National Gallery of Art - THE COLLECTION
image of Morse with the Trinity French 15th Century (Trinity and Angels); European 19th Century (setting)
French 15th Century (artist)
European 19th Century (artist)
Morse with the Trinity, c. 1400/1410 (Trinity and Angels); 1884/1897 (setting)
gold, enamel, and pearls
overall (diameter): 12.6 cm (4 15/16 in.) overall (each angel, height): 0.7 cm (1/4 in.) overall (God the Father, height): 5.9 cm (2 5/16 in.) overall (Christ, height): 3.2 cm (1 1/4 in.)
Widener Collection
On View
From the Tour: Medieval Metalwork and Enamels
Object 8 of 8


Said to have belonged to Rodrigo Borgia, Pope Alexander VI (reigned 1492-1503).[1] Francisco Doctor, Madrid, 1884 (Trinity/Angels);[2] John Edward Taylor, London, before 1897 (enamels in morse setting, as per sticker);[3] (his estate sale, Christie, Manson & Woods, London, 1-4 and 9-10 July 1912, 3rd day, no. 234, as Milanese, c. 1500, attributed to Caradosso); (Duveen Brothers, Inc., London, New York, and Paris); purchased 6 March 1913 by Peter A.B. Widener, Lynnewood Hall, Elkins Park, Pennsylvania; inheritance from Estate of Peter A.B. Widener by gift through power of appointment of Joseph E. Widener, Elkins Park, Pennsylvania; gift 1942 to NGA.

[1] This improbable provenance is first mentioned in Catalogue of a Collection of European Enamels from the Earliest Date to the End of the XVII Century, Exh. cat., Burlington Fine Arts Club, London, 1897: 74, no. 242b.

[2] Timothy Wilson, keeper of Western art at the Ashmolean Museum of Art and Archaeology, Oxford, wrote to the author [Alison Luchs], 4 July 1990, with documentation newly discovered in the Ashmolean Library (Fortnum papers, box marked South Kensington; copies in NGA curatorial files). The central enamels--the Trinity and ring of angels--of the morse now in Washington were offered for sale by Francisco Doctor of Madrid, in a letter, 6 May 1884, addressed to "Monsieur le Directeur du Musée de Peinture et Beaux-Arts à Londre." The photograph accompanying his letter (fig. 6 in the NGA systematic catalogue entry) showed these enamels resting on a fabric background, without any setting. Doctor's letter and photograph were forwarded to Charles Drury Edward Fortnum, the great collector, connoisseur, and author of catalogues for the South Kensington Museum, who at that time acted as a periodic adviser to the Museum. In a letter to the South Kensington Museum from Madrid, 9 June 1884, Fortnum reported that he had examined the object and that "It is...undoubtedly a work of great excellence; a remarkable example of the Spanish (?) enameller's art of the latter end of the 15 or early XVI century, in [illegible] gold; and in good preservation with the exception of some slight wounds on the arms of the figure of our Saviour and others of minor importance. The work is in very high relief, the flesh coloured to resemble nature as far as possible, the hair and beard of the Eternal Father in gold as is the cross. The mantle is of rich maroon-red translucent enamel, the lining of opaque white. Angels white with mottled wings. It has probably been the central ornament of a pectoral and is the work of an accomplished artist." Fortnum found it a desirable acquisition for the South Kensington Museum, but overpriced at "something above 20,000 francs (£800), and suggested the owner might be persuaded to offer it at a more reasonable price after some time had passed. Thereafter the enamels were evidently sold, provided with their present setting, and acquired for the Taylor Collection before 1897. On Fortnum see Christopher Lloyd, "Two Large Plaquettes from the Collection of C.D.E. Fortnum," Italian Plaquettes (Studies in the History of Art 22; Center for Advanced Study in the Visual Arts Symposium Papers IX), ed. Alison Luchs, Washington, 1989: 207-224.

[3] The morse is listed in the 1897 exhibition catalogue (see note 1) as "Lent by Mr. J.E. Taylor."

Associated Names

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Artist Information (European 19th Century)
Artist Information (French 15th Century)
Conservation Notes
Exhibition History

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