June 15, 2010

The Bemposta Monstrance

A Lisbon museum that anyone with any appreciation of art and crafts must visit is the National Museum of Ancient Art, (Museu Nacional de Arte Antiga) on the Rua das Janelas Verdes.

The range of art on display in the museum is very wide, covering not only paintings, but ceramics, textiles, furniture, and metalwork.



One highlight of the metalwork on display is the famous Bemposta Monstrance of Belem. This amazing 97cm high incarnation of opulent ornateness was created in Portugal in the 18th century, about 1775–80, by Adam Gottlieb Pollet from silver-gilt, diamonds, rubies, topazes, emeralds, sapphires, rock crystals and amythests - mostly from the treasure trove that was Brazil.

The unquestioned authority of a Church with as much wealth, power (and time) on its hands to create something as uncompromisingly majestic as this is almost as impressive as the object itself. And of course, viewing it somewhat in isolation as you do in the Museum you can almost forget that when in use it was just another element in an institution in which that opulence extended in every direction.

Oh come all ye faithless!

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