The present lot, with its double transverse arms, is an extremely rare example of a patriarchal cross. Generally assumed to have its origins in the Byzantine empire, the patriarchal cross seems to have come to Europe when Bela III of Hungary incorporated it into his coat of arms in the late 12th century. It would later be adopted by the Dukes of Lorraine, who had ancestral claims to Hungary, in the 15th century, so it is sometimes also referred to as a cross of Lorraine.
As Thoby notes (loc. cit.), most of the Limoges patriarchal crosses are decorated with sheets of repoussé metal and cabochons, and are intended to house relics of the True Cross. An example of this type is in the Metropolitan Museum in New York (accession number 2002.18). Enamel examples such as the present lot are much rarer and the closest known example to the present lot was formerly in the Chalandon collection (see Thoby, op. cit., no 113) but was later stolen (Arminjon, op. cit., p. 95). It would appear to have come from the same workshop as the present example but retained two sides. The proportions are virtually identical to the cross offered here and both have the same straight borders and dark blue ground interspersed with rosettes. One side of the Chalandon cross appears to have had a figure of the Crucified Christ in relief which was lost, and both sides included roundels containing half-length figures of saints or angels with only the heads in relief as with the present example.
The engraving of the cross offered here is extremely fine and in terms of the figural type Christ is comparable to other examples generally dated to the very end of the 12th century. The Christ depicted on a cross in the Musée de Cluny for example – although enamelled and not in relief – shows Christ uncrowned and with the head tilted to the proper right shoulder, his hair coming forward over the shoulders, the hands slightly upraised, with prominent ribs and slightly distended stomach and the perizonium tied in a knot on the left hip (illustrated in Gauthier, op. cit., pl. CCXVI). It is dated to circa 1185-1195 and the present cross must date from approximately the same period.