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Cross

  • Place of origin:

    Toulouse (made)

  • Date:

    1538 (made)

  • Artist/Maker:

    Delezat, Pierre I (maker)

  • Materials and Techniques:

    Silver parcel-gilt with stamped decoration on a wooden foundation

  • Credit Line:

    Given by Dr W. L. Hildburgh FSA

  • Museum number:

    M.8-1950

  • Gallery location:

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

This cross was made by the French goldsmith Pierre I Délézat for the parish church of Beauteville in the Languedoc. The contract drawn up on the first of December 1537 stipulated that Delezat was to be supplied with the silver to make the cross as well as a further sum to pay for his work. The cross had to include the parish saint, St. Blaise and to be finished by the following January. A parchment drawing was supplied which was approved by both parties. Surviving crosses by the same maker show that he reused stamps from previous work to make the figures of the Virgin Mary, St John, Lazarus rising from his grave and the pelican which can be seen in the plaques on each arm of this cross.

Each figure on the cross has a particular meaning. St John and the Virgin Mary are often represented at either side of Christ on the cross. Lazarus was raised from the dead by Christ and here can be seen sitting on the edge of his tomb. The resurrection of Lazarus can be seen as a precursor for the resurrection of Christ. The pelican, who was believed to feed her young with her own blood in times of famine, is used as a symbol for Christ's sacrifice on the cross.

Physical description

Silver, parcel-gilt on a wooden foundation with iron tang. The silver is applied in the form of thin sheets wtih stamped decoration. The ends of the cross are ogee-shaped quatrefoils with a triangular projection in each angle; at the intersection of the arms is a square. All these features are bordered on both of the main sides by a gilt corded rim soldered to the metal below.
The front of the cross has an embossed figure of Christ wearing a gilt loincloth. Above is a scoll shaped titulus inscribed INRI. The quatrefoils at the top of each arms are stamped with: on the left, the Virgin Mary; at the top, the Pelican in her Piety; on the right, a kneeling figure of St John; at the bottom, Lazarus rising from the tomb. The back of the cross has an embossed figure of St Blaise wearing a bishop's mitre. Each arm has a quatrefoil bearing one of the symbols of the Evangelists. The main sides of the arms are decorated with stamped Renaissance acanthus stems and the narrow sides with a Gothic pattern of a diaper enclosing four-petalled flower heads.

Place of Origin

Toulouse (made)

Date

1538 (made)

Artist/maker

Delezat, Pierre I (maker)

Materials and Techniques

Silver parcel-gilt with stamped decoration on a wooden foundation

Marks and inscriptions

Town mark TOL surmounted by a fleur de lis for Toulouse. Warden's mark B surmounted by a fleur de lis for 1538. V on a shield azure surmounted by a crown, Dutch standard mark for large pieces in use from 1813-1893.

Dimensions

Height: 66.9 cm, Width: 53.5 cm

Object history note

This cross has been identified by M. Jean Thuile as the cross made by Pierre Delezat for the church of Beauteville in the district of Mirepoix.

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.

Saints
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

Cross, silver, made by Pierre I Delezat, France 1538.

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

French Silver, R.W. Lightbown, HMSO 1978.
L'orfèvrerie du Languedoc: repertoire des orfèvres, M. Jean Thuile, Paris 1966

Labels and date

Processional Cross

This cross was made by the French goldsmith Pierre I Délézat for the parish church of Beauteville in the Languedoc. The contract drawn up on 1 December 1537. It stipulated that Délézat was to be supplied with the silver to make the cross, as well as a further sum to pay for his work. The cross had to include the parish saint, St Blaise, and to be finished by the following January. The accompanying parchment drawing was approved by both parties.

Each figure on the cross has a particular meaning. St John and the Virgin Mary are represented at either side of Christ. Lazarus, whom Christ raised from the dead, is sitting on the edge of the tomb. His resurrection was seen as a precursor for the Resurrection of Christ. The pelican, who was believed to feed her young with her own blood in times of famine, is a symbol of Christ's sacrifice on the cross.

Surviving crosses by the same maker show that he reused stamps from previous work to make most of these figures.

Toulouse, France, 1538; by Pierre I Délézat (died 1569)
Silver, partly gilded, on a wooden core
Museum no. M.8-1950. Hildburgh Gift [22/11/2005]

Materials

Silver; Wood

Techniques

Stamping; Parcel gilding

Categories

Metalwork; Religion; Christianity

Collection

Metalwork Collection

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