The Crucifixion with a donor in monastic habit, with the Virgin, Saints John the Evangelist, Scholastica and Agnes

Tempera Painting
ca. 1300-ca. 1350 (painted)
The Crucifixion with a donor in monastic habit, with the Virgin, Saints John the Evangelist, Scholastica and Agnes thumbnail 1
The Crucifixion with a donor in monastic habit, with the Virgin, Saints John the Evangelist, Scholastica and Agnes thumbnail 2
+3
images
Image of Gallery in South Kensington
On display at V&A South Kensington
Medieval & Renaissance, Room 10
Artist/Maker
Place Of Origin

This is a small reliquary diptych which opens and closes like a book. Its exterior shows traces of imitation marbling. Its interior comprises painted panels divided by a hollowed-out area in the middle which still holds relics, wrapped in paper and labelled. At the top left is depicted the Virgin and Child enthroned, flanked by St. Blasius and St. Nicholas. Below appear St. Bartholomew, St. Mary Magdalene, St. Urban, St. Agatha and St. Anthony. At the top right the Crucifixion is represented, with a male donor wearing a monastic habit, flanked by the Virgin and St. John the Evangelist, St. Scholastica and St. Agnese. Below appear St. Emilian, St. Costanza and an unidentified female saint. Their names are inscribed in Latin beneath the figures.

Relics of saints played a major role in medieval religious life. Although they were venerated, relics not supposed to be worshipped, and acted as an aid to secure the intercession of saints. They were often kept in reliquaries, accompanied by images of their saints. In this example, only St. Bartholomew, who holds his customary knife, is readily identifiable by an accompanying attribute. The black robe of the donor figure suggests that he was a Benedictine monk. The generic character of the images of bishops and holy women may indicate that the diptych was made to accommodate a collection of relics which was still being added to. Its small scale suggests that it was intended to be portable.

It is unknown who made this reliquary, but it was most probably produced in the vicinity of Spoleto in Umbria in the 1320s, perhaps in a monastic workshop. Its style closely resembles that of two small panels from the church of Sant' Alo' in Spoleto. Although this diptych is made of modest materials - gilded and painted wood - rather than the precious metals and expensive enamels reserved for grander reliquaries, it has been carefully painted, with exquisitely-delineated draperies, by an artist of considerable skill.


object details
Categories
Object Type
Additional TitleSaints Emilian and Agostantia and an unidentified female saint (generic title)
Materials and Techniques
Tempera on panel
Brief Description
Reliquary diptych (right panel). Top image : The Crucifixion with a donor in monastic habit, with the Virgin, Saints John the Evangelist, Scholastica and Agnes. Bottom image : Saints Emilian and Agostantia and an unidentified female saint
Physical Description
The diptych would have been opened and closed like a book, and its back shows traces of faux marble painting. Both sides have painted panels divided by a hollowed-out area in the middle which still holds relics wrapped in paper and labeled. The top of the right side depicts the Crucifixion with a donor in a Benedictine habit kneeling on the right side of the cross. The Virgin Mary and St John the Evangelist appear on the right and left of the cross as is typical. More unusual is the presence of Sts Scholastica and Agnes as the outermost saints. The lower panel shows St Emilian, St Agostantia (or Costanza) and an unidentified female saint.
Dimensions
  • Height: 24.8cm
  • Together with 20 1869 the width is 32.8 cm width: 16.5cm
  • Depth: 4.5cm
Style
Marks and Inscriptions
Top image : S.SCHOLASTICA. S. Ma[RIA]. MAT[ER] DEI. S. JOH[ANNE]S. S.ANGES [sic] Bottom image : S. MILIAN[US]. S.AGOSTANTIA (Letters in square brackets are indicated in the original inscription by abbreviation marks or floating letters.)
Object history
See Object History Note for 19-1869

Purchased, 1868



Historical significance: See Historical Significance Note for 19-1869
Historical context
See Historical Context Note for 19-1869
Production
Reliquary diptych (right panel). Top image : The Crucifixion with a donor in monastic habit, with the Virgin, Saints John the Evangelist, Scholastica and Agnes. Bottom image : Saints Emilian and Agostantia and an unidentified female saint
Subjects depicted
Summary
This is a small reliquary diptych which opens and closes like a book. Its exterior shows traces of imitation marbling. Its interior comprises painted panels divided by a hollowed-out area in the middle which still holds relics, wrapped in paper and labelled. At the top left is depicted the Virgin and Child enthroned, flanked by St. Blasius and St. Nicholas. Below appear St. Bartholomew, St. Mary Magdalene, St. Urban, St. Agatha and St. Anthony. At the top right the Crucifixion is represented, with a male donor wearing a monastic habit, flanked by the Virgin and St. John the Evangelist, St. Scholastica and St. Agnese. Below appear St. Emilian, St. Costanza and an unidentified female saint. Their names are inscribed in Latin beneath the figures.



Relics of saints played a major role in medieval religious life. Although they were venerated, relics not supposed to be worshipped, and acted as an aid to secure the intercession of saints. They were often kept in reliquaries, accompanied by images of their saints. In this example, only St. Bartholomew, who holds his customary knife, is readily identifiable by an accompanying attribute. The black robe of the donor figure suggests that he was a Benedictine monk. The generic character of the images of bishops and holy women may indicate that the diptych was made to accommodate a collection of relics which was still being added to. Its small scale suggests that it was intended to be portable.



It is unknown who made this reliquary, but it was most probably produced in the vicinity of Spoleto in Umbria in the 1320s, perhaps in a monastic workshop. Its style closely resembles that of two small panels from the church of Sant' Alo' in Spoleto. Although this diptych is made of modest materials - gilded and painted wood - rather than the precious metals and expensive enamels reserved for grander reliquaries, it has been carefully painted, with exquisitely-delineated draperies, by an artist of considerable skill.
Associated Object
19-1869 (Part)
Bibliographic References
  • See Bibliography for 19-1869
  • Catalogue of Foreign Paintings, I. Before 1800, C.M. Kauffmann, Victoria and Albert Museum, London, 1973, cat. no. 346
Collection
Accession Number
20-1869

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record createdDecember 14, 2005
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