Frame for a Portable Reliquary Icon

Frame for a Portable Reliquary Icon


Gilded wood, modeled gesso, verre églomisé, glass cabochons, and relics

Overall: 66.7 x 51.3 x 25.3 cm (26 1/4 x 20 3/16 x 9 15/16 in.)

Gift of Ruth Blumka in memory of Leopold Blumka 1978.26


In the Middle Ages relics were thought to possess extraordinary power and were enshrined in lavish vessels called reliquaries. This complex frame once contained a painted image on each side, believed to be the Madonna and the Crucifixion, both long since lost. These images were surrounded by 17 carefully labeled relics, still visible. Intentionally portable, such votive objects could be easily carried from room to room or building to building as needed. A Latin inscription around the base reads: This work has been made under the year of the Lord CCCXLVII [1347] in the time of the Lord Mini/Cini. The inscription likely refers to Mino Cinughi, rector of the Hospital of Santa Maria della Scala in Siena, 1340-51. The Cinughi coat of arms as well as those of the hospital appear on the base. Another inscription, LUCAS ME FECIT (Luke made me), appears on both sides of the base. While this object probably resided on an altar in the hospital, the fact that it has two sides suggests it was carried aloft in processions.

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