The very thick wooden box has an unusually deep (1 1/2") center "window. This window serves to present the incredibly intricate paperolles in a magnificent fashion. Found in Normandy, France, it dates towards 1850 (era of Napoleon III). The convent work is magnificent; with the use of donated fabrics, glass stones and trims. (Wealthy patrons donated unwanted clothing to the monasteries and convents which were then cut apart and used to make reliquaries and vestments).
The white oak box is made from two pieces; an deep oval "bowl" which is attached to a wide frame. The attachment is made with many cut pieces of paper which have been decoupaged onto the wood. This has formed a strong attachment. The papers have been painted black as has the wooden frame. The frame has a beveled edge around the window opening and the outer frame. The inner window molding (1/4" wide) is gilded and you can see the tiny nails which served to attach it. The window glass is thick.
The paperolle design features a large central cross made of a textured fabric trim. There is a cross made of wood strips at the center. Four flowers (set with glass stones and white beads) surround the cross. The papers of the design have gilded edges. They are very tightly rolled in an extremely intricate design. A central square frame surrounds the cross, adorned by four brilliant clear glass stones, deep purple amethyst stones, two clear amethyst stones and two deep blue sapphire glass stones. The surrounding paperolle design fills the entire field, accented by clear, emerald, turquoise and topaz colored stones.
There is a rolled printed silk scroll at the left and a flax wrapped reliquary (with manuscript name) at the right.
The inner sides are lined with red silk with a fluted paper border at the center. There is one metal hanging ring on the right (the one on the left has not survived with the box). The box measures: 8 1/2" x 6 3/4" and 2" deep (including frame). The window measures: 6 3/4" x 5 1/4". It is in very good antique condition: the design is solid and complete, the glass shows no chips or cracks, the wooden box is solid. The paper on the back edge is peeling up slightly as is expected with age and use.
It is one of the most unusual and fantastic paperolle reliquaries that we have found to date. The large size and quality of the glass stones, the master work of the paperolle design and the incredible wooden box combine together to make an impressive, unique and rare example of religious art.
RARE and Magnificent French Convent Work Bejeweled Paperolle Reliquary Box