Object type



Reliquary Bust of a Woman in a Divided Hennin

Place Associated

The Southern Netherlands (possibly) or southern Germany, Swabia (possibly) (place of manufacture)


1475 - 1500, or 19th century


wood, paint, gilt


overall: 239 mm x 213 mm x 113 mm 762 g


This bust of a female saint with her hair tucked up into a divided hennin headdress has lost its base and the cover for the possible relic at its core.

William Burrell bought this piece in 1935 from Maurice and Raphael Stora, who had it from Raoul Heilbronner. Nothing is presently known about its whereabouts prior to this.

Burrell compared the headdress to that of Isabeau of Bavaria, who died in 1435. He thought that the object was French. Later curators believed the item to be Flemish, probably based the visual arts of the Low Countries, such as drawings by Petrus Christus and paintings by Rogier van der Weyden and Quintin Matsys. More recently the suggestion has been made that this object may originate in southern Germany, specifically in Swabia. This attribution rests on a serious of objects with southern German provenance, or still in southern German churches today. They are a figure of a ‘Sibyl’ in the Suermondt Ludwig Museum, Aachen (Inv. SK 700, around 1485), Michael Erhart’s reliquary bust of St Mary Magdalene in the Ulm Museum (around 1475-1480), Joerg Syrlin’s ‘Cumaean Sibyl’ in Ulm Minster (around 1469-1474), and Erasmus Grasser’s Aresinger epitaph in the Church of St Peter, Munich. All show women with similarly designed divided hennins, Erhart and Syrlin reproducing only the upper part of the body. No closer comparison for 50.85 has been found. However, there are many reliquary busts in polychromed wood, a large number still in the large shrines made to house them, as in the busts in Church of St Nicholas in Babenhausen, Hessen, attributed to the School of Hans Backoffen and dated around 1446/1455. If authentic, this object may once have been at home in just such a shrine.

Concerns remain that this object may not be original, and that it was perhaps made in the 19th century. Further research is still required.

Credit Line/Donor

Gifted by Sir William and Lady Burrell to the City of Glasgow, 1944


Burrell Collection: Wood Carvings

ID Number



Burrell Collection

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