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Eucharistic Dove, 1215-1235. Champlevé enamel, parcel gilt and engraved copper, circular base and hinged lid later. Photo: Courtesy of Sotheby’s.

POUGHKEEPSIE, NY.- 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. 

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Eucharistic Dove, 1215-1235. Champlevé enamel, parcel gilt and engraved copper, circular base and hinged lid later. Photo: Courtesy of Sotheby’s.

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.

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Eucharistic Dove, 1215-1235. Champlevé enamel, parcel gilt and engraved copper, circular base and hinged lid later. Photo: Courtesy of Sotheby’s.