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Reliquary Statuette of Saint Christopher

Date:
ca. 1375–1425
Geography:
Made in Toulouse
Culture:
French
Medium:
Silver, silver-gilt
Dimensions:
Overall: 23 7/8 x 11 5/8 x 7 13/16 in. (60.6 x 29.5 x 19.8 cm)
Classification:
Metalwork-Silver
Credit Line:
Gift of J. Pierpont Morgan, 1917
Accession Number:
17.190.361
On view at The Met Fifth Avenue in Gallery 306
Venerated from the early centuries of Christianity, Saint Christopher—whose name means "Christ-bearer"—was honored as the protector of travelers. According to "The Golden Legend," Christopher ferried a small child across a river. As he did so, the child's weight grew increasingly heavy. When Christopher complained that it seemed as if he had carried the weight of the world, the child replied, "Wonder not, Christopher, for not only has thou borne the whole world upon thy shoulders, but Him who created the world. For I am Christ thy King." In this imposing statuette-reliquary, Christopher strides through the water, twisting as he turns to look at the Christ Child, who holds an orb in reference to his dominion. The small leaves sprouting from the top of Christopher's staff are a harbinger of the miracle promised by Christ—that if the saint, upon his return home, planted the staff in the ground, it would bear leaves and fruit in the morning.

The hallmarks stamped on the hem of the saint's cloak and on the statue's base indicate that this piece was made by a goldsmith in Toulouse. The reliquary, excellently preserved, reveals a masterful treatment of the material. The soft, rich folds of the saint's cloak belie their metal substance. The ungilded surfaces of the faces are framed by the crisp design of the hair. The engraving of the short curls of the Christ Child, the hair and flowing beard of the saint, and the fish in the turbulent water are accented by the juxtaposition of large areas of silver with bright flashes of gilding. A now-lost relic of the saint was placed in the small box covered with crystal on the statue's base, through which the relic could be seen.
Marking: TOL [hallmark of city of Toulouse on hem of garment and twice on base], [fleur-de-lis above, in reserve], [S in shape on hem of garment and twice on base]; [unidentified indistinct goldsmith's mark, probably IC and PO with heart in between]; [year mark on hem of saint's garment and base]
From the church of Lasbordes (Aude), France; Charles J. Wertheimer, London (in 1906); J. Pierpont Morgan, London and New York (until 1917)
Breck, Joseph, and Meyric R. Rogers. The Pierpont Morgan Wing: A Handbook. 1st ed. New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 1925. p. 91, fig. 68, ill. p. 120.

Breck, Joseph, and Meyric R. Rogers. The Pierpont Morgan Wing: A Handbook. 2nd ed. New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 1929. p. 91, fig. 68, ill. p. 120.

Wixom, William D. Treasures from Medieval France. Cleveland: Cleveland Museum of Art, 1967. no. VI-7, pp. 228-29, 373.

Ostoia, Vera K. The Middle Ages: Treasures from the Cloisters and the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Los Angeles: Los Angeles County Museum of Art, 1969. no. 88, pp. 192-193, 260.

Beeson, Nora B., ed. Guide to The Metropolitan Museum of Art. New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 1972. no. 63, p. 224, fig. 63.

Husband, Timothy B., and Charles T. Little. Europe in the Middle Ages. New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 1987. no. 123, pp. 131.

Erlande-Brandenburg, Alain. Gothic Art. New York: H. N. Abrams, 1989. p. 364, fig. 175, ill. p. 369.

Durand, Jannic. "A Propos des Reliques du Monastère de Prodrome de Pétra á Constantinople, La Relique de Saint Christophe de l'Ancien Trésor de la Cathédrale de Cambrai." Cahiers Archéologiques 46 (1998). pp. 151-167, fig. 18.

Strouse, Jean. "J. Pierpont Morgan, Financier and Collector." The Metropolitan Museum of Art Bulletin, n.s., 57, no. 3 (Winter 2000). p. 24, fig. 24.



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