A Renaissance Tabernacle Front

Mid-Italian | Probably Tuscany or the Florence region
Renaissance | Second quarter of the 16th Century | Dated ‘1537

Inscribed and dated ‘+ 1537 . IACOBVS . CABVS . IERONIMVS . CAZS‘ on the top
Marble | On later black metal stand
H. 56 cm. | W. 48 cm. (excluding stand)


Private collection, Italy;
With Galleria d’Arte San Francesco, Assisi, Italy, by 2003;
Private collection, Wassenaar, The Netherlands;
Sale Sotheby’s, London, European Sculpture and Works of Art, Medieval to Modern, 6 December 2011, lot 25;
Private collection

Rapetti, Caterina (1998). Storie di marmo: Sculture del Rinascimento fra Liguria e Toscana. Milano: Electa, pp. 237-239, ill. 274, 275, 276, cat.nr. 94-96


Tabernacles are used to house the consecrated Eucharist. Their distinctly architectural form – taken almost to the point of abstraction in this particular example – is due to their association with the Old Testament tabernacle: the locus of God’s presence among the Jewish people of which the description provided the model for many early synagogues. The present front would have been embedded in a wall or part of a free-standing structure. The space in its centre, once covered by a bronze door, gave access to a depot in which the Eucharist was stored. The object resembles a temple front with two decorated pilasters flanking a recessed doorway. The Annunciation on either side and Holy Spirit above refer to the Immaculate Conception and presence of the Body of Christ.

A number of similar architectural taberbacles were carved in and around Florence in the 15th century. See for example Mino da Fiesole’s tabernacle in the Church of S. Croce, of which a cast is kept in the collection of the Victoria & Albert Museum, London (inv. no. REPRO.1886-190). For the general form and decorative scheme, compare the tabernacle from the church of Santa Chiara, Florence in the Victoria & Albert Museum (inv. no. 7720&A-1861) as well as simpler designs illustrated in Rapetti (op. cit., nr. 94, 95 and 96).