(b. 1406, Capannole, d. ca. 1456, Dalmatia)

Reliquary for the Holy Girdle of the Virgin

c. 1446
Embossed copper, engraved and gilded, wood, panels of horn, ivory, and fabric, 16 x 21 x 15 cm
Museo dell'Opera del Duomo, Prato

This reliquary box consists of a wood core sheathed with a blacked horn veneer that creates the backdrop for sixteen dancing putti carved in ivory. Only six of the putti are original; the others, copied from those that remained, were added during a restoration in the nineteenth century. The box is inserted into a gilded-copper framework that is embossed and engraved and to which the base and cover are connected by ten small columns with Corinthian bases and capitals. The cover is crowned with a double volute, and has on its interior, the coat of arms of Niccolòzzo Milanesi, which is only visible when the box is opened for display of the relic.

In its exceptionally design, the reliquary is a small architectural object. It is conceived in terms of a small Renaissance altar. In designing this object, Maso must have had in mind Donatello's Cantoria in the Florence Cathedral.

The reliquary was commissioned from Maso di Bartolommeo in 1446 as a replacement of one that already existed. It contained the most important civic relic in Prato and was to be the sacred fulcrum of the area in the cathedral dedicated to the Virgin's girdle.

© Web Gallery of Art, created by Emil Krén and Daniel Marx.