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  • Tabernacle
    Civitali, Matteo, born 1435 - died 1501
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  • Place of origin:

    Italy (made)

  • Date:

    1498 (made)

  • Artist/Maker:

    Civitali, Matteo, born 1435 - died 1501 (workshop of)

  • Materials and Techniques:

    Carved marble

  • Museum number:

    418 to:7-1869

  • Gallery location:

    In Storage

This is a marble tabernacle made in the workshop of Matteo Civitali in Lucca, Italy, and dated 1498. The tabernacle is said by a 19th century source to have been bought in the area around Lucca by an English artist. Apparently he found the upper hands of the angels so inferior in treatment that he recut the marble into the round bosses that we see today. The coat of arms on the base has not been identified and the inscription between the two shields has been erased, except for the date 1498. The function of the tabernacle was to hold the eucharist, which would have been secured behind a decorative door in the central cavity.

Matteo Civitali was the only major Tuscan marble sculptor active outside Florence in the late 15th century. The form of the tabernacle is reproduced in one signed by Matteo's son, Niccolò Civitali (1482-after 1560), at Villa Collemandina, and dated 1533.

Physical description

Renaissance pilasters frame the tabernacle which is surmounted by a moulded lunette with protruding decorative features at the top and lower corners. Beneath the pilasters are shields (four serpents erect, in chief two stars of eight points, a griffin in base debruised with three narrow pallets). Between them runs a frieze or predella, from which the inscription has been excised save for the date 1498 at the base. From the key stone of the arch is suspended a tent-like canopy tied with ribbons, whose curtains are parted below by two angels looking inwards towards the arched tabernacle aperture.

Place of Origin

Italy (made)


1498 (made)


Civitali, Matteo, born 1435 - died 1501 (workshop of)

Materials and Techniques

Carved marble


Height: 276.86 cm, Width: 157.48 cm

Object history note

Purchased in Florence (Spence) in 1869.

Descriptive line

Tabernacle, marble, workshop of Matteo Civitali, Italian, ca. 1498

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

List of Objects in the Art Division, South Kensington, Acquired During the Year 1869, Arranged According to the Dates of Acquisition. London: Printed by George E. Eyre and William Spottiswoode for H.M.S.O., p. 31
Pope-Hennessy, John. Catalogue of Italian Sculpture in the Victoria and Albert Museum. London: HMSO, 1964, cat. no. 290, fig. 292
Maclagan, Eric and Longhurst, Margaret H. Catalogue of Italian Sculpture. London, 1932, p. 69
plate 1, p. 43
Motture, P., Jones, E. and Zikos, D., ed. by, Carvings, Casts and Collectors: The Art of Renaissance Sculpture, London, 2013



Subjects depicted

Serpent; Tent; Angels; Griffin


Religion; Sculpture; Christianity


Sculpture Collection

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