Baptistery of Saint Louis by Unknown Artist - 1320 - 1340 - 22,2 x 50,2 cm Musée du Louvre Baptistery of Saint Louis by Unknown Artist - 1320 - 1340 - 22,2 x 50,2 cm Musée du Louvre

Baptistery of Saint Louis

brass with gold and silver inlays • 22,2 x 50,2 cm
  • Unknown Artist Unknown Artist 1320 - 1340

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This masterpiece at the Louvre is called the Baptistery of Saint Louis, but it is neither a baptistery, nor was it made for Saint Louis! This metalwork’s shape is typical of the Mamluk dynasty, which ruled from Egypt to Syria between 1250 and 1517. The piece is a brass (an alloy of copper and zinc) basin with a lot of patterns inside and outside. An inscription reveals that it could have been used to contain food. The patterns were crafted using a special technique called inlay metalwork:  the surface is hammered and engraved around the shape of a small piece of precious metal like gold or silver, which is placed in the hollow and engraved. To put the final touches to the basin, the artist applied a special dark putty between precious pieces to emphasize the pattern. Four knights inside roundels can be seen on the outside of the basin. The one depicted here is a hunter, wearing a specific costume, and killing a bear with a lance. These characters are placed between rows of soldiers, plants, and animals. This masterpiece didn’t exist at the time of Saint Louis—Louis IX of France ruled during the 13th century—but it was brought to France during the Crusades and was a baptistery for some French kings after the 15th century.

- Coraline Meric

P.S. Louis is a traditional name for French kings. There were many more and among them the big Mr. Sunshine! :D  See portraits of Louis XIV here!

See you tomorrow!