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Goldsmith’s Art

Small standing cross from the treasury of Basle Munster

Key data

Basle, ca. 1493

Silver, embossed, engraved, parcel gilt

height26.8 cm

Inv. 1909.475.


Altar crosses, reliquary crosses, and processional crosses symbolizing the Redemption of mankind through the death of Christ were common in the Middle Ages. The present object is likely to have been made to be placed on an altar. The somewhat elongated sexfoil foot with high sides develops into a hexagonal stem with a compressed spherical knop. On top of this the crucifix itself is hammered work of very high quality. The effect achieved by the goldsmith's restrained engraving is particularly impressive. The front surface of the cross is decorated with an interwoven tracery like design on a stippled ground, while the four trefoil terminals carry figurative motifs. These, the four symbols of the Evangelists, closely follow those on the so called Paten engraving by Master E. S. of 1466. As in the Hallwyl reliquary, the wound in Christ's side is represented by a blood red ruby. The reverse of the cross is covered with sprays of leaves with occasional blossoms, and culminates in an image of the Virgin and Child.

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