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  • Place of origin:

    Belgium (possibly)
    Germany (possibly)
    France (possibly)

  • Date:


  • Artist/Maker:


  • Materials and Techniques:

    silver, niello

  • Credit Line:

    Given by Dr W.L. Hildburgh

  • Museum number:


  • Gallery location:

    In Storage

Physical description

Silver plaque in the form of a pointed arch, engraved and nielloed with an image of St James, on a diapered background. James holds his emblem (a cockle shell) and his pilgrim's staff; he is further identified by a roll which names him. The left side of the plaque lacks a silver border. Thirteen holes have been punched round the edge of the plaque; those on the left and lower sides are punched into the image area; those on the right and top are punched into the thin silver border. A hole over the saint's mouth has been repaired (repair visible on the reverse of the plaque). The composition of the niello was tested by Graham Martin on 25/05/1982 and found to be lead, copper and silver.

Place of Origin

Belgium (possibly)
Germany (possibly)
France (possibly)





Materials and Techniques

silver, niello


Height: 12.7 cm, Width: 6.4 cm

Object history note

Bequeathed to the Museum by Dr W. L. Hildburgh.

Historical significance: The plaque is a unique example of the use of niello to depict an image on a large scale. Niello -- the technique of engraving a design and filling the engraved lines with a black substance -- became fashionable once more in the thirteenth century.

Historical context note

The shape of the plaque suggests it was part of a reliquary or a triptych. The crudely-punched nail holes, which interfere with the image area on the left and lower sides, suggest the plaque was removed from its original context and re-used elsewhere.

Descriptive line

Silver, with an image of St James in niello, late 13th c, possibly Meuse Valley (Belgium, France or Germany)

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

Marian Campbell, catalogue entry in Santiago de Compostela: 1000 Ans de Pèlegrinage Européen [exhibition catalogue, Ghent: Centrum voor Kunst en Cultuur, 29th September - 22 December 1985] (Ghent: 1985), cat. no. 307
S. La Niece. Niello: An Historical and Technical Survey. The Antiquaries Journal, 63 (1983), 279-97 (cat. no. 120).

Labels and date

Neilloed silver
Flemish (?); c.1300
Given by Dr. W. L. Hildburgh
Probably a plaque from the wing of a devotional triptych []





Subjects depicted

Cockle shell


Metalwork Collection

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