"Souvenirs" of the Church of the Holy Sepulcher in Jerusalem, a particularly holy place for Christians since the end of the Roman Empire, were highly sought after.
Bethlehem, second half of the 17th century, model of the Church of the Holy Sepulcher, olivewood, boxwood, mother of pearl, ivory and bone, 22 x 41 x 35 cm/8.66 x 16.14 x 13.78 in.
The Louvre Museum preempted this extraordinary model of the Church of the Holy Sepulcher for €80,600. Christians believe that the site encompasses Golgotha, where Jesus was crucified, his tomb and the Stone of the Unction. No wonder it was visited by all the pilgrims to the Holy Land. A thriving trade in luxury models of the church made by Bethlehem craftsmen emerged to meet demand from wealthy Catholics and Orthodox Christians. All of them date from the 17th and 18th centuries. They feature bone and mother-of-pearl marquetry, a tradition in the Near East, combined with olivewood. The fleurs-de-lys decoration suggests that this one may have been made for a high-ranking Frenchman. It came with a model of the Calvary Chapel that was part of the same lot. Belonging to a group of 30 similar identified items, the set remained in the same family since its acquisition in the early 18th century. It will join the Louvre’s Department of the Arts of Byzantium and Eastern Christianity, set to open in 2026.