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Goldsmith’s Art

The Munch monstrance from the treasury of Basle Munster

Key data

Basle, 1490/93

Silver, embossed, cast

height 110 cm

Inv. 1955.330.


This monstrance, which bears the arms of the Munch family, is the most important artistically of the four tower monstrances from the treasury of Basle Munster. The curator Hans Reinhardt described it as "without doubt one of the most beautiful and perfect of the Late Gothic monstrances in existence". On grounds of style it can be attributed to the son of the famous engraver Martin Schongauer, Jörg Schongauer, who was active for a time as a goldsmith in Basle. The shrine was intended to house a relic of Emperor Henry II and is of the most lavish construction. From the sexfoil foot of embossed blind tracery develops a cantoned stem with an architectural knop. The design of the knop is based on engravings by Martin Schongauer, as are some of the cast figures in the niches. The relic was displayed in the cylindrical crystal vessel. The cylinder is framed by graceful Late Gothic architectural forms consisting of buttresses, pinnacles and gables. At the sides, level with the relic, stand cast figures of Emperor Henry II and Empress Kunigunde. In the open tabernacle above the relic holder stands a cast figure of the Virgin and Child that is reminiscent of the work of Nicolaus Gerhaerts van Leyden, who was Jörg Schongauer's father in law.

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