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Julien Gréau, Paris, by 1885; Léopold Goldschmidt [1830-1904], Paris, after 1885;[1] (Lowengard, Paris); purchased 23 August 1905 by Peter A.B. Widener, Elkins Park, Pennsylvania; inheritance from the Estate of Peter A.B. Widener by gift through power of appointment of Joseph E. Widener, Elkins Park, 1942; gift 1942 to NGA.

Exhibition History

Reportedly in the Retrospective Exhibition, Paris, 1878.

Technical Summary

The object is generally in excellent condition. A small hinged lid on the top of the head opens to reveal a glass inkwell about 2 cm deep. Traces of greenish corrosion are found around the mouth, and a smooth patch of red corrosion on the proper left side of the neck. Overall the object has a dark, brassy color.

X-ray fluorescence analysis indicated that the object is cast from a high-lead (10 percent) copper alloy containing both tin (7 percent) and zinc (10 percent) in comparable concentrations.[1] trace constituents are antimony, nickel, silver, and arsenic. The lips and the band along the edge of the cap, evidently specially patinated to redden them, are relatively rich in copper. The eyeballs and sockets with their thick deposit of gray, rustlike corrosion are significantly rich in iron, suggesting that iron- containing decoration was applied after casting. A fill in a casting flaw on the right temple, which is richer in lead and tin than other parts, is consistent with a lead-tin solder. That the alloys used are consistent with pre-modern metallurgical techniques does not preclude modern manufacture.

[1] Report, 28 August 1986, in NGA conservation department files.


Collection J[ulien] Gréau: Catalogue des bronzes antiques et des objets d'art du Moyen Age et de la Renaissance. Paris, 1885: 84, 86, no. 387, repro. 86.
Inventory of the Objects d'Art at Lynnewood Hall, Elkins Park, Pennsylvania, The Estate of the Late P.A.B. Widener. Philadelphia, 1935: 34.
Works of Art from the Widener Collection. Foreword by David Finley and John Walker. National Gallery of Art, Washington, 1942: 10, as French 15th Century, Reliquary, in the form of an Arab's head, copper gilt.
Distelberger, Rudolf, Alison Luchs, Philippe Verdier, and Timonthy H. Wilson. Western Decorative Arts, Part I: Medieval, Renaissance, and Historicizing Styles including Metalwork, Enamels, and Ceramics. The Collections of the National Gallery of Art Systematic Catalogue. Washington, 1993: 57-60, repro. 58.

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