Romanesque Male Reliquary Head

  • Unknown
  • Copper
  • 10 x 7 x 6 in.

Romanesque Male Reliquary Head
Hollow head back

Although the head lacks the top and back, the face and neck are complete and well preserved. When acquired from the estate of the noted Romanesque collector Baron Eric de Kolb, it was associated with a helmet that does not seem original to this piece but is included with it as of separate interest.

A rare example of the Romanesque and early Gothic reliquary heads sculpted from silver, copper or gilded copper to house the cephalic relics of a saint within a presumed likeness. In this instance, Roman features and a trimmed curling beard suggest a martyr or military saint from the earlier centuries of Christian Gaul.

The localization and dating of this male reliquary bust derives from its close similarity in technique and form to two comparable others, one in the British Museum and the other in the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York and its wooden core shown here.

The London example is dated ca. 1180-1200 and gilded; the New York head is primarily silver and dated 1220-1240 with a suggested origin in Limoge.