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Reliquary of Saint Oswald

German (Hildesheim) or possibly British

Not on view

This magnificent reliquary was made to house, and still contains, the skull of Saint Oswald, a seventh-century king of Northumbria. It is distinguished by accomplished work in niello (a black alloy of sulfur and metal that is fused by heat to engraved metal surfaces), with sure draftsmanship in the drapery, hair, and backgrounds. Beneath the portraits of eight monarchs, including Oswald, an inscription refers to God’s crowning of kings. The ill-fitting diadem is a later addition.

Reliquary of Saint Oswald, Gold, silver, gilded silver, niello, cloisonné enamel (a few replaced), gems, pearls, and antique cameos and intaglios; wood core, German (Hildesheim) or possibly British

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