Vase de cristal “d’Aliénor”
Provient du trésor de l’abbaye de Saint-Denis
Cristal : Iran ?, VIe - VIIe siècle ?
Monture : Saint-Denis, avant 1147 ; XIIIe et XIVe siècles
Cristal de roche, argent niellé et doré, pierres pécieuses, perles, émaux champlevés sur argent
Inscription : “+ HOC VAS SPONSA DEDIT A(lie)NOR REGI LUDOVICO MITADOL(us) AVO MIHI REX S(an)C(tis)Q(ue) SUGER (ius)”. (ce vase, Aliénor, son épouse, l’a donné au roi Louis, Mitadolus à son aïeul, le roi à moi, Suger, qui l’ai offert aux saints). (this vase, Alienor, his wife, gave it to King Louis; Mitalodius to his ancestor; the King to myself, Suger, who then offered it to the Saints)
The treasury of the abbey of Saint-Denis
Suger, abbot of Saint-Denis from 1122 to 1151 and adviser to Louis VI ad Louis VII, made Saint Denis “special patron of the king and protector of the kingdom.” He began rebuilding his abbey, adding superb stained-glass windows and precious objects. His plan to enrich and embellish the building was based on the Neoplatonic notion that sumptuous and precious objects help people to transcend the material and come closer to the immaterial. The objectsin the treasury are known thanks to the engravings of Félibien, the writings of Blaise de Montesquiou-Fezensac, and the inventory carried out in 1634. Only four of the decorated vases commissioned by Suger survive, one in the National Gallery in Washington, D.C., the other three in the Louvre. The “Eleanor” vase was given to Suger by Louis VII. Louis had been given the vase as a gift by his wife, Eleanor of Aquitaine, who had inherited it from her grandfather, William IX of Aquitaine. Suger decided to make an offering of it to the holy martyrs. These successive donations are mentioned in the inscription on its foot and in a text by Suger entitled De administratione.
A Sasanian rock crystal vase
The pear-shaped body of the vase is topped by a neck two centimeters long, hidden by the setting. The vase was in perfect condition until the 18th century, but has since been cracked and chipped. The whole body is carved with a honeycomb pattern formed by twenty-two or twenty-three rows of small hollowed-out hexagons. A similar pattern is found on a blood jasper vase in the collection of Louis XIV’s grandson (now in the Prado, Madrid). The honeycombed pattern is also found in Roman gold and silverware and glassware, from where it spread to influence Sasanian, Islamic, and even Byzantine glassware. The “Eleanor” vase could well date from the Sasanian (6th or 7th century) or post-Sasanian (9th or 10th century) era.
A filigree mount
The mount is made of gilded silver. The base is divided into four separate bands, consisting of, from the bottom up: an inscription in niello; filigree set with precious stones; decoration with fleurons and filigree work; and finally, a smooth, plain surface. The neck is likewise formed of different strips, bulbous or cylindrical, smooth or decorated with filigree and precious stones. The latter are set simply in bezels with milled edges. On the base, the precious stones alternate with pearls. The filigree work around the stones is unusually large with prominent beading, forming compact areas within a smooth, shiny background. Similar filigree work is found on the other vases made for Suger, particularly the chalice now in the National Gallery in Washington, D.C., and the sardonyx ewer (MR 127). This style of filigree was probably influenced by Ottonian and Byzantine pieces. It was probably made in a local workshop by goldsmiths working for the king or the monastery.