Lot 1
  • 1

GERMAN, COLOGNE, CIRCA 1180-1200THE COLONNETTE POSSIBLY EARLY 13TH CENTURY | Orb from the Top of a Reliquary with an associated Colonnette

30,000 - 50,000 GBP
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  • Orb from the Top of a Reliquary with an associated Colonnette
  • partially gilt and champlevé enamelled copper, on a later ebonised wood stand
  • orb: 10.5cm., 4 1/8  in.colonnette: 15.3cm., 6in.43cm., 17in. overall
  • German, Cologne, circa 1180-1200 the colonnette possibly early 13th century


Adolphe Stoclet (1871-1949), Brussels;
by descent to Jacques Stoclet (1903-1961), Brussels;
thence by descent to the present owners


The orb and colonette are associated. They are loose components and as such can easily be detached from each other and from the stand. Orb: Overall the condition is good, with minor dirt and wear to the surface consistent with age. There are some areas of loss to the enamel, in particular to the blue around the gilt leaf shapes, and to the bottom half of one of the quatrefoil designs. There is further wear to the enamel, consistent with the material, including pitting and very minor craquelure. There is particular wear to the high points of the foliate mounts at the top and bottom. The foliate mounts rotate slightly in their setting. It is possible that the foliate mounts are later replacements. There is minor general wear to the gilt metal throughout, including nicks and scratches. Colonette: Overall the condition is very good, with minor dirt and wear to the surface consistent with age. There are a few minor losses to the enamel. There is further wear to the enamel, including pitting throughout. There is wear to the gilt metal, notably an area of rubbing at the centre of the column, and nicks to the top and bottom edges. There is also minor warping to the mount at the top. The interior of the colonette has been fitted with a metal and wood(?) mount to facilitate its attachment to the orb, which has a copper rod at the bottom. The orb rocks slightly in this setting but is stable. The ebonised wood stand is in good condition with minor general wear.
"In response to your inquiry, we are pleased to provide you with a general report of the condition of the property described above. Since we are not professional conservators or restorers, we urge you to consult with a restorer or conservator of your choice who will be better able to provide a detailed, professional report. Prospective buyers should inspect each lot to satisfy themselves as to condition and must understand that any statement made by Sotheby's is merely a subjective, qualified opinion. Prospective buyers should also refer to any Important Notices regarding this sale, which are printed in the Sale Catalogue.

Catalogue Note

This beautiful and intriguing object is a testament to both the ingenuity of the metalworkers and enamellers in Cologne in the late 12th century, as well as to the inventiveness of collectors of medieval objets d'art in the late 19th and early 20th century. The object consists of two main parts, which, although they do not originate from the same workshop, can probably be attributed to the same region. They have been joined together to form a unique object, resembling a staff, probably at some point in the 19th or early 20th century, perhaps when the two parts entered the collection of Adolphe Stoclet. Many colonnettes from the renowned Cologne workshops have now been dispersed to international museums, including the Metropolitan Museum of Art (inv. nos. 41.100.145a-c and 17.190.414); the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston (Swarzenski and Netzer, op. cit., cat. no. 16) and the Victoria and Albert Museum (inv. no. 222-1874). ORB

With its leaf garland decoration at the top and the bottom of the orb, and the acorn motif at the top in the centre, the orb compares very closely to aspects of medieval reliquary shrines produced in the last two decades of the 12th century. A prime example is the Shrine of the Three Kings in the Cologne Cathedral Treasury, which includes three similar original orbs with leaf decoration that compare in size to the present lot (Kemper, op. cit., cat. nos. 1848-1858). Even more similar in style to the present orb are those crowning the Anno Shrine in Siegburg and the Albinus Shrine in Cologne (Baumgarten and Buchen, op. cit., p. 48-60). The two orbs on the Albinus Shrine compare in both colour scheme and decorative patterns, including the larger circles of gilt copper which enclose smaller enamelled geometrical patterns. The present orb, with its inventive animal motifs on a dark blue background and foliate decoration, further compares to plaques of blue and gold enamel-work which have been removed from the Cologne Three Kings Shrine, and are now in the Schnütgen Museum (inv. no. G545; Kemper, op. cit., p. 488).


The colonnette, with its vibrant colour scheme and geometrical pattern of arches, compares particularly well to a number of colonnettes on the Three Kings Shrine, in particular those flanking the prophet Nahum on the side with King Solomon; and to one of the colonnettes at the far left of the reliquary on the same side (Kemper, op. cit., cat. nos. 418 and 446). See also a colonnette, formerly part of the same Shrine, now in the Bayerisches Nationalmuseum (inv. no. MA 249). Intriguingly, however, the present colonnette is also reminiscent of another piece, in the Victoria and Albert Museum (in. no. 222-1874), catalogued as French or Southern Netherlandish, and two colonnettes which are now on the Three Kings Shrine, but which originate from the socle of a Limoges 12th century processional cross, which was dismantled in the 1960s and constructed onto the shrine (Kemper, op. cit., cat no. 953; Kötzsche, op. cit., pp. 71-73). Therefore, there is a possibility that the present colonnette could have been created in a French workshop, which would perhaps explain a difference in the production process which was detected in a technical analysis executed by Cranfield Forensic Institute, which also indicates a possible slightly later date for the colonnette. 

An analysis report on the enamels prepared by the Centre for Archaeological and Forensic Analysis at Cranfield University is available from the department upon request.

O. von Falke, Der Dreikönigenschrein des Nikolaus von Verdun im Cölner Domschatz, Mönchengladbach, 1911; A. Pératé, Collections Georges Hoentschel: Émaux du XIIe au XVe siècle. Paris, 1911. no. 23, fig. XI; A. Muñoz, Pièces de Choix de la Collection du comte Grégoire Stroganoff à Rome: Volume 2, Moyen-Âge – Renaissance – Époque Moderne, Rome, 1912. p. 214, pl. CLIV; J. Baumgarten and H. Buchen, Kölner Reliquienschreine, Cologne, 1985; H. Swarzenski and N. Netzer, Medieval Objects in the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston: Enamels & Glass, Boston, 1986, cat. no. 16; D. Kötzsche, 'Fragmente vom Dreikönigenschrein - Wo sind sie geblieben?', in K. Hardering and L. Becks (eds.) Kölner Domblatt, Jahrbuch des Zentral-Dombau-Vereins, Cologne, 2009, pp. 67-110; D. Kemper, Die Goldschmidearbeiten am Dreikönigenschrein: Bestand und Geschichte seiner Restaurierungen im 19. und 20. Jahrhundert, vols. 1-3, Cologne, 2014