Pluvial (Cope of Christ)


Treasury, Kunsthistorisches Museum Wien

Treasury, Kunsthistorisches Museum Wien
Vienna, Austria

Pluvials are capes of nearly semicircular shape made of precious
materials and are among the most splendid articles of clothing
for priests. They are fastened with a clasp across the chest and usually
ornamented on the bands along the straight sides (orphreys) and on the
embroidery shield on the back. The form of this shield is derived from
the hood that was originally attached to a cope of this type (pluviale is the
Latin name for a kind of raincoat), but which over time evolved into a
mere ornamental appendage. In the case of this pluvial, the rear shield
displays a depiction of the Almighty, who is portrayed seated on his
throne in a bell tent. The six pictorial fields of the pluvial’s orphreys
show Apostles and prophets seated in their architectonic niches.
Only in the most lavishly decorated copes does embroidery also fill the
pluvial’s semicircular surface. On the three pluvials of these liturgical
vestments, this surface is covered with a three-row radial framework
of honeycombed pictorial fields. Each of these 32 fields shows a single
standing figure (angels, martyrs, Evangelists, Church Fathers, canonised
princes and clerics), and no two are identical.
The overall theme of the images on all three pluvials is the triumphant
display of the magnificence of God, and is thus reminiscent of Hubert
and Jan van Eyck’s famous Ghent Altarpiece, which during that same
period was the foremost work of Netherlandish painting. So one could
also say that the depictions on the cope represent an All Saints picture
separated into individual figures.
The designs for the cartoons used by the embroiderers were probably by
the Master of Flémalle, presumably assisted in this project by his most
distinguished pupil, Rogier van der Weyden. © Masterpieces of the Secular Treasury, Edited by Wilfried Seipel, Vienna 2008


  • Title: Pluvial (Cope of Christ)
  • Creator: Unknown
  • Date Created: 1425/1440
  • Location Created: Brussels
  • Physical Dimensions: w330 x h164 cm
  • Inventory Number: KK 19
  • Type: Liturgical Vestment
  • External Link: http://www.kaiserliche-schatzkammer.at/

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