Art/ Collection/ Collection/ Art Object
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Reliquary Bust of Saint Yrieix

Date:
ca. 1220–40, with later grill
Geography:
Made in Limoges, France
Culture:
French
Medium:
Silver and gilded silver with rock crystal, gems, and glass
Dimensions:
Overall (Reliquary): 15 x 9 3/16 x 10 1/4 in. (38.1 x 23.4 x 26.1 cm) Other (Wooden core): 14 7/16 x 8 7/8 x 9 13/16 in. (36.6 x 22.5 x 24.9 cm)
Classification:
Metalwork-Silver
Credit Line:
Gift of J. Pierpont Morgan, 1917
Accession Number:
17.190.352a, b
On view at The Met Fifth Avenue in Gallery 304
Saint Yrieix, whose skull was once contained in this reliquary, was the sixth-century founder of a monastery in the town south of Limoges that now bears his name. A special veneration of reliquaries in the form of the heads of local saints developed in the Limoges region during the Middle Ages, a devotion that continues to the present day. On feast days the image would have been carried in procession through the streets and then placed on the altar for veneration by the faithful.

The silver image originally covered a wooden core, which is exhibited nearby. Though carefully carved, it was not originally intended to be seen, but to give shape to and to provide support for the precious metal sheathing. Once the skull was set in place this wooden core, though sensitively carved, would have been completely obscured by sheets of silver. The precious material evoked the saint’s heavenly countenance, while the skull imparted a sense of his abiding authority.
From the Church of Saint-Yrieix-la-Perche (Haute-Vienne), near Limoges; [ Duveen Brothers, London (1905)]; J. Pierpont Morgan, London and New York (by 1907–until 1913); Estate of J. Pierpont Morgan(1913–1917)
Texier Jacques-Rémi, Abbé. "Les ostensoirs en Limousin." Annales Archéologiques 15 (1855). p. 294.

Texier St. Engley. Dictionnaire d'orfévrerie, de gravure et de ciselure chrétiennes: Ou, de la mise en oeuvre artistique des métaux, des émaux et des pierreries. Encyclopédie Théologique 129. Paris: Jacques-Paul Migne, 1857. column 292.

Guibert, Louis. "Monuments historiques: Rapport de la commission chargée d'examiner à nouveau la liste des monuments historiques et de dresser la nomenclature des objets mobiliers auxquels il y a lieu d'appliquer les articles 8 à 13 de la loi du 30 mars 1887." Bulletin de la Société Archéologique et Historique du Limousin 36 (1888). p. 482.

Rupin, Ernest. L'Oeuvre de Limoges. Paris: Alphonse Picard et Fils, 1890. p. 452, fig. 504.

Montault, Barbier de. "Le trésor de l'église paroissiale de Saint-Yrieix." Bulletin de la Société Scientifique, Historique et Archéologique de la Corrèze (1892). pp. 115-25, Image on unnumbered plate inserted between pp. 116-17.

Havard, Henry. Histoire de l'orfèvrerie française. Paris: May & Motteroz, 1896. p. 199.

Fage, René. "Église Saint-Yrieix." Congrès Archéologique de France (1921). p. 86, ill. p. 85.

Breck, Joseph, and Meyric R. Rogers. The Pierpont Morgan Wing: A Handbook. 1st ed. New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 1925. pp. 91, 123, fig. 70.

Breck, Joseph, and Meyric R. Rogers. The Pierpont Morgan Wing: A Handbook. 2nd ed. New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 1929. pp. 91, 123, fig. 70.

The Metropolitan Museum of Art. Mediaeval Jewelry: A Picture Book. New York: Museum Press Limited, 1940. pl. 17, 18. Unpaginated. Mentioned on the fourth page of the four-page introductory essay by James J. Rorimer.

The Metropolitan Museum of Art. Mediaeval Jewelry: A Picture Book. 2nd ed. New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 1944. pl. 18, 19. Unpaginated. Mentioned on the third page of the three-page introductory essay by James J. Rorimer.

