Hans Schwathe


Dom Museum Wien
On loan from the Donaustadt Parish, Vienna



On view

Reproduction request
Loan request

Photo: Leni Deinhardstein, Lisa Rastl, Dom Museum Wien
Next Object >

A monstrance for peace

This magnificent monstrance balances rigour and playfullness and is thus a typical example of Viennese Jugendstil and the Elisabeth Chapel, for which it was designed.

A tall angel is standing amid iridescent clouds of mother-of-pearl. He holds up above his head a broad sculptural wreath of vines and grapes, more precisely, the edge of the glazed round container enclosed by the wreath into which the transubstantiated Host is placed for adoration. The angel’s garment reaches down to his feet in long parallel folds. The tips of the magnificent wings stretch upward, too, paralleling the widely spread arms and eventually merging with the wreath. In his figural symmetry, the angel appears solemn and enraptured. Following the direction of the gaze of the heavenly messenger, a cross can be seen crowning the monstrance, decorated with precious stones which are suggestive of the wounds suffered by Jesus (gem cross).

The nude baby angels with their butterfly wings appear mischievous and playful by comparison: none of them looks like another. They hold on to the ornamental tendrils along the fringes of the wreath of vine foliage or entangle themselves in their loops and slings, some of them hold grapes in their arms or laps. This brings some asymmetry to the monstrance—a characteristic of Jugendstil art.
The central part with its lush floral design is surrounded by a delicate halo of rays composed of basic geometrical shapes.

The wreath of praise held up by the angel is for Jesus, addressed as Lord of peace in the inscription on the base. Pax (peace) also is the central theme of the whole Emperor Francis Joseph Jubilee Church on Mexikoplatz, where the piece comes from. The motif of the angels holding up devotional wreaths in adoration of the Holy Cross is already prefigured on gold mosaic ground in the Elisabeth Chapel, a central-plan annex to the main church that was built to commemorate the tragic death of the Empress and is a jewel of Viennese Jugendstil.