Silver Reliquary: Christ with the Apostles

unknown400 AD - 410 AD

Kunsthistorisches Museum Wien

Kunsthistorisches Museum Wien
Vienna, Austria

The six-sided box (pyxis) is made of silver foil with very carefully embossed decoration. Tapered towards the top, the separately worked lid ends in a hammered mob. The original set-in base has been lost. The decorations fit the shape of the vessel. There are full-length figures on the body while the lid has half-length portraits. The depiction of Christ and the Apostles is conventional, with the usual postures and gestures. They are dressed in a tunic and pallium (mantle). Christ is depicted as youthful, his long hair parted in the middle. In his left hand he holds an open book; his right hand is raised in the so-called speaking gesture. Of the Apostles, only Peter and Paul can be identified with certainty. They are turned towards Christ, while the others are depicted almost frontally. Peter has short, full hair and beard; Paul has a balding forehead and a long, pointed beard. The figures are probably based on depictions in a larger cycle that showed the Apostles paying homage or scenes with Christ as teacher. Such compositions are found in church paintings and mosaics. With its soft, flowing lines, the figural style is reminiscent of Theodosian art. The vessel was probably produced in an Upper Italian workshop. Its shape and the content of the decorations make it seem likely that it was not created primarily as a relic container but rather for other ecclesiastical use. © Kurt Gschwantler, Alfred Bernhard-Walcher, Manuela Laubenberger, Georg Plattner, Karoline Zhuber-Okrog, Masterpieces in the Collection of Greek and Roman Antiquities. A Brief Guide to the Kunsthistorisches Museum, Vienna 2011


  • Title: Silver Reliquary: Christ with the Apostles
  • Creator: unknown
  • Creator Death Place: unknown
  • Creator Birth Place: unknown
  • Date Created: 400 AD - 410 AD
  • Style: Ealry Christian
  • Provenance: found in 1860 during excavation work on the cistern beneath Cathedral Square in Pola (now Pula, Croatia). It was in a silver box along with a gold reliquary and other relic containers and precious objects that have been lost. The box was hidden in two nesting stoneboxes that must have been part of an altar tomb in the choir of the ancientChurch of St. Thomas, which had been expanded in the 5th century and was torn down in the early 19th century.
  • Place Part Of: Croatia
  • Physical Dimensions: h123 cm (entire)
  • Inventory Number: ANSA VII 760
  • Excavation: Pula, Croatia
  • Type: containers
  • External Link: http://www.khm.at/en/collections/collection-of-greek-and-roman-antiquities
  • Medium: Silver

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