Votive Tabernacle Shrine

Votive Tabernacle Shrine

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A tabernacle is a religious structure or shrine where one can place offerings such as a monetary donation or a symbolic gesture for a wish or as thanks for an answered prayer.
This tabernacle shrine is a concave wooden form in the shape of an arch with rounded cusps and foils. The back of the wooden form is rough and looks as if it was meant be set into a niche. Two sheets of thin brass are molded and nailed to the top of the wooden form ending about two inches from the base. Inset into the arch at the top is a large repousse baroque shell. Below the shell is an apothecary cabinet created by a stamping technique, possibly repousse silver over brass.
The miniature apothecary has three sections of cabinets. The center cabinet protrudes (3 1/4") slightly. The cabinets are made of silver over brass with two round columns in the center. Apothecary jars sit on three rows of cabinets and four shelves. A decorative gallery extends across all three sections of the apothecary.
In the center of the tabernacle is the figure of Christ on the Cross made of molded silver over brass. Above the figure is a plaque engraved with the Latin initials "INRI", for Iesus Nazarenus Rex iudaeorum, in English, Jesus of Nazareth, King of the Jews.
The nails that secure the shrine to the wooden “frame” appear to be modern, probably late 19th-century, suggesting the shrine was placed in the “frame” to keep it stable before being sold to collector Jo Mayer. There are no square holes in the wood which would indicate older nails.
George Urdang and F. W. Nitardy described the shrine in "The Squibb Ancient Pharmacy Catalogue", as a “votive tabernacle shrine in the form of an ancient pharmacy... made in the moderate-baroque style of the middle 18th century.... The tabernacle was a gift from a grateful patient to a Bavarian cloister pharmacy. It is said to be the work of gold and silversmiths of Augsburg...” After close inspection, the gold colored metal appears to be brass, although the metalsmith did use silver over brass for the cabinets and apothecary jars.
It is interesting to note, in his article, “Rarities and Antiques in the Collection of Jo Mayer,” Ferchl writes that the shrine was procured "through various channels of the art trade into the haven of the Wiesbaden collection." Though obscure, this is the only reference found to date indicating how any of Mayer's collection were acquired.
Currently not on view
Object Name
date made
18th century
place made
Physical Description
wood (overall material)
brass (overall material)
silver (overall material)
paint (overall material)
overall: 64.7 cm x 33.5 cm x 17.5 cm; 25 1/2 in x 13 3/16 in x 6 7/8 in
ID Number
accession number
catalog number
collector/donor number
SAP 976
catalog number
Credit Line
Gift of American Pharmaceutical Association and Bristol-Myers Squibb Company
See more items in
Medicine and Science: Medicine
Health & Medicine
European Apothecary
Data Source
National Museum of American History
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