legis scene; from the mausoleum of the Anicii under the apse of St Peter’s Basilica in the Vatican; beginning of the 4th century.
The Ascent of Elijah represented on the side.
A pre-Constantinian funerary inscription, “Livia Nicarus made this for her sister Livia Primitiva, who lived for 23 years and 8 months.” Below the inscription, the Good Shepherd is represented between a fish and an anchor, three of the most commonly used ancient Christian symbols.

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