Rorimer, James J., and William Holmes Forsyth. "The Medieval Galleries." The Metropolitan Museum of Art Bulletin, n.s., 12, no. 6 (February 1954). p. 142.

The Metropolitan Museum of Art. Guide to the Collections: Medieval Art. New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 1962. fig. 33.

Kovács, Éva. Kopfreliquiare des Mittelalters. Leipzig: Insel Verlag, 1964. p. 128, pl. 28.

Pieper, Paul. "Der goldene Pauluskopf des Domes zu Münster." In Studien zur Buchmalerei und Goldschmiedekunst des Mittelalters: Festschrift für Karl Hermann Usener zum 60. Geburtstag am 19. August 1965. Marburg: Verlag des Kunstgeschichtlichen Seminars, 1967. p. 37, fig. 9.

The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "Ninety-Eighth Annual Report of the Trustees of the Metropolitan Museum of Art for the Fiscal Year 1967-1968." The Metropolitan Museum of Art Bulletin 27, no. 2 (October 1968). p. 112.

Beeson, Nora B., ed. Guide to The Metropolitan Museum of Art. New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 1972. no. 62, p. 224.

Braunfels, Wolfgang. Lexikon der Christlichen Ikonographie: Volume 5, Ikonographie der Heiligen; Aaron bis Crescentianus von Rom. Rome: Herder, 1973. col. 242.

Husband, Timothy B., and Charles T. Little. Europe in the Middle Ages. New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 1987. no. 117, p. 126.

Allard, Jean-Marie. Reliques et reliquaires limousins. Limoges: Bibliothèque Municipale de Limoges, 1988. ill. photo 39.

Arminjon, Catherine. Légende Dorée du Limousin: Les saints de la Haute-Vienne. Cahiers du Patrimoine 36. Limousin: L'Inventaire, 1993. pp. 180, 184, ill. pp. 182-83.

Boehm, Barbara Drake. "Body-Part Reliquaries: The State of Research." Gesta 36, no. 1 (1997). pp. 11-13, fig. 6, 7.

van Os, Henk. The Way to Heaven: Relic Veneration in the Middle Ages. Baarn, the Netherlands: De Prom, 2000. pp. 98-101, fig. 110, 112.

Norris, Michael. Medieval Art: A Resource for Educators. New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 2005. no. 23, pp. 94-97.

Little, Charles T., ed. Set in Stone: The Face in Medieval Sculpture. New York, New Haven, and London: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 2006. no. 72, pp. 177-180.

Boehm, Barbara Drake. "'To Learned People this May Seem to Be Full of Superstition': Reliquary Sculpture in the Medieval Christian Tradition." In Eternal Ancestors: The Art of the Central African Reliquary. New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 2007. p. 91, fig. 47.

Brilliant, Richard. "Faces Demanding Attention." Gesta 46, no. 2 (2007). p. 93, fig. 3.

Dale, Thomas E.A. "Romanesque Sculpted Portraits: Convention, Vision, and Real Presence.." Gesta 46, no. 2 (2007). pp. 113-14, fig. 10-11.

LaGamma, Alisa. "Eternal Ancestors: The Art of the Central African Reliquary." African Arts 40, no. 4 (Winter 2007). p. 34, fig. 2.

Little, Charles T., and Clark Maines. "Introduction: Contemporary Encounters with the Medieval Face." Gesta 46, no. 2 (2007). p. 87.

Boehm, Barbara Drake. "Le goût des Américains pour l'Œuvre de Limoges aux XIXe et XXe siècles." In L’Œuvre de Limoges et sa diffusion: Trésors, objets, collections, edited by Danielle Gaborit-Chopin, and Frédéric Tixier. Paris: Institut national d'histoire de l'art, 2011. p. 125.

Boehm, Barbara Drake. "Le gout des américains pour l'oeuvre de Limoges aux XIX et XX siècles." In L'Oeuvre de Limoges et sa diffusion: trésors, objets, collections, edited by Jean-Marie Guillouët, and Dany Sandron. Paris: La Documentation Française, 2011. p. 125.

The Metropolitan Museum of Art. The Metropolitan Museum of Art Guide. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 2012. p. 189.



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