The Dead Christ with the Virgin, Saint John, and Angels

Date: ca. 1390–1405

Geography: Made in Paris, France

Culture: French

Medium: Opaque and translucent enamel on gold

Dimensions: Overall: 2 7/16 x 2 5/16 x 3/8 in. (6.2 x 5.8 x 1 cm)
center medallion: 1 15/16 in. (5 cm)

Classification: Enamels-Ronde Bosse

Credit Line: Gift of J. Pierpont Morgan, 1917

Accession Number: 17.190.913


This medallion reveals how close metalwork and painting were at the beginning of the fifteenth century: such images, often referred to in inventories as tableaux d'or, use the same pictorial conventions as panel paintings to engage the viewer. An object for private devotion, it encouraged the owner to reflect on and emulate the suffering of the holy figures. Mary and John, shown half-length, hold the dead Christ upright against the edge of the sarcophagus, a scene not mentioned in the Gospels. An angel hovers above Christ's head, with the crown of thorns in his hands. Two other angels hold a curtain behind and in front of the three main figures, both concealing and unveiling them, as in a vision.