National Gallery of Art - THE COLLECTION
image of Ciborium Spanish 14th Century (artist)
Ciborium, c. 1330/1350
gilded copper and champlevé enamel
overall (height): 36.1 cm (14 3/16 in.) overall (diameter of base): 17.7 cm (6 15/16 in.) overall (diameter of bowl): 12.1 cm (4 3/4 in.)
Widener Collection
1942.9.279
On View
From the Tour: Medieval Metalwork and Enamels
Object 7 of 8

Conservation Notes

Two enamel colors were used for the backgrounds of the images on the lid and foot, with a bright turquoise alternating with a duller gray-green. Signs of devitrification in the duller color, which may once have been cobalt blue, were under continuing study at press time.[1] On the bowl, cobalt blue enamel outside the medallions fades to green. In a slightly damaged area at the top of one medallion, cobalt appears to underlie the green. Elsewhere the cobalt is on the surface.

The enamel is slightly damaged at the bottom of the cross in the Crucifixion and behind the angel of the Annunciation. There is some wear to the gilding in the Nativity scene; much gilding is worn off the base, as well as the knob stem, and the base of the finial.

A capsa - a small container for the Host - may once have existed inside the bowl, as suggested by a bare copper area within a neat circle in the center, with scratches around it.[2] The hole in the center perhaps once accommodated a screw that held the bowl or the lost capsa in place.

X-ray fluorescence analysis indicates that all the metallic components of the ciborium, including the cross inserted loosely at the top, are of a very similar composition (characterized by fairly pure copper with traces of iron, lead, silver, and manganese) except for the pin, whose high purity, without traces of silver, suggests it is a modern copper replacement for a lost pin that originally secured the lid.[3] The presence of mercury indicates fire-gilding. Two tiny holes (one now plugged) in the lid at the bottom of the Crucifixion scene may once have held a chain attached to the original pin.[4]


[1] Berrie and Sturman 1992. The high potassium and low lead content of this color apparently made it particularly susceptible to decomposition under conditions of elevated relative humidity and temperature.
[2] The capsa survives, lidless, in a ciborium in The Walters Art Gallery, Baltimore (no. 44.112).
[3] Report of 20 March 1985, in NGA conservation laboratory files.
[4] Compare the example once in the Dzalynski-Czartoryski collection in Poland; Emile Molinier, Collections du Château de Goluchow. Objets d'art du moyen âge et de la Renaissance (Paris, 1903), 44, no. 164, pl. VIll.

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