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Byzantine Bronze Censer Decorated with Scenes from the New Testament - X.0028
Origin: Palestine, Bethlehem
Circa: 400 AD to 700 AD
Dimensions: 27" (68.6cm) high
Collection: Byzantine
Style: Byzantine
Medium: Bronze

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The scenes from the life of Christ that decorate this bronze censer are cast in high relief. The flaring base is engraved with floral patterns, the bottom has an elaborate cross, and the neck is engraved with a vine scroll pattern. There are six projections from the rim; three are small rounded knobs while the other three are larger and pierced for suspension chains that are still intact, although they have been reconnected. These chains are composed of openwork elements, three rectangular, one circular, and another two rectangular. Above is a stellar ornament which is connected to an elaborate hook surmounted by a bird. The scenes around the body include the Annunciation, with Mary and the angel; the Nativity, with the Christ Child in a high manger; the Baptism, with John the Baptist; the Crucifixion, with two kneeling figures below the crossbar; and the Women at the Sepulcher, with the tomb flanked by an angel and one of the Marys. We can imagine a Byzantine high priest walking down the central isle of a nave, swinging this magnificent censer in his hand, the smoke from the burning incense billowing forth, filling the air with sweet fragrance. Considering the opulent luxury of this work, we can safely assume that it played a central role in Byzantine religious ceremonies. Surely it would not seem out of place even in the Hagia Sofia. - (X.0028)

 

 

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