In Catholic ritual, a reliquary serves as a receptacle for some sacred object associated with a saint or martyr. Although this silver-gilt, monstrance-shaped reliquary provides no clues as to its one-time contents or the saint with whom they were associated, the gold coat of arms of the Farnese family appears on each side of the triangular base, suggesting that the reliquary was commissioned by the sole sixteenth-century Farnese pope, Paul III, a vigorous and discriminating patron of the arts. The pope appears as one of three seated figures on the foot of the reliquary, flanked by Saint Peter and an unidentified prophet. Two large angels stand on either side of the medallion that held the relic. Lapis-lazuli bands frame two paintings on the back of the rock crystal, a technique called eglomisé. The reliquary is also adorned with classical grotesque ornament and a variety of anthropomorphic motifs inspired by humanism. With its finesse of treatment, fecundity of ornamental invention, elegance of the individual figures, and pleasing proportions, the reliquary represents the epitome of sixteenth-century metalwork.Resources: Linda Seidel, Pious Journeys: Christian Devotional Art and Practice in the Later Middle Ages and Renaissance, exh. cat., Chicago: The David and Alfred Smart Museum of Art, 2001, p. 27–29.
Ingrid D. Rowland, The Place of the Antique in Early Modern Europe, Chicago: The David and Alfred Smart Museum of Art, 1999, p. 53–56.
The David and Alfred Smart Museum of Art: A Guide to the Collection, Sue Taylor and Richard Born, eds. New York: Hudson Hills Press, 1990, p. 38-39.