Gilt copper, cloisonné and champlevé enamel
Diam. 4 1/8 in. (10.3 cm)
Purchase, Michel David-Weill Gift, and 2006 Benefit Fund, 2007 (2007.189)
This precious medallion of the Crucifixion is, astonishingly, the missing centerpiece of four enameled plaques with symbols that the Museum acquired from the Morgan collection in 1917. The ensemble, probably from a book cover, can be securely attributed to the celebrated pilgrimage abbey of Saint Foy in Conques. Because of its location in the mountains of central France, much of the abbey's precious goldsmiths' work escaped destruction during the French Revolution. Several works in copper were dispersed from the abbey's treasury over the course of the nineteenth century. The Crucifixion medallion shares with these and others still in situ a technique, style, and palette uniquely combined during the abbacy of Bégon III in the late eleventh century. For these pieces, the monk goldsmiths employed superimposed copper plaques, the lower one to receive the delicate cloisons that define features and drapery, the upper one cut to delineate the silhouettes of the figures and the cross. Hallmarks of the style include the single cloison used to define eyebrows and noses and the thin loop of gold that creates cowlicks. In the Museum's reconstituted ensemble, the same remarkable oxblood color was used for the symbol of Saint Luke and the hair of the image of the Sun ("Sol") above the Crucifixion. Furthermore, scientific analysis has determined that common enamel compositions and the same metallic oxides were used to tint and opacify all five pieces.