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A Hunting Party

  • Object:

    Mirror case

  • Place of origin:

    Cologne (or France, made)

  • Date:

    ca. 1320 (made)

  • Artist/Maker:


  • Materials and Techniques:

    Carved elephant ivory

  • Museum number:


  • Gallery location:

    Sculpture, Room 111, The Gilbert Bayes Gallery, case Dr 8

This is an ivory mirror back, made in Cologne or France, in about 1320, depicting a hunting party. During the 14th century specialist ivory sculptors carved both secular and religious objects in great numbers. Although Paris was the main centre of production, other workshops emerged in Italy and Germany. Some of the craftsmen may have been trained in Paris, since their work often combines French and local styles. Mirror cases and combs with scenes from the Romance tradition formed an essential part of the dressing case of a wealthy lady or gentleman.
Gothic ivory mirror backs survive in considerable numbers. The ivory cases themselves, usually between 8 and 14 cm in diameter, consisted of two paired ivory discs (described here as ‘mirror backs’), often with four crawling monsters or lions (or leaves) carved around the outer edge. These ornamental features would transform the circle into a square and make the opening of the case easier, although their vulnerability to breakage is now all too evident.
The majority of the ivory mirror cases and their leather boxes must have been purchased as expensive gifts, to be presented by the wealthy élite to their friends, family and lovers, and often as wedding presents. The subject matter of the mirror backs was almost exclusively secular.

Physical description

Carved ivory mirror case, depicting a hunting party with a knight and lady riding through a wood. The lady wears a hat with pointed brim, and the gentleman a jewelled fillet. He turns and rests his right hand on her shoulders while touching her chin, as if to turn her head towards him, with his left hand. Behind are two attendants, one holding a spear in his left hand; below a dog chases a rabbit. The rim is plain.

Place of Origin

Cologne (or France, made)


ca. 1320 (made)



Materials and Techniques

Carved elephant ivory


Height: 12.5 cm, Width: 12.1 cm

Object history note

In the possession of John Webb, London, by 1862 (London 1862, cat. no. 136); purchased from Webb in 1867, for £15.

Descriptive line

Mirror case, ivory, a hunting party, Lower Rhine (Cologne) or France, ca. 1320

Bibliographic References (Citation, Note/Abstract, NAL no)

Inventory of Art Objects acquired in the Year 1867. Inventory of the Objects in the Art Division of the Museum at South Kensington, arranged According to the Dates of their Acquisition. Vol. 1. London : Printed by George E. Eyre and William Spottiswoode for H.M.S.O., 1868, p. 8
Longhurst, Margaret H. Catalogue of Carvings in Ivory. London: Published under the Authority of the Board of Education, 1927-1929, Part II, p. 47
p. 85
Maskell, W., A Description of the Ivories Ancient and Medieval in the South Kensington Museum, London, 1872
Maskell, A., Ivories, London, 1905
I, pp. 376, 384, 385, 435, II, cat. no. 1034, III, pl. CLXXVIII
Koechlin, R., Les Ivoires gothiques français, 3 vols, Paris, 1924 (reprinted Paris 1968)
p. 209
Gaborit-Chopin, Danielle. Ivoires du Moyen Age. Fribourg, 1978
p. 124
Randall Jr., Richard H. The Golden Age of Ivory. Gothic Carvings in North American Collections, New York, 1993
part II, pp. 568-569
Williamson, Paul and Davies, Glyn, Medieval Ivory Carvings, 1200-1550, (in 2 parts), V&A Publishing, Victoria and Albert Museum, London, 2014
p. 492
Koechlin, R., 'Les Ivoires Gothiques', In: Michel, A., ed. Histoire de l'Art depuis les premiers temps chrétiens jusqu'à nos jours, II/1, Paris, 1906
Williamson, Paul and Davies, Glyn, Medieval Ivory Carvings, 1200-1550, (in 2 parts), V&A Publishing, Victoria and Albert Museum, London, 2014, part II, pp. 568-569, cat. no. 193





Subjects depicted

Knights (landholders); Forests; Dogs (animals); Hunting; Noblemen; Horses


Sport; Sculpture; Accessories


Sculpture Collection

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