Christ in Majesty

Object Details

Title:

Christ in Majesty

Artist/Maker:

Unknown maker, Limoges School

Culture:

French

Place:

France (Place created)

Date:

1188

Medium:

Engraved and gilt copper, champleve enamel, and colored glass

Dimensions:

45.4 cm (17 7/8 in.)

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The son of God is represented seated on heaven's throne, with his right hand raised, palm faced outward with three fingers extended. This gesture communicated a particular message to medieval Catholics in Western Europe. It is part of an iconographic pose called in Latin the "Maiestas Domini," or "Christ in Majesty," to symbolize his role in presiding over the human souls of all time. Images like this decorated altar frontals in Romanesque churches as a somber reminder of the coming Day of Judgment.

In this gilded copper representation, Christ holds a jeweled Bible and his feet rest on an ornate enamel plaque. This Christ in Majesty served as the centerpiece of an ensemble of 52 saint and apostle figures. Together they were commissioned for the high altar of a cathedral in Orense, Spain, a stop along a famous pilgrimage route. Artisans in Limoges, France, a renowned center for the production of enamel, created this plaque and its ensemble. Most of the surviving figures lack inset pieces of glass that decorate Christ's tunic, but have similar, bead-like eyes. Visually they all relate to one another, with highly ornamental enameled backgrounds, similar to the plaque at Christ's feet. Their patterns are also dark and light blue, with white, gold, green, and red-brown accents.

This figure was formed from a single sheet of copper hammered on the reverse side to create the raised design in front. Features such as the beard, mustache, and folds of the tunic are etched into its surface. Large areas of gilding have worn away, primarily on the raised surfaces, suggesting that this object was touched over many centuries by the faithful who prayed before it.

Provenance
about 1188 - still in 1885

possibly Orense Cathedral (Ourense, Spain)
Source: Rafael Balsa, “Una visita al museo arqueologico de Santiago durante la fieta del apóstol,” La Voz de Galicia (Coruña, Spain), Aug. 25, 1885, informs that the figure of Christ with two Apostles from the Orense Cathedral was at the 1885 Santiago exhibition.

- 2005

Private Collection [sold, Fernando Duran, Madrid, June 7, 2005, to Brimo de Laroussilhe.]

2005 - 2007

Brimo de Laroussilhe (Paris, France), sold to the J. Paul Getty Museum, 2007.

Exhibitions
Imagining Christ (May 6 to July 27, 2008)
  • The J. Paul Getty Museum at the Getty Center (Los Angeles), May 6 to July 27, 2008
Art of Alchemy (October 11, 2016 to February 12, 2017)
  • The Getty Research Institute (Los Angeles), October 11, 2016 to February 12, 2017
Bibliography

Villa-Amil y Castro, José. Pasatiempos eruditos: Colección de artículos en su mayoría sobre el mobiliario litúrgico de las iglesias gallegas, en la edad media (Madrid, 1907), pp. 226-27.

Leguina, Enrique de. Esmaltes españoles: Los frontales de Orense, San Miguel, "in Excelsis", Silos y Burgos (Madrid, 1909), pp. 147-148.

Bertaux, Emile et al. L'Exposition Rétrospective d'Art. - 1908 (Saragosse: n.p., 1910), p. 329.

Ross, Marvin C. "Le devant d'autel émaillé d'Orense." In Gazette des Beaux-Arts 140 (November 1933), pp. 272-78.

Gallego Lorenzo, Josefa.  "San Martin de Tours, San Marcial de Limoges y Santiago [...]." In Los caminos y el arte [...]. 3 vols. (Santiago de Compostela: Universidad de Santiago de Compostela, 1989), vol. 3 (1989), p. 63.

Gallego Lorenzo, Josefa. El frontal de Limoges de la Catedral de Ourense: documentación y fuentes para su estudio (Ourense: Grupo Francisco de Moure, 2001), p. 39.

Gallego Lorenzo, Josefa. "El llamado 'frontal' de la catedral de Orense.' In De Limoges a Silos, exh. cat. (Sociedad Estatal para la Acción Cultural Exterior, 2001), p. 223.

Gallego Lorenzo, Josefa. "El Frontal de Limoges." In Camino de Paz: Mane Nobiscum Domine, exh. cat. (Santiago de Compostela: Xunta de Galicia, 2005), p. 158.

The J. Paul Getty Museum Handbook of the Collections. 8th ed. (Los Angeles: J. Paul Getty Museum, 2015), p. 234, ill.

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