Root-of-Jesse Monstrance
Root-of-Jesse Monstrance
Root-of-Jesse Monstrance
Root-of-Jesse Monstrance
Root-of-Jesse Monstrance
Root-of-Jesse Monstrance
Root-of-Jesse Monstrance

Master: Jakob Schlager (Schläger, Schlöger); Lunula: Franz Pawlas
c.1630

Material
Silver

Collection
Dom Museum Wien
On loan from the Pottenstein an der Triesting Parish, Lower Austria

Inv.Nr.
L/231

Silver
Monstrance
Baroque

On view

Query
Reproduction request
Loan request

Photo: Leni Deinhardstein, Lisa Rastl, Dom Museum Wien
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Root-of-Jesse Monstrance

The Root-of-Jesse Monstrance shows Christs human lineage as well as his divine nature. According to this topic, highest skill and precious materials were used for its realization.

The prophet Isaiah from the Old Testament announced that Messiah the Redeemer would be a branch from Jesse (Isiah 11:1–10). This biblical passage provides the basis for the pictorial motif of “The Root of Jesse,” a staple of art history ever since the Middle Ages that was executed in relief, in sculpture, in fresco, or like here as an elaborate piece of goldsmithery in the shape of a monstrance. The base of the piece in the Dom Museum in Vienna shows the figure of Jesse sleeping under a tree. His head is propped up on his right hand, and his left arm rests slung around the smooth trunk that grows right out of his torso. Jesse literally is the root of Jesus’s family tree: seen on the outer branches are twelve round medallions of vine tendrils showing portraits of the ancestors of Christ. These were twelve Jewish kings growing on the tree like fruits, starting at the left bottom with the son of Jesse, David, king of Israel, identifiable by his harp. This genealogy that traces Jesus back to his roots in God’s chosen people, the Israelites, was supposed to legitimize his status as the awaited Messiah.

So while the above speaks of Jesus’s human lineage, the central axis points to his descent “from above,” his divine nature. The top element is, as was customary with Baroque monstrances, a cross adorned with gemstones. Below it, there are three medallions that show a pigeon as the symbol of the Holy Spirit, God the Father, and a Pietà, that is, Mary holding in her lap the dead body of her son. Below that, an oval window marks the formal and liturgical center of the monstrance, the container in which, in the Catholic church, the consecrated Host is presented for adoration on festive occasions. The central medallions are flanked by so-called “angel guards,” who, after the model of the Byzantine court ceremonial, signify the imperial dignity of those represented.

Laborious and refined metalworking techniques were used in the design. The finish of the precious materials, worked over a soft support with chisels and punches, with its elaborate details adds to the ornate character of the monstrance.