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The Klosterneuburg goldsmithery work of Nicholas of Verdun ("Verdun Altarpiece")


  • Project duration : 2022 – 2023
  • Project leader : Dr. Heike Schlie, IMAREAL, Krems/ University of Salzburg
  • Cooperation partners : Mag. Wolfgang Christian Huber, Klosterneuburg Abbey; Prof. Dr. Manfred Schreiner, ISTA, Akademie der Künste; Frank Willer, Rheinisches Landesmuseum Bonn; Dr. Marina Westkamp, Bonn; Mag. Christoph Tinzl, Federal Monuments Office
  • Funding : Land Niederösterreich

Two-stage project on the Klosterneuburg goldsmithery work of Nicholas of Verdun ("Verdun Altarpiece")

Material-technological investigation and conference

The project on the Klosterneuburg goldsmithery work ("Verdun Altarpiece") consists of two stages. In the fall of 2022, material-technological investigations have been carried out, which should provide information about the two medieval states of the work as well as the workshop practice of Nicholas of Verdun. From May 11-13, 2023, a conference will take place as the second stage, at which the material-technological results will be discussed, on the one hand, in the context of current research on the goldsmithery art of the 12th and 13th centuries and, on the other hand, in the context of the media, cultural and art-historical questions concerning the goldsmithery work of Nicholas of Verdun.

Stage 1: Material-technological investigation (autumn 2022)

The goldsmithery work of Nicholas of Verdun in Klosterneuburg Abbey (1181), which today consists of 944 fire-gilded and largely enameled copper plates, is one of the central testimonies of medieval European metal art and one of the most important medieval works of Austrian cultural heritage. The goldsmithery plaques, mounted on alternating wooden supports, first furnished a reading stage in 1181 and, after being converted into a reredos, served as an altarpiece in the church of the Augustinian Canons’ Monastery from 1331. The goldsmithery work from 1181 (with the additions and in the layout of 1331) has been preserved on a triptych wooden support from 1950, which is placed in the Leopold’s Chapel and is still in liturgical use. The 1331 triptych, with the earliest surviving Austrian panel paintings on the former reverse side and the (now empty) compartments for the goldsmithery plaques, is now in the Abbey Museum.
Thus, two objects are preserved that contain a large part of the substance of both medieval works, but are not identical with them. In order to be able to evaluate the composition of the individual plaques of the goldsmithery work, material-technological investigations of the copper and the enamel are required. With X-ray fluroscence analysis, eddy current measurements and a few drill chip samples, non-invasive, non-contact or low-contact as well as minimally invasive methods have been applied. The evaluation of the investigations aims to provide information about the genesis of the work, workshop contexts, the origin and composition of the materials, as well as the material-technological expertise of the artists themselves.

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