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Goldsmith’s Art

Golden figure of King David from the treasury of Basle Munster

Key data

Ca. 1280 and ca. 1320

Gold, gilt silver, translucent basse taille enamel

height 21.6 cm (without wooden base 17.7 cm)

Inv. 1882.80.a.


This miniature statuette is one of the finest and most mysterious objects from the treasury of the Munster. The three quarters-length figure of David in embossed gold has an antique sardonyx cameo for the face. The King holds a scroll with an inscription in red niello identifying him as DAVID RFX .... A C13 Italian cameo of a lion is set above the scroll and on that stands a Madonna and Child cast in gold. The inscription and figures of this unique creation represent the descent of Christ, the son of Mary, from his ancestor out of the tribe of Judah, from David 'the Lion of Judah'. The enamels with bust length Prophets set on the six sides of the architectural silver gilt base also embody Old Testament references to the birth of the Messiah. The figure of David itself should be dated to around 1280, while the Madonna and Child and the base date from a remodelling of around 1320. The crown and the carved wooden base are C15th additions.

Selection of similar objects


Basel Historical Museum
Management & administration
Steinenberg 4
PO box
CH – 4001 Basel

Reception: +41 61 205 86 00

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