John the Baptist’s Tooth is in Baltimore

John the Baptist's tooth, the arm of Saint George and the head of Saint Sebastian are currently at the Walters Art Museum in Baltimore as part of "Treasures of Heaven: Saints, Relics and Devotion in Medieval Europe," a rich exhibition on view until May 15 that brings together 130 golden sculptures, jewel-encrusted and enameled boxes and crosses, paintings and illuminated manuscripts.

Would you believe that John the Baptist’s tooth (see image below), the arm of Saint George and the head of Saint Sebastian are currently in Baltimore?

Arm Reliquary of the Apostles, German (Lower Saxony), ca. 1190, Silver gilt over oak, champlevé enamel, 51 x 14 x 9.2 cm, The Cleveland Museum of Art
Arm Reliquary of the Apostles, German (Lower Saxony), ca. 1190, Silver gilt over oak, champlevé enamel, 51 x 14 x 9.2 cm, The Cleveland Museum of Art.

Right. We don’t quite believe it, either.

But such grisly relics are being touted as part of a stunningly rich exhibition at the Walters Art Museum that brings together tantalizing mementos of Christian saints and holy persons – either their supposed body parts or items associated with their lives. The wall labels don’t doubt their authenticity, but it’s not the actual or alleged relics that matter so much as their containers and the art that embellishes them: the 130 golden sculptures, jewel-encrusted and enameled boxes and crosses, paintings and illuminated manuscripts that make up “Treasures of Heaven: Saints, Relics and Devotion in Medieval Europe,” on view until May 15.

My review is in The Washington Post.

Jason Edward Kaufman

Reliquary with the Tooth of St. John the Baptist, German (Lower Saxony), rock crystal vessel: Egyptian (Fatimid), reliquary: 1375/1400; vessel: 10th or 11th century, silver gilt, rock crystal, 45.5 × 14.6 cm, The Art Institute of Chicago.
Reliquary with the Tooth of St. John the Baptist, German (Lower Saxony), rock crystal vessel: Egyptian (Fatimid), reliquary: 1375/1400; vessel: 10th or 11th century, silver gilt, rock crystal, 45.5 × 14.6 cm, The Art Institute of Chicago.

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Jason Edward Kaufman is an art historian and critic with expertise in museums and the international art world.

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