Sanctuary lamp (Cesendello)

Italian, Venice (Murano)

On view at The Met Fifth Avenue in Gallery 503

This type of hanging lamp, known as a cesendello, was a common element in bronze chandeliers known as polychandelons in Roman and Byzantine times and later became popular in both Venice and the Islamic world as larger individual lamps. Extraordinarily delicate, few cesendelli from the Renaissance period survive. The Christian subject matter—the Annunciation to the Virgin Mary—represented in the roundels of this example confirms its patron was from Venice rather than the Islamic world.

This lamp would have been suspended with chains, filled with oil and a wick, when lit casting marvelous shadows on the church walls and floor. The Annunciate Virgin and Angel Gabriel are finely rendered in difficult enamel paint, applied between firings. Busts of Saints Peter and Paul suggest this might once have been part of a group of six, depicting the twelve apostles.

Sanctuary lamp (Cesendello), Glass, enameled and gilt, Italian, Venice (Murano)

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