Above, from left to right: Detail from a fifteenth-century panel of The Nativity that shows the Emperor Augustus censing an apparition of the Virgin and Child; cover of a gilded copper censer in The Cloisters Collection (1979.285); Detail from Panel with Censing Angels, on display in the Treasury at The Cloisters.
The ceremonial use of incense in devotions and rites of purification is common to many religious traditions and dates back to antiquity. (The incense trade was of great economic importance.) While some animal substances such as ambergris and musk are used, most incenses are of botanical origin. Read more »