This casket is probably the earliest, largest and finest example of Limoges enamel depicting Becket's martyrdom.
The Becket Casket by Unknown Artist, c. 1180
© V&A Picture Library
- Gilt-copper, rock crystal, enamel, oak
- 30.5 x 29.9 x 11.4 cm
- Art Fund grant:
- £100,000 ( Total: £4,286,038)
- Acquired in:
Thomas Becket was murdered by four knights in the service of King Henry II who broke into Canterbury Cathedral in 1170. The murder is shown on the front, which also portrays the haloed soul of the saint being carried away above the altar. The sloping roof depicts the burial of the saint and the ascent of his haloed body to heaven. The back of the casket depicts four saints or cardinal virtues, and on one side Christ in Majesty is seated on a rainbow. The casket was possibly made to contain relics of the saint. The casket was acquired for the nation after a vigorous campaign in which the Art Fund played a crucial role.
Private collection, St.Neots; Robert Pulleyn of St. Neots; Sir J.Cotton; Dr.W.Stukeley; Gustavus Brander; Thomas Astle; by descent to Major H. Chase- Meredith; Daguerre, Paris; Charles Ratton, Paris; British Rail Pension Fund.