Plaque with the Pentecost

Date: ca. 1150–75

Geography: Made in Meuse Valley, South Netherlands

Culture: South Netherlandish

Medium: Champlevé and translucent enamel on copper gilt

Dimensions: Overall: 4 1/16 x 4 1/16 x 1/4 in. (10.3 x 10.3 x 0.6 cm)

Classification: Enamels-Champlevé

Credit Line: The Cloisters Collection, 1965

Accession Number: 65.105


Traditionally renowned for their production of outstanding 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 the 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. This work was part of an extensive series of plaques that once decorated a single large object, perhaps an altarpiece or pulpit.