The Frances Lehman Loeb Art Center at Vassar College announces its acquisition of a 13th century Limoges Eucharistic Dove.
The piece is exquisite, featuring Champlevé enamel, parcel gilt and engraved copper on a circular base. The purpose of a Eucharistic Dove was to hang above the altar both suggesting the dove of the Holy Spirit and, in fact, housing the consecrated wafer symbolic of the body of Christ in the Catholic Mass in a small compartment.
“This beautiful object is a perfect marriage of medieval form and function, the dove both embodying the symbolic earthly form of the Holy Spirit and the symbolic body of Christ at the same time,” says James Mundy, the Anne Hendricks Bass Director of the Art Center. “The dove will be of considerable use in the teaching of the history of art, medieval history and the history of religion.”
The dove is also an important addition to the Art Center’s collection. “This work provides us with a fine piece of medieval enamel,” says Mundy. “It’s also a rare object,” he says, noting that such pieces are rarely on the auction market. The Art Center acquired the dove from Sotheby’s earlier this year.
Almost all of the Limoges enamel Eucharistic doves were produced between 1215 and 1235 in France. This dove can be traced back to the Frédéric Spitzer Collection in Paris in the late nineteenth century. It was illustrated in the three-volume auction sale catalogue of his collection in 1893. These doves are extremely rare; only five other public collections in the United States have any: the Metropolitan Museum of Art, Boston Museum of Fine Art, National Gallery, Walters Art Museum, and Denver Art Museum. Worldwide, there are only about forty surviving examples.
“As medieval sacred objects go, it would be difficult to think of one more important than this,” enthuses Andrew Tallon, Associate Professor of Art. “Such objects are extremely rare, found only in the collections of the greatest museums—such as the Met, Louvre or the Musée de Cluny. Having this Eucharistic Dove in the collection of the Art Center anchors the medieval and Renaissance gallery, already augmented by the presence of works on loan from the Met and the Cloisters, as a mandatory stop on the world map of medieval collections for connoisseur and amateur alike.”
The dove will be on view beginning in March.
About the Frances Lehman Loeb Art Center
The Frances Lehman Loeb Art Center was founded in 1864 as the Vassar College Art Gallery. The current 36,400-square-foot facility, designed by Cesar Pelli and named in honor of the new building's primary donor, opened in 1993. Vassar was the first U.S. college founded with a permanent art collection and gallery, and at any given time, the Permanent Collection Galleries of the Art Center feature approximately 350 works from Vassar's extensive collections. The Art Center's collections chart the history of art from antiquity to the present and comprise over 20,000 works, including paintings, sculptures, drawings, prints, photographs, and glass and ceramic wares. Notable holdings include the Warburg Collection of Old Master prints, an important group of Hudson River School paintings given by Matthew Vassar at the college's inception, and a wide range of works by major European and American 20th-century painters.
Admission to the Frances Lehman Loeb Art Center is free and all galleries are wheelchair accessible. The Art Center is open to the public Tuesday, Wednesday, Friday, Saturday, 10:00am–5:00pm; Thursday, 10:00am–9:00pm; and Sunday, 1:00–5:00pm. Located at the entrance to the historic Vassar College campus, the Art Center can be reached within minutes from other Mid-Hudson cultural attractions, such as Dia:Beacon, the Franklin Roosevelt and Eleanor Roosevelt national historic sites and homes, and the Vanderbilt mansion. For additional information, the public may call (845) 437-5632 or visit fllac.vassar.edu.
Directions to the Vassar campus, located at 124 Raymond Avenue in Poughkeepsie, NY, are available at www.vassar.edu/directions.Vassar College is a highly selective, coeducational, independent, residential liberal arts college founded in 1861.