Bursa Reliquary

North Italian

On view at The Met Cloisters in Gallery 14

The flat, geometric, and abstract style of the designs on this reliquary is similar to ivory carvings and architectural decoration of northern Italy. The openwork patterns of the bone plaques were originally silhouetted against gilded copper foil, creating a play of light and shadow. Traces of green and vermilion paint can still be seen accentuating the interlace borders of the designs. The religious purpose of this box is indicated by the "cross" that divides its face into four fields. Its shape derives from purses, or bursas, made of precious textiles in which saints’ relics were carried.

Bursa Reliquary, Bone, paint, copper gilt, iron brads, and sycamore wood, North Italian

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