Bone Box
Bone Box
Bone Box
Bone Box
Bone Box
Bone Box
Bone Box

Early 14th century

Material
Bone

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

Inv.Nr.
L/20

Bone
Vessel
Rudolf IV

On view

Query
Reproduction request
Loan request

Photo: Leni Deinhardstein, Lisa Rastl, Dom Museum Wien
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A box made of bone to hold precious relics

The bone box probably belonged to duke Rudolf IV. The precious relics within are guarded by dragons.

Four beasts watch over the contents of the ivory box. Especially the two on the front with their necks intertwined in battle look grim. The owner of the box was supposedly nobody less than Rudolf IV, Duke of Austria, who donated the piece to the treasury of St. Stephen’s where it was used for keeping relics. It is anything but improbable that worldly riches were formerly kept in it.

The rectangular box has a hinged lid in the form of a truncated pyramid. It stands on a bottomless pedestal jutting out on all sides. Cut out and painted, its long sides resemble flat arches with Gothic open tracery. Lily and trefoil have been brought out to catch the eye. Cutouts in the form of arcs and battlements are to be found on the short sides. The basic form of the ivory work derives from the tradition of Southern Italian craftsmanship which was influenced by Arab models.

The décor of the ivory plates is engraved. The grooves were filled with different colors. Lid and pedestal are adorned with halves of acanthus tendrils along the edges. Seen across the corner, they form a complete tendril each with the motifs decorating the lateral faces. The front and the two short sides of the box confront us with impetuously moving dragon-like fabulous beasts. Their tails, multiplied or turned into tendrils, unfold a dramatic life of their own. They may quite rightly be associated with Chinese fabulous beasts, as Chinese silk fabrics found their way to Upper Italy thanks to trade relations with the Mongol Empire. Northern Italian weaving mills and artisans adopted the patterns of these fabrics, adjusting them to Gothic sensibility.