RARE Eighteenth Century Monastery Work Paperolle Metal Embroidery Reliquary Ex Voto with Portrait of St. Catherine

An absolutely exquisite and extraordinary monastery work example, it dates towards the early part of the 18th century, towards 1720. It was an important part a fine collection in Paris, France. The reliquary combines a hand painted panel, gilded paperolles and amazingly executed metal thread embroidery to produce a museum worthy example.

This is an hand worked reliquary which represents amazing work and individuality in design. The shape is formed from a hand cut piece of paper ,which is covered in fine silk, for the front and a hard paper board (covered in yellow silk) for the back. It has been put together in layers. The top layer is embellished with the most astonishing and extravagant metal and silk thread embroidery. The motifs are sacred symbols: a radiant dove at the top pointing towards the monogram symbol of Jesus Christ in form of acronym (IHS). At the bottom is a winged sacred heart atop a royal crown. Four scrolling flowers adorn the corners. Flowers and scrolls adorn the sides. Small paillette sequins are scattered throughout the design. Remnants of a looping metal rope frame the outer edge. A thick braided metal roping is attached to the outer edge. There is a hand cut glass placed in the center window cut out. Underneath this is a meticulous paperolle frame consisting of three layers of scrolls and folds. A hand painted image of St. Catherine is placed within the paperolle frame. The image is gouache (on paper). Because it is a watercolor/paper piece, slight fading has occurred to the red portions of her robe.

The back has a hand sewn piece of beautiful gold silk. This piece has ownership provenance: there is a paper attached to the reliquary which reads in manuscript: A Monsieur: Monsieur ?? Vicaire General de Monseigneur d'Autun: A Autun.

The metal braid and glass window give this piece a heavier weight than one might think; it is solid and has weight to it when held. It measures: 9 1/2" x 8 1/4": the central window 4 1/2" x 3 3/8": the hand painted portrait 3" x 2". The frame measures 2 1/4" wide at the widest places. It is in exceptional condition in consideration of the delicate materials and age: The metal braid has darkened, there are missing paillettes, some slight bits of missing pieces to the embroidery. The hand blown glass shows no chips or cracks. The hand painted image has fading to the red portions. The silk is very thin as is typical with age. The back silk has much staining. The metal braid pulls slightly from the edges: it could be resewn but we chose to keep it in original condition with original threads. The paperolle frame is in good order.

This is an incredible work of devotional art which is museum collection worthy. It is a very sacred example of love and devotional work which was fashioned within a monastery setting in the eighteenth century.

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