National Gallery of Art - THE COLLECTION
image of Morse with the Trinity French 15th Century (setting western European late 19th Century)
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
1942.9.287
On View
From the Tour: Medieval Metalwork and Enamels
Object 8 of 8

Conservation Notes

The enamel work is in excellent condition. There are a few small losses on the body of Christ (torso, arms, and legs) and on the oak leaf wreath of the setting. Glue residue on the dove's tail suggests that the bird was once glued in place.

The figure of God the Father is secured within the surrounding ring of blue clouds by three small pins projecting from his back and passing through small, flat, unenameled gold tabs that extend from the back of the cloud ring toward the center. His hands, made separately, are attached by rolled metal sheets (evidently continuations of his cuffs) that pass through the figure and are visible at the back. The cross is attached to the figure of God the Father by two studs, one at the center and one at the feet of Christ, both covered at the back with a substance that may be stick shellac or rosin. Silver bolts through the hands and feet hold the corpus to the cross.

The Trinity/Angels group is secured in its late nineteenth-century setting (see note 2) by a fitted, hammered back, soldered onto the front section of the setting and reinforced by pins that pass through the oak-leaf wreath into the back. A thin, fine rim around the outer circumference of the setting is bent back to secure the flat outer plate that covers this hammered back. Soldered to the back of this plate are two parallel gold strips, apparently the remains of a catch (or devised to resemble such remains). At the front the enamel group is secured by several individual thorns in the encircling crown, which are bent forward to serve as hooks.

The (later) enamel work on the leaves and branches differs markedly from that of the Trinity/Angels group. The wreath's green and brown enamel is thinner, more mottled, less intense in color, and less evenly applied. The relatively smooth texture of the gold in patches where the enamel has flaked off does not match the pointillé (pounced) surface of areas that have lost enamel in the central group (as in the Corpus).

X-ray fluorescence analysis indicated the composition of the gold alloys varies.[1] The cross contains more silver than other gold areas, and also tin, copper, and lead. The flat back of the setting contains minor quantities of silver and traces of copper, while the front contains only traces of both. The same analysis indicated there are no demonstrably modern colorants or additives present in any of the enamel, even on the nineteenth-century oak leaves.


[1] Report, 17 April 1987, in NGA conservation laboratory files.
[2] Timothy Wilson wrote to the author on 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 - were offered for sale by Francisco Doctor of Madrid, in a letter of 6 May 1884 addressed to "Monsieur le Directeur du Musée de Peinture et Beaux-Arts à Londre." The photograph accompanying his letter shows 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. The museum declined because of the price, "something above 20,000 francs (£800)," according to Fortnum's letter of 9 June 1884. Thereafter the enamels were evidently sold, provided with their present setting, and acquired for the Taylor collection before 1897.

The author is grateful to Timothy Wilson for this information and to the Ashmolean Museum for permission to cite the letter and publish the photograph.

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