Attributed to Jean de Touyl, this reliquary shrine was made in Paris, France between 1325 and 1350. This reliquary is one of only four shrines to have survived, and it was believed to have been bought by Queen Elizabeth of Hungary, as it was recorded in inventories of a convent in Budapest in the 17th century. It has examples of Gothic influence, such as the pointed arches and trefoil arches. It’s small scale indicated that the piece was probably intended for private devotion.
The use of Gothic architectural elements in this small shrine is significant. The pointed arches draw the eye upward, towards heaven. The number three is significant in Christianity, signifying the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, and the trefoil arches are in the shape of three overlapping rings. Three is also seen in the three main figures in the centerpiece, and three panels in each wing.
The reliquary shows the Virgin and Child surrounded by angels in an architectural shrine imitating the space of the Church. The coloring of the hinged wings evoke stained glass windows, which are painted with scenes of the Life of the Virgin and Christ Child. Each wing is crowned with a musical angel in a triangular panel.
The Virgin is enthroned and wearing a crown, suckling a baby Christ. They are both clothed in gold and flanked by angels, with vines engraved behind them. The angels are holding framed boxes that probably held the relics. The figures in the centerpiece are in high relief, staring forward at the viewer with blank looks. The Virgin’s oversized hands direct the viewer’s attention to Christ, enthroned on his mother’s lap. The gilt used coveys the significance of the Virgin and Christ, and the various saints painted show their importance, as they are placed in the same space as the Virgin and Christ.
"Reliquary Shrine | Attributed to Jean De Touyl | 62.96 | Work of Art | Heilbrunn Timeline of Art
History | The Metropolitan Museum of Art." The Met's Heilbrunn Timeline of Art History. Accessed March 31, 2018. https://www.metmuseum.org/toah/works-of-art/62.96/.