This genre of reliquary, with a very three dimensional construction, dates from a very brief period in history, 1820-1840. The construction and design elements are specific to Italy.
The reliquary is in a shadowbox form which is made of a custom cut oval back and a wide tooled side band. The design is worked onto the back oval plate. The scene (placed on a background of navy paper) is built on three levels, creating the effect of a small church interior. The "roof is formed by a double stack of hand cut paper which holds gilt tipped paperolles. There are four columns (the two outer ones raised up one level) which support the "roof". They are made of red and green metallic paper and topped with paperolle scrolls. For the flat portions of the columns, bits of striped velour fabric mimics wood.
The central handpainted wafer depicts a saint (monk) with his arms crossed, a monstrance is visible in the background. There is an inner frame of scrolling silver metallic cord. The oval portrait is framed by a circular festoon of gilt paperolles. Placed around this frame are five relics identified by manuscript scrolls (the writing is hard to read). The base of the "church" has three "windows" which hold relics with handwritten scrolls. The two outer corners are filled by paperolle flowers. There is a hand cut glass wafer which seals the design into place; it is held by hand tooled crimping of the brass side band.
There is a loop at the top for threading a chain or ribbon. There are lighter tarnish markings on the back which indicate that there was once a wax seal and cording. We have not opened this at all so as not to disturb the design. It measures 4 1/4" x 3 1/2"x 3/4" thick. The wafer measure 1" in diameter.
It is in very good antique condition: the brass box frame has darkened with age. There are no visible chips or cracks to the glass wafer. The paperolle design is intact with only a couple of missing paperolles. The wafer is not cracked and the painted image is bright and visible.
It is a fascinating work of religious art, which took patience and skill to create. It is an incredible intricate and fascinating work, captured within a shadowbox form.
Antique Italian Paperolle Reliquary Box with Hand Painted Medallion