A Reliquary Diptych

13 Jul — 17 Sep 2017 at the Museum Schnütgen in Cologne, Germany

12 AUGUST 2017
Reliquiendiptychon, zweite Öffnung, Frankreich, 14. Jh., mit späteren Veränderungen, Reliefs: Silber, getrieben und vergoldet; Einband: Samt, Seiden- und Metallstickereien; verschiedene Holzarten, Malerei, Klosterarbeit, Bergkristall, Glas, Hinterglasmalerei, Schmucksteine, Museum Schnütgen, Foto: RBA/P.Schwarz
Reliquiendiptychon, zweite Öffnung, Frankreich, 14. Jh., mit späteren Veränderungen, Reliefs: Silber, getrieben und vergoldet; Einband: Samt, Seiden- und Metallstickereien; verschiedene Holzarten, Malerei, Klosterarbeit, Bergkristall, Glas, Hinterglasmalerei, Schmucksteine, Museum Schnütgen, Foto: RBA/P.Schwarz

The Museum Schnütgen recently obtained a unique new acquisition – a reliquary in the form of a diptych, which can be opened like a book. On account of its precious materials, its arrangement consisting of parts from different eras and its provenance from the collection of an enigmatic nineteenth-century art dealer, the reliquary is a singular object from both an art and cultural historical perspective.

When the object is opened, the inside first displays large gilded silver reliefs depicting the Crucifixion and the Resurrection, which are framed by smaller representations of the symbols of the four evangelists and the four major prophets. Produced in France in the fourteenth century, the ten silver reliefs constitute the artistically most significant and most precious part of the ensemble. The reliefs with the Crucifixion and Resurrection can also be opened, revealing in a second open state a silver cross with a relic of the True Cross and a reverse glass painting of the Holy Face of Christ, surrounded by relics and decorative stones dating from different periods.

The history of the reliquary, acquired for the museum by the Ernst von Siemens Kunststiftung, has proven fascinating, with twists and turns like a detective story, and in-depth research continues.

The presentation and examination of the object were generously supported by Inge and Manfred Schubert and the Friends of the Museum Schnütgen (Freundeskreis Museum Schnütgen e.V.).