Six Enamel Plaques
Six Enamel Plaques
Six Enamel Plaques
Six Enamel Plaques
Six Enamel Plaques
Six Enamel Plaques
Six Enamel Plaques
Six Enamel Plaques

c. 1160-1170

Material
Enamel

Collection
Dom Museum Wien
On loan from St. Stephen's Cathedral

Inv.Nr.
L/3

Enamel
Panel
Medieval art

On view

Query
Reproduction request
Loan request

Photo: Leni Deinhardstein, Lisa Rastl, Dom Museum Wien
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Six enamel plaques depicting christian allegories

Despite the 800 years of their existence, the enamel plaques present their elaborate iconographic programm in vivid colours.

The two triangular plaques show angels with winged heads in their hands. The inscriptions reading “Aquilo” and “Auster” mark them as allegories of the north and south winds. The five-sided pieces show four female figures in the bottom areas. Their attributes and the inscriptions identify them as allegories of the virtues of a ruler. For example, “Justicia” (Justice) is represented with a pair of scales.
The pictorial program in the upper sections of the plaques, which all show scenes from the Old Testament is prticularly remarkable. These are by no means randomly chosen, but correspond to the third-century Christian theological concept of “typology,” an exegetic tradition exploring the relationship of the Old and New Testament. One plaque depicts a famous example of this: Abraham standing in front of his praying son with a sword in his hand. The sacrificing of Isaac (Old Testament) prefigures Jesus’s sacrificial death (New Testament). On another plaque, Jacob is seen sitting on a throne, blessing his two grandsons. An important detail are his crossed arms, which the inscription framing the scene also draws attention to. The biblical legend says that he did not give his blessing to the first-born child, as was customary, but to the second-born. In typological terms, the first-born stands for the first, the Old Testament, over which the younger, second Testament is given preference. The idea of typology thus serves the legitimizing of the Christian faith in that the Christian Bible is seen as the completion of the Old Testament.

These enamel plaques are so vibrant in color as one would not expect given their age: they were created more than eight hundred years ago. There is hardly another technique that produces more durable results than enameling and fire gilding of copper plates. The original purpose of these plaques is unclear; they may have been part of a portable altar or a reliquary.