My reliquary “The Pardoner” is inspired by the two reliquaries I saw in the V&A collection. My tutor recommended I move away from my more geometric work and suggested working from life. The reliquaries in the V&A, in particular, the hand gave me the idea of working with body parts so I began work on a forged steel skeletal hand. Having recently re read Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales, I decided to create a 21st century reliquary combining both narrative in the re-telling of the Chaucerian tale “The Pardoner”, and an updated presentation of “The Reliquary”.
I have replaced the gold and silver ornament of the relics in the collection with laser cut stainless steel and high-quality scientific glass. The stainless steel mount in part mimics the support structure of the cylindrical relic holder in the V&A collection. The glass vessel which contains the relic is filled with glycerine which magnifies and distorts the contents adding to the drama of the work. The jar is securely bolted within the stainless steel structure and has lead seals and an etched aluminium bar code label, which could indicate that it is part of a valued collection – a kind of bizarre forensic archaeological archive.
The rubber bung alludes to the possible use of the contents as an “Elixir”. The Pardoner like the American carpetbaggers of the old west was a charlatan who sold fake relics to unsuspecting sinners. My sculpture presents his hand-perhaps severed by the disgruntled recipient of the chicken bone still held twixt finger and thumb. The authenticity of the relic is, of course, debatable, but the presentation of the piece, the quality of the materials used, and the finish lends it status and some credibility.
V&A collection reference number(s):