Pluvial (Cope of John the Baptist)


Treasury, Kunsthistorisches Museum Wien

Treasury, Kunsthistorisches Museum Wien
Vienna, Austria

The formal organisation of the Cope of John the Baptist is similar
to that of the Cope of the Virgin Mary and the Cope of Christ.
The embroidered shield on the back shows John
the Baptist (the shields give the individual copes their names), while
the orphreys are again ornamented with embroidered pictures of Apostles
and prophets. With the exception of the angels, all the figures displayed
on this cope’s semicircle are patriarchs, prophets, monks and hermits. In
this case, as well, the figures for the main section of the cope were chosen
according to their connection with the saint depicted on the embroidered
shield on the back, for John the Baptist himself lived as a hermit in the
desert. In the Middle Ages this desert was usually rendered as a wooded
wilderness, which is why the ascetic saint is also depicted here in a leafy
landscape. He is enthroned, however, under a splendid canopy, whose
curtains are tangled in the surrounding trees. The coarse animal skin
that St. John usually wears has been replaced in this picture by a golden,
shimmering cloak with a loose cape. He has a book on his lap and points
with his right hand to the Son of God, depicted on the embroidered
shield of the Cope of Christ. The words on the banner above his head
make clear his petition: “Behold the Lamb of God, which taketh away
the sin of the world”. Thus, it again becomes clear that the three copes
were conceived as an iconographic whole.


  • Title: Pluvial (Cope of John the Baptist)
  • Creator: Unknown
  • Date Created: 1425/1440
  • Location Created: Brussels
  • Physical Dimensions: w330 x h164 mm
  • Inventory Number: KK 20
  • Type: Liturgical Vestment
  • External Link: http://www.kaiserliche-schatzkammer.at/

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