A Wonderful Iron Lamb

A Wonderful Iron Lamb

A wonderful iron lamb, which was probably made to be shown as an Agnus Dei, the important Eucharistic symbol: pursuant to the Gospel of John (“Behold the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world”, John  1,29), this emblem was employed to indicate Christ and his sacrifice, since Christianity origin, and still today in the Catholic liturgy the lamb is associated with All Saints Day and St.John’s vision of “a great multitude standing before the throne and before the Lamb”.

The detailed description of the animal, as can be seen in the analytical treatment of the hair, made through the embossing of thin sheets of iron and in the traces of gilding are all clues indicating the importance of this very fine object.

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To understand the significance of this symbol in the Northern European liturgy we can admire a depiction of it in the famous, and recently restored, Adoration of the Mystic Lamb (or Ghent Altarpiece), painted by Jan van Eyck between 1426 and 1432, where a Lamb stands on an altar with a wound on its breast from which blood gushes into a golden chalice. On the altar appears the inscription “ECCE AGNUS DEI QUI TOLLIT PECCATA MUNDI”, which clarifys its meaning.

Wrought and embossed iron with traces of gilding
Northern Europe
Late 16th – early 17th century
Cm 43 x 12 x 33h


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