This baldachin (also known as a baldaquin or baldachino) dates from the 19th century in France and most likely served as an enclosure for a saint's relic or religious statue in a church or chapel. The term "baldachin" means "canopy" and is derived from the Italian word "baldachino" which referred to the rich fabric of silk and gold brocade that was used to create canopies in church processions or otherwise used to call attention to whatever it enclosed. The ultimate derivation of the word is from Old Italian "Baldacco" referring to the city of Baghdad which was famous in the Middle Ages for its brocade fabrics used in canopies. As canopies became more permanent and were made of other materials, such as wood or metal, the term expanded to include them in their non-fabric forms as well. Some experts also refer to a wood or metal baldachin as an "ecclesiastical niche." Large examples of baldachins include that by Bernini over the main altar at St. Peters in Rome and The Albert Memorial in London's Hyde Park. Similar to the Albert Memorial, this baldachin is in the Gothic style but also incorporates Renaissance elements such as the basic structure of four rounded arches. It is made of solid walnut and chestnut and hand carved. The gracefully curved canopy structure is supported by four fluted columns, each with a different, intricately carved capital which has been gold-leafed. The four corners of the canopy are defined by spires atop windowed turrets in a decidedly Gothic revival style, crowned by three-dimensional fleur-de-lys. This exquisite design of the spires will be familiar to anyone who has visited the Royal Law Courts in London (designed by G.E. Street in 1868). Atop the canopy is a gold-leafed cross in the Celtic rather than the Roman style, which may signal the baldachin's source is Brittany, the region of France whose cultural heritage is tied to the Celtic peoples of the British Isles. Aldrich, Megan, Gothic Revival (Phaidon Press, London, 1994); Brooks, Chris, The Gothic Revival (Phaidon Press, London, 1999) This baldachin is ideal for displaying any number of items, including more traditional and religious ones as well as statues, figurines, manuscripts, ceramics, etc. Instead, and because of the grace and beauty possessed by the baldachin in its own right, the inner space can be left free and open to the viewer's imagination. For more information on this item and on French antiques, visit M. Markley Antiques on the Web -- the ultimate website for French Gothic Revival and Renaissance Revival furniture, including Henri II, Louis XIII, Louis XIV, Louis XV styles.
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