The Pentecost

ca. 1150–75
Made in Meuse Valley, South Netherlands
South Netherlandish
Champlevé and translucent enamel on copper gilt
Overall: 4 1/16 x 4 1/16 x 1/4 in. (10.3 x 10.3 x 0.6 cm)
Credit Line:
The Cloisters Collection, 1965
Accession Number:
  • Description

    Traditionally renowned for their production of outstandingly beautiful works in champlevé enamel, artists of the Meuse valley (in modern-day France and Belgium) created this plaque illustrating the Pentecost. According to the Book of Acts 2:2–4, Christ's apostles had gathered together fifty days after Easter, when "suddenly there came a sound from Heaven as of a rushing mighty wind, and it filled all the house where they were sitting. And there appeared unto them cloven tongues like as of fire, and it sat upon each of them. And they were all filled with the Holy Ghost, and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance." This depiction of that miraculous event shows the hand of God appearing to the disciples; Peter, holding keys to the Kingdom of Heaven, is seated in the center of the architectural setting, with only five other apostles beside him. (The other six are suggested by partially visible halos.) Each face is individually characterized—an unusual and forward-looking way of heightening the sacred drama. A rich and varied spectrum of colors—more than twelve hues—further enlivens the delicate, animated style of engraving. The play of light upon such colorful imagery gives the plaque the aura of a sparkling jewel. The crowning piece of a number of Mosan enamels in the Museum's collection, this work was part of an extensive series of plaques that once decorated a single large object, perhaps an altarpiece or pulpit.

  • Signatures, Inscriptions, and Markings

    Inscription: on reserve across bottom: APOSTOLI
    in center, flanking St. Peter: SPS DNI (Spiritus Domini)
    flanking arc of heaven: DO M (Domus [Acts 2:2])
    within arc of heaven: PA TE (Pater)

  • Provenance

    Louis-Fidel Debruge-Duménil , Paris (sold 1850) ; his sale, Hôtel des Ventes , Paris (January 22-27, 1850, no. 670, to Duchatel) ; Mme. Duchatel , Paris (1850-1851) ; Monsieur Cottreau , Paris (1851) ; sale, Hôtel des Ventes , Paris (December 15-16, 1851, no. 15) ; Sir Francis Scott 1824–1863 , England (until d. 1863) ; bequeathed to Birmingham and Midland Institute , Birmingham, England (1863–1965) ; sale, Sotheby's, New York (April 27, 1965, no. 21)

  • See also
    In the Museum
    Heilbrunn Timeline of Art History