Triptych Pendant depicting Martyrdom of Saint Barbara, Mary Magdalen, and Saint Gereon

German (Cologne)
Medieval (Gothic)
Maker Unidentified

Object Place: Cologne, Germany


Overall (open): 7.2 x 6.3 x 0.7 cm (2 13/16 x 2 1/2 x 1/4 in.) Overall: 7.2 x 3.6 cm (2 13/16 x 1 7/16 in.)

Accession Number


Medium or Technique

Basse-taille enamel and gilding on silver

On View

I. W. Colburn Chapel Gallery (Gallery 254A)





Pendant triptych comprising a central box, hinged wings, a predella, and a crowning superstructure. The inside of the wings and the box are enameled with opaque red and translucent red, green, lapis blue, purple, and amber. Both clear and amber enamels are placed over gold foil. Four arches surmounted by two rows of oval windows decorate both the outside of the wings and the inside of the central panel. On the inside, the windows alternate horizontally and vertically between blue and green translucent enamel with the interstices filled with red opaque enamel. A thin gilded plate from which the design has been cut out is laid over the enamel. With an overall engraved dot-and-lozenge pattern, the gilded wings are framed by a simple soldered molding.

A single bent strip forms the sides of the central box onto which is fastened (with two rivets visible on the back) a representation of the beheading of Saint Barbara in cast gilded silver. Saint Barbara kneels beside her tower, while her father, dressed as a warrior, raises his sword behind her. Three spiral colonnettees attached to a hilly, engraved ground terminate in branches that intertwine to form the two flat arches framing the scene. When the triptych is open, Mary Magdalene (on the left) and Saint Gereon (on the right) face the central scene. Both stand within pointed arches against finely hatched blue grounds. These arches, with intricate scrolls over translucent red enamel in the spandrels, are cut from the same plaque as the molding around the edge that is soldered to the enameled plate below. Both figures have gold faces and finely hatched amber halos. Appropriately, Saint Gereon is dressed as a knight. His red mantle with a gilded border is lined in amber, and his blue armor has short breastplate with a heavy amber collar and a green skirt (imitating satin or velvet) with a tooled amber border. He wears pointed red shoes and plumed baret over his long, curly amber hair and carries all of his attributes: a shield, a sword, and a banner. The latter curls behind his head and is seen from the reverse on the right. Mary Magdalene wears a green tunic with long sleeves below a short-sleeved narrow gown of red damask (with its design in gold). It is tied above the waist with a long blue sash decorated with lozenge-and-dot design. Her mantle is purple with a green lining and her striped turban is green and red. She holds her attribute, an ointment jar (the vessel in one hand and the top in the other) that she used to anoint Christ’s feet.
Above a cornice of palmettes and emanating from spiral colonnettes soldered to the sides of the central box are branches with leaves that intertwine and culminate in a central loop. The predella soldered to the base has trefoil openwork designs and a loop attached to the bottom. The date “1504” has been inscribed on the bottom with (as revealed under high magnification) the same pointed tool as the windows on the wings.


1939, Julia A. Berwind (b. 1865 - d. 1961), New York and Newport, RI; November 9-11, 1939, Berwind sale, Parke-Bernet Galleries, New York, lot 363, to the Brummer Gallery, New York (stock no. N4481); 1947, sold by Brummer to the MFA for $1000. (Accession Date: November 13, 1947)

Credit Line

1941 Purchase Fund