The enameled metalwork produced for centuries in the French city of Limoges was highly valued. A Christian liturgical object, this dove held consecrated bread for the Mass inside its hollow body. A hinged lid on its back opens to reveal a hand of God in a gesture of blessing engraved on the underside. Among more than 40 medieval, dove-shaped pyxes that survive from Limoges, this one retains a rare original element: a crown resembling turreted battlements, probably symbolizing the heavenly Jerusalem. Chains attached to the setting would have allowed suspension over the altar, as if the bird were aloft. Glass eyes, crinkly toes, and engraved surfaces, enlivened by serene blue-white feathers, evoke its natural appearance.
Probably Prince Petr Soltykoff [c. 1801-1889], Paris; (his sale, Hôtel Drouot, Paris, 8 April-1 May 1861, no. 74); Ayers, Paris, 1861-?; Alessandro Castellani, Rome; (sale, H. Hoffmann and Charles Mannheim, Rome, 17 March-10 April 1884, part 2, no. 618); Count Ferdinand de Lasteyrie, by 1890; John Edward Taylor, London; (his estate sale, Christie, Manson & Woods, London, 1-4 and 9-10 July 1912, 1st day, no. 65); (Duveen Brothers, Inc., London, New York, and Paris); purchased 1914 by Peter A.B. Widener or Joseph E. 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.
- Catalogue of a Collection of European Enamels, Burlington Fine Arts Club, London, 1897, 13-14, no. 52, pl. 9.
- Catalogue officiel illustré de l'art français des origines à 1800, Exposition Universelle, Paris, 1900, 294, no. 2554.
- Rupin, Ernest. L'oeuvre de Limoges. Paris, 1890: 228, fig. 292.
- 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: 13-14, no. 52, pl. 9.
- Catalogue officiel illustré de L'Exposition retrospective de l'art français des origines à 1800. Paris, 1900: 294, no. 2554.
- Molinier, Emile, and Franz Marcou. Exposition rétrospective de l'art français des origines à la fin du XIXe siècle. Paris, 1901: 89, repro.
- Duveen Brothers. A Pyx (Colombe Eucharistique) in Copper-Gilt and Champlevé Enamel. Paris, n.d., (c. 1912-1914).
- Braun, Joseph. Der Christliche Altar. 2 vols. Munich, 1924, 2:610, 615.
- Inventory of the Objects d'Art at Lynnewood Hall, Elkins Park, Pennsylvania, The Estate of the Late P.A.B. Widener. Philadelphia, 1935: 32.
- Works of Art from the Widener Collection. Foreword by David Finley and John Walker. National Gallery of Art, Washington, 1942: 9, as Limoges 13th Century.
- Christensen, Erwin O. Objects of Medieval Art from the Widener Collection. National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C., 1952: 16, 18, 30-31, repro.
- Gauthier, Marie-Madeleine. "Colombe limousine prise aux rêts d'un `antiquaire' ... à Saint-Germain..., vers 1726." Intuition und Kunstwissenschaft; Festschrift für Hanns Swarzenski. Berlin, 1973: 171-190, fig. 8, 186-187, n. 14.
- Walker, John. National Gallery of Art, Washington. New York, 1975: 36, color repro.
- Campbell, Marian. An Introduction to Medieval Enamels. London, 1983: 30, fig. 23.
- Luchs, Alison. "Research on the Collections." Circle Bulletin / National Gallery of Art 3 (Fall 1988): 12-14, repro.
- 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: 36-40, color fig. 37.
- Venturelli, Paola. "De labore Limogie e gli oggetti limosini del tesoro di San Nazaro." In Il Tesoro di San Nazaro: Antichi argenti liturgici dalla basilica di San Nazaro al Museo Diocesano di Milano. Ed. Gemma Sena Chiesa. Milan, 2009: 120 fig. 2, 121.
- Sanjosé Llongueras, Lourdes de. El Colom Eucarístic: Una Obra Singular del Taller de Llemotges. Castelló de la Plana, 2011: 27, 46, 47, 48, 50, 51, 53, 56, 57, 59, 60, 66, 73-74 (no. 11), 109 fig. 3, 120 fig. 14, 121 fig. 15, 122 fig. 16, 137 fig. 30.
- National Gallery of Art. Highlights from the National Gallery of Art, Washington. Washington, 2016: 34, repro.
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.
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 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. 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.
 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. Molinier and Marcou 1901, 89. Report of 16 March 1985, in NGA conservation laboratory files.