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Pax

  • Place of origin:

    Portugal (made)

  • Date:

    ca. 1660 (made)

  • Artist/Maker:

    Unknown

  • Materials and Techniques:

    Silver-gilt, cast, chased and soldered

  • Museum number:

    M.516-1910

  • Gallery location:

    Sacred Silver & Stained Glass, Room 84, The Whiteley Galleries, case 8

A pax (Latin for ‘peace’) is kissed during the Catholic service of Mass as a sign of peace. The handle enables it to be held securely. On this pax, confidently sculpted scrolls frame a depiction of Christ appearing to his disciples after the Resurrection. It is modelled in the bold Baroque style favoured by the Roman Catholic church after the Counter Reformation, a period of reform and reinvigoration prompted by a series of theological debates in the mid 16th century known as the Council of Trent. This pax was made in Portugal, a country which championed reformed Catholicism.

Physical description

Silver-gilt pax, consisting of a relief of Christ appearing to his disciples after the Resurrection, within a gadrooned border and framed with boldly modelled scrolls and acanthus leaves and winged cherub heads at the top and bottom. A scrolling handle is soldered onto the reverse.

Place of Origin

Portugal (made)

Date

ca. 1660 (made)

Artist/maker

Unknown

Materials and Techniques

Silver-gilt, cast, chased and soldered

Marks and inscriptions

No marks

Dimensions

Height: 20.5 cm, Width: 16.4 cm, Depth: 7 cm

Historical context note

The Counter Reformation
The 16th century was a period of intense self examination for the Roman Catholic church. Internal dissent was undermining its authority and whole nations were going over to the new Protestant faiths. To clarify its role, the church held the Council of Trent from 1545 to 1563. It addressed concerns about religious education, abuses of wealth and the relief of the poor. The Society of Jesus (the Jesuits) became the champion of the reformed Catholic church and promoted the faith worldwide. At the heart of this Counter Reformation was the need to restore the Eucharist to the centre of worship. In Catholic belief, the Eucharist enshrines the moment when bread and wine, consecrated at the altar, are transformed into the body and blood of Christ. A priest holding up a monstrance Detail from The Adoration of the Holy Eucharist, by Claudio Coello, 1685-90 Monasterio del Escorial, Madrid.

Art and Faith
The image and message of the reinvigorated Roman Catholic church were actively promoted through dramatic architecture and furnishings. Throughout the 17th century new churches were built in the grand Baroque style. Their sumptuous interiors were complemented by elaborate monstrances, candelabra, sanctuary lamps and censers. Awe-inspiring altar silver drew the eyes of the faithful towards the Eucharist.

Descriptive line

Silver-gilt, Portugal ca.1660

Labels and date

Pax
A pax (from the Latin for ‘peace’) symbolised the kiss of peace shared by early Christians. It was passed around and kissed during the Mass. The handle enables it to be held securely.

This example is modelled in the bold Baroque style favoured by the Roman Catholic church after the Counter Reformation, a period of reform prompted by a series of theological debates in the mid 16th century known as the Council of Trent. It was made in Portugal, a country that championed reformed Catholicism. The confidently sculpted scrolls frame a depiction of Christ appearing to his disciples after the Resurrection.

Portugal, about 1660
Silver gilt
Museum no. M.516-1910 [22/11/2005]

Materials

Silver-gilt

Techniques

Casting; Chasing; Soldering

Categories

Christianity; Metalwork; Religion

Collection

Metalwork Collection

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