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15th C. Italian Niello Gilt Copper Cross, ex-Sotheby's

Lot 131A View Catalog

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North Italy, Tuscany, High Renaissance, ca. 15th century CE. This remarkable piece, created to be carried in religious processions, exemplifies an elite level of artistry achieved by 15th century Italian metalsmiths. The cross was made from hammered, engraved, and gilded sheets of copper attached to a wooden core. The central Crucifixion (nearly in the round) was created via repousse, a technique involving the hammering of the metal from beneath in order to create the form, with the radiating nimbus meticulously delineated in silver with niello. The quatrefoil termini of each arm bear niello roundels depicting Virgin and Child, Christ at the Column, and saints; each one 'framed' by an openwork, scalloped border resembling a flower. The arms are engraved with foliage inspired motifs, and openwork spherical forms with filigree and wirework adorn the peripheries. The side faces present fine 'beaded' borders, and a sizeable orb below is set with niello roundels depicting the Evangelists. Size: 25.5" H (64.8 cm) Size: 25.5" H (64.8 cm)

The modeling of the Christ figure brings to mind that of Masaccio's "Holy Trinity" (ca. 1424-1427 CE), demonstrating a sophisticated application of mathematics to the representation in accordance with Brunelleschi\'s scientific understanding of illusionism and perspective. A processional cross displaying this level of technique and artistry may only be found in elite private and museum collections such as the Metropolitan Museum of Art (17.190.499), the Cleveland Museum of Art (1926.243), and the British Museum (1913, 1220.95).

Provenance: Ex-private east coast, USA collection; ex-Emmanuel Chalandon, Lyons; ex-Frank Gair Macomber, Boston, MA; acquired at Sotheby's New York (12 April 2016, Lot 103)


Standard surface abrasions, small dents, and rubbing to gilding commensurate with age. Old soldering at join of metal on lower-most section. The five ivory roundels on the reverse have been removed. Fine quality and otherwise overall very good condition. The base is covered in worn red velvet.

Lot Passed

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Estimate $35,000 – $45,000
Starting Bid $22,000

Your maximum bid will remain private.

live auction started on
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7:00 AM - Mar 23, 2017
Artemis Gallery


686 S. Taylor Avenue Suite 106
Louisville, CO 80027
United States

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