Friday, September 06, 2019

Treasures of the Musée de Cluny in Paris

Before going off with the Schola Sainte-Cécile on the pilgrimage to England, I spent a few days in Paris, and among other things, visited the medieval collection at the Musée de Cluny. This museum, which is housed in a building that was once the Parisian residence of the abbot of Cluny, is best known as the home of a famous set of six tapestries called The Lady and the Unicorn, but also possesses a large number of very beautiful liturgical objects; here is a selection of photos.

A retable of gilded copper and enamel from the abbey of Stavelot, 1160-70, showing Christ sending the Holy Spirit on the Twelve Apostles at Pentecost.

A gilded frontal from either Bamberg or Fulda Abbey, ca. 1000-33, later in the treasury of the cathedral of Basle, Switzerland. In the arcades, Christ is shown in the middle, with the Emperor St Henry and his wife St Cunegond, the founders of both the see and cathedral of Bamberg, at His feet; on the right, Ss Gabriel and Raphael, on the left, Ss Michael and Benedict. The inscription above and below is in hexameters: “Quis sicut El, fortis, medicus, Soter, benedictus? Prospice terrigenas, clemens, mediator usias. – Who is like God, the mighty, the healer, the savior, the blessed? Look favorably on those who are on earth, o merciful one, mediator of (our) nature.”
A cover for a Gospel book made in Trier in the early 13th century, incorporating an ivory plaque made in Constantinople in the 10th century.
The only surviving reliquary from the original treasury of the Sainte Chapelle, made of gilded silver, and engraved with images of Ss Lucian, Maxian (also known by the more common form ‘Maximian’) and Julian, martyrs at Beauvais in the late 3rd century, whose relics were given to St Louis IX. The Saints are shown holding their own decapitated heads, as recounted in their legend. (Parisian, 1261-62.)
The oldest surviving golden rose, made by Minucchio da Siena in 1330 for Pope John XXII; the original recipient, the Count of Neuchatel, added his own arms and a filigree knot of the 13th century to the base.

A small reliquary decorated with an image of the Crucifixion and the instruments of the Passion; gilded silver, enamel, gems and colored glass, made in the middle of the 15th century, perhaps in Paris.
Golden votive crowns decorated with jewels of various kinds, Spanish, 7th century, and originally offered by the Visigothic kings to various churches in Toledo.
A processional cross of gilded silver, made in central Italy in the second half of the 15th century, with (clockwise from the top) Ss Peter, John the Evangelist, Mary Magdalene, and the Virgin Mary. On the left, an incense boat made in Siena, ca. 1450-75; on the lower right, a reliquary or monstrance, also from Siena, 1330.
A copper crucifix, partially gilded and enameled, made in the early 13th century at Limoges, which was an important center for artistic production, and especially enamel work. This is an example of the common manner of representing the Crucifixion in the early Middle Ages, in which Christ the King is seen on the Cross awake and in triumph, rather than suffering.
Five ivory statues of the Virgin and Child, dating from the mid- to late 13th century.
A crook made in Paris ca. 1325-50 of ivory, copper and gilded silver, with the Crucifixion on one side, and the Virgin and Child with two angels on the other.

An ivory triptych made in Paris ca. 1300-25, with scenes of Christ’s Infancy in the lower register, and of the Passion in the upper.

A panel of an ivory diptych made in Constantinople at the beginning of the 6th century, with Christ enthroned between the Apostles Peter and Paul. The cross below was originally decorated with jewels, now lost, mounted into the holes.
A drinking horn made from an elephant tusk in Sicily or southern Italy in the 11th or 12th century, with Christ in glory and the Virgin Mary.

An ivory plaque of the twelve sons of Jacob, made in Germany in the mid-12th century.
Ivory plaques of the Crucifixion and various Saints, originally made in Venice at the turn of the 11th century as a cover for a Gospel book.

A reliquary casket of bone on wood, with copper fixtures, made in Cologne ca. 1200
Another ivory book-binding plate, showing an unnamed Apostle, made in France ca. 900.
A morse for a cope with an image of the Annunciation, copper and enamel, made in Paris ca. 1325-50.

A prayer book printed at Paris ca. 1500; the book is open to the end of the Little Office of the Virgin Mary, and the beginning of the Penitential Psalms, which are introduced by an image of King David spying on Bathsheba (2 Samuel 11), the episode referred to in the title of the most famous of this group of Psalms, and the most prominent in the liturgy, the Miserere (Psalm 50.) – Many of the illustrations in the liturgical books printed by Desclée in the later 19th century and first half of the 20th are recut versions of images from books by this typographer, Simon Vostre, whose engraver was called Philippe Pigouchet.

An enameled copper cup made in Venice in the 15th century.

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