Rare 17th Cent Whalebone Reliquary 30 Relic St Philip Apostle St James Apostle +
Rare example of a 17th century "whalebone" reliquary made in the Spanish Flanders (low countries) with 30 First Class (Ex Ossibus – Bone) Holy Relics of Martyrs and Apostles:
(All Saints are legible and in their original place but we are not able to identify some of them due to limited knowledge of Latin.)
Miniature Painting side:
Saint Philip Apostle
Saint James the Great – Apostle
Saint Ciceni ?
Saint Germain Martyr
Saint Zeno of Verona Martyr
Saint Nomosi Martyr ?
Saint Bireni Martyr
A unique piece of Sacred art with an exquisite miniature painting of Saint Mary Magdalene Penitent holding a cross depicted as young and beautiful, with long, blond hair that flows loosely over her shoulders. The detailed painting is placed on a gold leaf background, remanences of the Byzantine style where the gold background would represent heaven
The anonymous artist shows great talent in the way he infuses drama and emotion to the Baroque painting and outstanding craftmanship in the detail of such small work.
Around this outstanding example of miniature painting, we find a set of Holy Relics encased in an intricate carved rare baleen plate* ("whalebone”) and protected by hand carved rock crystal eyes.
On the other side, we can see more Holy Relics arranged around the center cavity as planets surrounding the sun. This center cavity has been filled by Holy Relics later in the 18th Century, we can see this by the glass and fabric used as background.
Baleen is a filter-feeding system inside the mouths of baleen whales. To use baleen, the whale first opens its mouth underwater to take in water. The whale then pushes the water out, and animals such as krill are filtered by the baleen and remain as a food source for the whale. Baleen is similar to bristles and consists of keratin, the same substance found in human fingernails, skin and hair.
People formerly used baleen (usually referred to as "whalebone") for making numerous items where flexibility and strength were required, including baskets, backscratchers, collar stiffeners, buggy whips, parasol ribs, switches, crinoline petticoats, farthingales, busks, and corset stays. It was commonly used to crease paper; its flexibility kept it from damaging the paper. It was also occasionally used in cable-backed bows. Synthetic materials are now usually used for similar purposes, especially plastic and fiberglass. Baleen was also used by Dutch cabinetmakers for the production of pressed reliefs.
This exceptional reliquary is in outstanding condition given the delicacy of the material used as frame. No missing parts nor significant damage, all relics in their original place protected by their original rock crystal covers.
Belgium private collection
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Please note that we only sell the containers of our relics, the Holy Relics are given free in accordance with canon law.
At Soul Antiques & Sacred Art we take pride in our work by making detailed and accurate descriptions of every item. Sold "As is"