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Plaque

  • Place of origin:

    León (City) (made)

  • Date:

    ca. 1530 (made)

  • Artist/Maker:

    Unknown

  • Materials and Techniques:

    Parcel-gilt silver raised and chased

  • Credit Line:

    Dr W.L. Hildburgh Bequest

  • Museum number:

    M.510:9-1956

  • Gallery location:

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

This plaque is part of a series showing scenes from the life of Christ. They would probably originally have been part of a large religious object such as a custodia. Custodias were particularly important in Spain at this period. They were often very large and designed not only to display communion wafers but to be paraded through the town during important processions such as the Corpus Christi celebrations. These plaques are thought to have been made by a goldsmith associated with Enrique de Arfe. De Arfe was one of the most successful Renaissance silversmiths in Spain. He trained in Cologne in Germany but spent much of his career on commissions for Spanish cathedrals.

In this scene, Jesus is about to be arrested by the Roman soldiers. He leans over Judas who has betrayed him with a kiss.

Physical description

Silver plaque, square bottom with slightly protruding base and rounded top. Chased and pierced with a scene of the betrayal of Christ by Judas.

Place of Origin

León (City) (made)

Date

ca. 1530 (made)

Artist/maker

Unknown

Materials and Techniques

Parcel-gilt silver raised and chased

Marks and inscriptions

Unmarked

Dimensions

Height: 7.80 cm, Width: 7.4 cm, Depth: 0.3 cm

Object history note

Acquired by Dr Hildburgh from the Ole Olsen Collection, Copenhagen. A group of 23 plaques were mounted on an ebonised modern casket from which they were removed when acquired by the museum. Comparison with works in other collections suggests that they were made by a Spanish artist working under German influence, possibly Enrique de Arfe.

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

Plaque, made in Léon, Spain around 1530.

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

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

Labels and date

Plaques Showing the Life Of Christ

Each plaque shows a scene from the life and suffering of Christ. As well as telling the Christian story, these episodes were meant to inspire feelings of pity, gratitude and humility in the devout. The series is not complete and it is likely that the plaques came from a large object, now lost.

Spain, about 1530; possibly by Enrique de Arfe
(active about 1505–45)
Silver, partly gilded
Museum nos. M.510:1-12-1956 [22/11/2005]

Production Note

In the style of Enrique de Arfe

Materials

Silver

Techniques

Raising; Chasing; Parcel-gilding

Categories

Metalwork; Religion; Christianity

Collection

Metalwork Collection

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