Case for the Imperial Crown


Treasury, Kunsthistorisches Museum Wien

Treasury, Kunsthistorisches Museum Wien
Vienna, Austria

Leather cases exactly fitted to the objects they were designed to hold
were made to store the imperial regalia and also to protect them
while they were being transported to royal and imperial coronations in
Aachen (Aix-la-Chapelle) or Rome as well as the annually staged public
presentations that were held starting in 1350, the Feast of the Holy Lance
and Nails. Leather lent itself to the manufacture of such cases because
of its flexibility of form and material toughness as well as the varied
possibilities it offered for decoration. The cases for the Imperial Crown and Ceremonial Sword have been preserved from the time of Emperor Charles IV. The decoration of the case of the Imperial Crown consists of framed panels of foliate tendrils and mythological beasts. The individual pieces of leather of which the case if sewn correspond to the panels into which the decoration is divided. Fastened to the lower part of the case by iron straps, the lid bears on its top the imperial arms with a black eagle on a yellow ground as well as the Bohemian arms with a white lion rampant on a red ground. On the side
are loops through which a carrying strap could be drawn. Traditional forms of leather carving and blind-stamping were the techniques used for the decoration. The beaded ground provides an effective contrast to the smooth decorations of tendrils and animals. Like the rows of small ornaments along the framing bands and in the bodies of the animals, this pattern was embossed with small metal punches. The colours of the case were originally stronger, with an effective contrast of red and green supporting the structure provided by the framing bands of the surface and making the fabulous creatures and leaf motifs appear in greater contrast. © Masterpieces of the Secular Treasury, Edited by Wilfried Seipel, Vienna 2008


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