National Gallery of Art - THE COLLECTION
image of Crucifix Probably Rhenish or Mosan 12th Century
Rhenish 12th Century (artist)
Mosan 12th Century (artist)
Crucifix, c. 1150/1175
gilded copper alloy with champlevé enamel, one jasper stone, and glass
overall (cross): 28.9 x 20.8 cm (11 3/8 x 8 3/16 in.) overall (corpus): 15.3 x 15.8 cm (6 x 6 1/4 in.) overall (cross height with base): 37 cm (14 9/16 in.)
Widener Collection
1942.9.282
On View
From the Tour: Medieval Metalwork and Enamels
Object 2 of 8

Conservation Notes

The corpus is in good condition except for worn gilding on the legs (especially inside the proper right leg, where a casting flaw is repaired with a metal patch), and for the hands. The sections of the hands attached to the cross are battered and blackened, the latter possibly due to galvanic corrosion between the nails and hands. The fingers, separated from the palms, are so flat as to raise a question as to whether they belong to the present corpus. The palm section of the right hand bears file or saw marks on the back, suggesting it was cut free of the fingers to remove the corpus from the cross. X-ray fluorescence analysis (see note 2) indicates that the present, detached fingers of that hand differ in composition from the corpus.

Scratches in the gilding on the back of the cross, where the hands are attached, correspond to the damaged and fragmented condition of the hands of the corpus, suggesting the crucifix was once crudely dismantled. The gilding on the back of the cross is otherwise in good condition. The enamel on the front is damaged in several places, especially on the upper stem and at the points of attachment of the corpus' hands and feet. The quality and condition of the enamel work on the cross varies. On the stem of the cross, in the area covered by Christ's torso and legs, it is cruder in workmanship, and less polished than on the more visible arms. Dots of white enamel are found between many of the palmettes instead of the red that appears in the exposed portions. These features may represent relatively indifferent workmanship in an area meant to be covered.

The engraved gem at the center of the halo is a jasper.[1]

X-ray fluorescence analysis indicates that the corpus is composed of a gilded alloy of copper and zinc, with traces of tin and silver.[2] Exceptions are the fingers, which contain traces of lead and iron, absent in the corpus, and lack the zinc, silver, and tin that compose the corpus. The presence of mercury indicates fire-gilding. The only elements detected in an unenameled area at the bottom of the cross were copper, gold, and mercury. A repair on the upper edge of the proper left arm of the cross, near the end, contains copper and zinc with traces of tin and silver, and is thus close in composition to the corpus. The enamel on the cross shows elemental distributions consistent with medieval production. All the colors contain antimony and lead.[3]


[1] Russell Feather, gemologist at the National Museum of Natural History, Smithsonian Institution, identified the gem stone on 18 September 1985.
[2] Reports of 13 June 1985, 21 October 1986, and 22 January 1987 in NGA conservation laboratory files.
[3] See reports cited in note 2, and discussion of 1942.9.278, the Limoges châsse.

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Artist Information (Mosan 12th Century)
Artist Information (Rhenish 12th Century)
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