Italian, Grille, ca.1130-1300, Iron, Gift of John D. Rockefeller Jr. 38.018
Finely wrought grilles, which first appeared as church furnishings in the early 12th century, were used to screen off side chapels, reliquaries, and tombs. A hinge-like segment that is welded to the top left corner of this grille indicates that it functioned as a gate connected to a larger enclosure. The intricate pattern, which suggests a Tree of Life, would have been formed by a blacksmith using a chisel to cut slivers from the sides of square-sectioned iron rods, then bending them back in several turns to form scrolls. Attached to individual stems along with smaller tendrils, pairs of scrolls were collared to one another and used to fill the rectangular format of the grille.