Lot 148: 19th C. Italian Nun's Reliquary & Heart w/ Inscription
November 7, 2016
Louisville, CO, USA
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Europe, Italy, ca. mid-19th century CE. A unique devotional reliquary comprised of a rectangular form dedicated to several saints whose names are inked in beautiful calligraphy upon petite banners (Beatricis V.M., S. Luciae V.M., S. Ingeniory M., S. Prudentin M., S. Crerceriij M., S. Confrantim M., S. Fortunata M., Ex Soc: S. Vrfulz) and a heart-shaped pendant with a handwritten inscription dedicated to Mater Dolorosa (Our Lady of Sorrows). In the center of the rectangular reliquary is a cross with a miniature bone carving depicting the Madonna and Child surrounded by a golden mandorla at the base and a banner that reads "Amor Meus Crucifixus Est" above. All is hand-stitched to a pink fabric (silk or satin) ground that is further adorned with gilded threads that are spiraled into fiddlehead-like motifs and trimmed with gilded lace. In addition, a heart-shaped fabric (silk or satin) applique lined with gilded trim and further adorned with small white metal florettes dedicated to Mater Dolorosa (Our Lady of Sorrows) complements this piece. The Mater Dolorosa is one of the most important compositions in which Mary is depicted without Christ. She is represented as the mourning mother projecting a grieving attitude, her head covered with a veil, her hands almost clasped, a dagger(s) in her breast - the key, distinguishing attribute of Mater Dolorosa. The scene references Luke 2:35. In this passage, Mary is told that a sword will pierce her soul upon presenting Christ to the temple. Most intriguing is the trifold handwritten Italian inscription on paper attached to the backside of this piece. The central panel translates: "Sweet love of Jesus - The more you love her pious." The right panel translates: "Anathema, those who do not love you my sweet love." The left panel translates in part: "Mary - Everything always - Eternity . ." This piece was created by a nun who invested a great deal of time, effort, and energy into her work and received monetary gifts from patrons of her convent in order to complete this opulent tribute. One cannot help but appreciate the handiwork that went into the delineation of this complex composition. A very rare work of religious art. Size: rectangular reliquary measures 2.5" W x 3.5" H (6.4 cm x 8.9 cm); heart applique measures 2.25" W x 2" H (5.7 cm x 5.1 cm)
Provenance: Ex-Private Oregon collection
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Condition Report: Small loss to top of Mary and Child miniature and cross. Fabric of heart applique is somewhat discolored (originally pink). Minor losses to gilded trim. Missing three metal florettes on heart applique. Small loss to paper inscription as shown. Overall a very unique piece.