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  • Place of origin:

    Salamanca (made)

  • Date:

    ca. 1550 (made)

  • Artist/Maker:


  • Materials and Techniques:

    Embossed silver

  • Museum number:


  • Gallery location:

    Sacred Silver & Stained Glass, Room 83, The Whiteley Galleries, case 1

This plaque is part of a set showing the Four Evangelists (Matthew, Mark, Luke and John) which probably came from a larger object such as a crystal altar cross, now lost. St Matthew was the author of one of the Gospels and is often represented as a winged man or an angel. On this plaque he is shown as a winged figure writing in a book. A winged man came to represent St. Matthew, because his book opens with the human descendants of Jesus and emphasizes Jesus's descent from King David.

The association of the four Evangelists with living creatures comes from the books of Ezekiel and Revelation. In the book of Revelation, St John sees four creatures surrounding the throne of Heaven: "...and round about the throne were four beasts full of eyes before and behind. And the first beast was like a lion, and the second beast was like a calf, and the third beast had a face as a man, and the fourth beast was like a flying eagle."

Physical description

Circular silver plaque embossed with a relief figure of St Matthew. A small pin protrudes from the back.

Place of Origin

Salamanca (made)


ca. 1550 (made)



Materials and Techniques

Embossed silver

Marks and inscriptions

S.? above an ox
Town mark for Salamanca


Diameter: 3.50 cm, Height: 1.50 cm

Object history note

This set of plaques comes from a larger object, possibly a crystal altar cross.

Historical context note

Saints and Symbols
Like most religions, Christianity has a rich language of images and symbols. This iconography would have been clearly understood in the past but it may be less familiar to modern eyes.

Though often decorative, the symbols used on religious metalwork also refer to the function and significance of the objects. The contemplation of religious motifs can draw believers into a deeper understanding of their faith. Complex theological themes can be represented in a visual form. A chalice, for example, might be adorned with the tools used in the Crucifixion (the 'Instruments of the Passion') to direct the viewer's mind towards Christ's sacrifice and his death on the cross.

The use of images has caused controversy throughout Christian history. While supporters held that imagery glorified God and helped believers understand their faith better, critics attacked its use as superstition and idolatry.

Christians venerate saints as men and women who, through the holiness of their lives, became especially close to God. The saints include martyrs who suffered and died for their faith as well as great teachers and preachers. Their lives provide an example and inspiration for the faithful. Roman Catholics also believe that saints can intercede on their behalf with God. In Christian iconography, saints are usually depicted with a distinctive object or 'attribute' associated with their martyrdom or works. For example, St Bartholomew, who was skinned alive, holds a flaying knife, and St George is shown with a dragon.

Descriptive line

Silver plaque showing St. Matthew, Spain, around 1550.

Bibliographic References (Citation, Note/Abstract, NAL no)

The Golden Age of Hispanic Silver: 1400-1660, Charles Oman, HMSO, 1968.

Labels and date

Figure of a Dove
In the Gospel accounts of Christ's baptism, the Holy Spirit descended from heaven in the form of a dove. The dove therefore has always been a symbol for the Holy Spirit and the sacrament of baptism.

This dove, which perhaps came from a church in Surrey, is cast and exceptionally heavy. It may have been attached to the cover of a baptismal font, though similar doves in brass are also found on chandeliers.

England, 1700-30
Museum no. M.561-1926. Croft Lyons Bequest [22/11/2005]






Metalwork; Religion; Christianity


Metalwork Collection

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