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Moses and the Brazen Serpent


Display of enamels

The most distinctive coloured decoration is constituted by enamel, usually combined with filigree strands on the shrine.

Enamels can be divided according to shape and function. Most frequent are enamelled laminae (platelets) - small rectangular enamelled plaques, 115 of them on the total. Remarkable is diversity of their decoration, no theme is repeated. Seven types of colour of the glaze are used, melted in the prefabricated partitions (cells) of copper slices. Engraving makes the partitions arise. The edges of the partitions are damascened. The laminae are relatively thick, usually 3-3.5 mm, their edges are lined by stamped astragal (pearl). The applied enamel (glaze) - ground glassy stuff was baked, the pulp fused - melted, and subsequently the whole surface was roughly reground until flat. Then it was baked once more, whereby the ground surface again melted and obtained lustre (glitter). In conclusion the top face was gilded afire by amalgam - mixture of mercury and gold - that reacts only with metal surface after evaporation of the mercury (above 300 ºC). In the end the gilt surfaces were polished with a steel burnisher.

On the shrine there are seven different laminae (spandrels), whose workmanship indicates that they were made at another workshop and on shrine were probably completed for shielding areas of non-standard proportion. That is why some parts of them are cut off.

Behind the heads of the twelve apostles there are enamelled halos (gloriolas).

Very gently engraved is the decoration of four enamelled columns, situated in angles of the shrine.

The most considerable part of the enamel decoration are the enamelled spandrels, where in circular medallions are shown biblical scenes. These enamels are set in segments between arcs on lateral sides of the shrine.

On the lateral side to the right from Christ are:

Moses and the brazen serpent (Num 21,8-9).
Jacob blessing the sons of Joseph (Gen 48,14-16).
Moses striking the rock (Ex 17,6; Num 20,11)

On the opposite side are:

Moses painting the sign of "T" [tau] (Ex up 12,7.22).
Moses and the burning bush (Ex up 3,2-5).
Sacrifice of Isaac (Gen 22,10-13).
Moses and the golden calf (Ex 32,19).

The surface of these enamels is ground and polished to lustre, whereby a character of a noble surface of ground gemstone is attained. Illustrations of more complicated compositions with more figures in a medallion are engraved. Drawings of other figures are overlaid again by enamel, by which the composition obtains explicitness as well as more dynamism.


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