Morse with Saint Francis of Assisi Receiving the Stigmata

Date: ca. 1300–1350

Geography: Made in Tuscany, Italy

Culture: Italian

Medium: Gilded copper with translucent and champlevé enamel

Dimensions: Overall: 4 1/4 x 4 5/16 x 3/8 in. (10.8 x 10.9 x 0.9 cm)

Classification: Enamels-Basse taille

Credit Line: Gift of Georges and Edna Seligmann, in memory of his father, the art collector Simon Seligmann, and his brother, René, 1979

Accession Number: 1979.498.2


On this enameled morse, worn at the chest to clasp a priestly garment, Saint Francis of Assisi (1181/2–1226) is shown receiving the stigmata (wounds) of Jesus Christ on his hands, feet, and side. Dressed in the brown robe with knotted cord that distinguishes his order, Francis crouches, with his weight on one knee, in a rocky landscape, across the footbridge from a small chapel. Emanating from the wounds of the Christlike seraph who appears to Francis in a vision, the stigmata became the distinctive, defining miracle of Francis' life and the emblem of his sanctity in hagiographic literature as well as in works of art. To convey the intensity of this spiritual branding, the goldsmith depicted the gilded rays that descend from the limbs of the figure searing the flesh of Saint Francis, whose body, like that of the heavenly apparition, is surrounded by an aureole of light. In this, the enamel follows the example of the Florentine painter Giotto di Bondone (1266/76–1337) and of other painters' representations of the miracle. To heighten the drama of the scene, the goldsmith invented a nocturnal landscape with a deep blue sky, pierced by stars and a crescent moon, which sets off the gold-and-crimson glow of the saint's mountain retreat.