A processional cross engraved with scrolling foliage
c. 1440 - 1460
Gilded, chased, and engraved silver with glass and velvet mounts
61.5 × 40.5 cm. (24 ¼ × 15 ⅞ in.)
Provenance:Private Collection, Switzerland.
Further information:The cult of the cross has always been a central aspect of Christian devotion. The rise in processional liturgy during the later middle ages, and the concurrent development of the gold- and silversmith's art, meant that by the fifteenth century, when this intricately engraved and tooled processional cross was created, crosses and other liturgical objects had become a tour de force of finely decorated and manipulated materials. To the Medieval viewer of such objects 'precious materials achieved pious distillation only when skilfully worked' (S. Fliegel, Resplendent Faith; Liturgical Treasuries of the Middle Ages, Ohio, 2009, p. 3), with the play of light upon their glittering surfaces invested with vivid spiritual and aesthetic significance.
The ornate decoration, lobed shape, square central section, and decorative fill around the edges of the present example all conform closely to a group of crosses made during the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries across Switzerland and the Upper Rhineland. Its foliated decoration is, however, particularly comparable to a cross identified with an example recorded in the 1827 inventory of the treasury at Basel Cathedral, and it is most likely that our example was made in that city for one of its rich treasuries.