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The Entombment

  • Object:

    Plaquette

  • Place of origin:

    Italy (made)

  • Date:

    ca. 1540-1550 (made)

  • Artist/Maker:

    Belli, Valerio, born 1468 - died 1546 (maker)

  • Materials and Techniques:

    Bronze casted

  • Museum number:

    7374-1861

  • Gallery location:

    Medieval & Renaissance, Room 62, The Foyle Foundation Gallery, case 7

Plaquettes are small reliefs made of bronze, brass, lead or precious metals. They originated in the 1440s with the desire to reproduce coins and hardstone engravings from ancient Greece and Rome. Some were made as collector's pieces, to be viewed and displayed in private, and others for practical or devotional purposes, such as decorations for caskets, ink-stands and paxes.

Belli spent the most important part of his career in Rome, working for two successive popes. Almost all of his bronze plaquettes are cast from his engravings in rock crystal or hardstone. This signed plaquette is cast from a rock crystal plaque that formed part of Belli's masterpiece, a casket with 24 scenes from the life of Christ, completed for Pope Clement VII in 1537. The bronze would have been cast from a plaster or brass mould deriving from the original hardstone engraving.

Physical description

Hexagonal bronze plaquette. In a scene set in a grove of trees before the rocky entrance to the tomb, the dead Christ is being wound into a shroud by two men while the Virgin kneels at His side. Five other figures of mourners stand behind the main group and a man carrying an urn is at the extreme right. Inscription in the exergue.

Place of Origin

Italy (made)

Date

ca. 1540-1550 (made)

Artist/maker

Belli, Valerio, born 1468 - died 1546 (maker)

Materials and Techniques

Bronze casted

Marks and inscriptions

VALERIVS DE BELLIS VICENTINVS FECIT
Valerio Belli made it
Inscription below exergue

Dimensions

Height: 8.5 cm, Width: 9.4 cm, Depth: 0.4 cm, Weight: 0.14 kg

Object history note

Bought in Florence.

Historical significance: Moulded from an impression of a rock crystal intaglio engraving on the casket of Clement VII in the Museo degli Argenti, Florence. Another example of the plaquette is recorded in the Berlin State Museum.

Historical context note

This bronze shows how images known from engraved gems and hardstones persisted and often appeared again in the form of bronze plaquettes and small reliefs.
Plaquettes are small reliefs made of bronze, brass, lead or precious metals. They originated in the 1440s with the desire to reproduce coins and hardstone engravings from ancient Greece and Rome. Some were made as collector's pieces, to be viewed and displayed in private, and others for practical or devotional purposes, such as decorations for caskets, ink-stands and paxes. Belli spent the most important part of his career in Rome, working for two successive popes. Almost all of his bronze plaquettes are cast from his engravings in rock crystal or hardstone. This signed plaquette is cast from a rock crystal plaque that formed part of Belli's masterpiece, a casket with 24 scenes from the life of Christ, completed for Pope Clement VII in 1537. The bronze would have been cast from a plaster or brass mould deriving from the original hardstone engraving.

Descriptive line

Hexagonal bronze plaquette depicting the entombment, by Valerio Belli, Italy, after 1537

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

Fortnum, C D E, A Descriptive Catalogue of the Bronzes of European Origin in the South Kensington Museum, London, 1876, p.73
Maclagan, E, Catalogue of Italian Plaquettes, Victoria and Albert Museum, London, 1924, p.64
Burns, H, Collareta, M, Gasparotto, D, Valerio Belli Vicentino 1468c.-1546, Vicenza, 2000, p.327, no.48.2
Inventory of Art Objects Acquired in the Year 1861 In: Inventory of the Objects in the Art Division of the Museum at South Kensington, Arranged According to the Dates of their Acquisition. Vol I. London: Printed by George E. Eyre and William Spottiswoode for H.M.S.O., 1868, p. 31
Barucca, Gabriele and Ferino-Pagden, Sylvia, Raffaello Il Sole Delle Arti, exh. cat., La Venaria Reale, Turin 2015, pp. 290-291, fig. 92

Materials

Bronze

Techniques

Bronze casting

Subjects depicted

Burial; Plaquette

Categories

Plaques & Plaquettes; Death; Metalwork; Religion; Sculpture; Artists' multiples

Collection

Sculpture Collection

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