National Gallery of Art - THE COLLECTION
image of Pyx in the Form of a Dove French 13th Century (artist)
Pyx in the Form of a Dove, c. 1220/1230
gilded copper with enamel
overall: 18.2 x 22.6 x 19.1 cm (7 3/16 x 8 7/8 x 7 1/2 in.) overall (height of turrets): 4.1 cm (1 5/8 in.) overall (diameter of base): 16.8 cm (6 5/8 in.) overall (diameter of disk): 8.2 cm (3 1/4 in.) overall (height of wall around base): 2.4 cm (15/16 in.)
Widener Collection
1942.9.284
On View
From the Tour: Medieval Metalwork and Enamels
Object 6 of 8

Conservation Notes

Generally well preserved, this pyx is composed of metal sections soldered and riveted together. The body of the bird is hollow-cast in two parts. A vertical seam, faintly visible on the breast, is more prominent where a dent between the legs, near the proper left leg, has forced the two halves slightly apart. This dent appears to have occurred before the feet and legs were mounted on the enameled disk and paten at the base. The gilding is worn away on the hatch top, the breast, the top of the head, the joints of the feet, and especially on the paten and the turreted wall around it.

The feather pattern on the unenameled surfaces of the bird's body corresponds in engraving style and quality to the serrated lines on the paten and on the turreted wall around it. This consistency, along with the similarity of the metal composition, indicates that all these portions are coeval.

Two holes pierce the paten, one at the front of the dove and one at the rear, about 6 cm from the enameled disk at the center. The surface around these holes is heavily scratched and worn, probably because chains used to suspend the pyx passed through the holes.[1]

Small losses in the rear compartments of both wings have been repaired with hard blue-green and white pigmented material. A photograph published in 19O1[2] shows what appears to be a bare spot on the proper left wing, suggesting the repairs postdate that year.

X-ray fluorescence analysis indicates that all metal parts of the object have similar compositions: gilded copper, with small amounts of antimony, silver and iron, and occasional traces of lead.[3] The presence of mercury indicates fire-gilding. The eyes are translucent blue glass, composed primarily of lead and zinc, with very small amounts of cobalt and manganese. The enamel on the bird is chiefly lead and tin, with small amounts of manganese and zinc, and no cobalt.


[1] A hypothetical reconstruction drawing by Helen B. Ingalls, Mellon Fellow in object conservation 1984-1986, is in the NGA conservation laboratory files with her report of 28 February 1985. Wear patterns suggest several chains were knotted at their ends just above the holes in the paten, then passed down through the holes, under the paten, up the sides of the enclosure and through the holes in it, whence they were drawn up to a suspension point.
[2] Molinier and Marcou 1901, 89.
[3] Report of 16 March 1985, in NGA conservation laboratory files.

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