RARE 18th Century Gilded Bronze Sacred Heart Double Face Reliquary Pendant
A very fine and rare example, it originates from the south of France and dates circa 1790. This type of reliquary was worn around the neck, or placed in a deep pocket, under the clothing for protection and guidance. It was often by travelers.
The oval form opens to a clam shell. Each half is meticulously hand tooled with a framing ring of small circles and a very large Christogram, IHS, in the center The Christogram is formed from large tulip shaped flowers (as is the top of the cross) and curving arabesques. Each side of the reliquary has a tiny sacred heart at the bottom center of the "H". The heart has waving lines above it which serves as flames. The cross is tall, reaching to the top middle of the oval form. There is a large bail at the top center with a ring which would have held a chain or ribbon. At the bottom there is a small pin which serves to open the reliquary (it works like a screw, with threads, it twists counter clockwise to release it from the clam shell, allowing the shell to open). There is a very fine hinge at the top back. The smooth sides have a beautiful curve.
The interior is lined with 18th century paper (which would have been taking from the endpapers of a book). Bits of paper are scrolled around the inner edge where the relics were/are placed. There is a tiny relic remaining, offset at the center. It measures: 1 1/2" x 1 3/8" and is 1/4" thick. It is in very good antique condition: The hand tooling is deeply cut and the design is still very visible. The patina is amazing. The interior is original and the hinge and pin work properly.
It is a precious reliquary which, through the care and preservation of people, has survived the passage of over 200 years. It is a rarely seen example.
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