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A bishop between donors

  • Object:


  • Place of origin:

    France (North; possibly Amiens, made)

  • Date:

    ca. 1250 (made)

  • Artist/Maker:


  • Materials and Techniques:

    Carved elephant ivory

  • Museum number:


  • Gallery location:

    Sculpture, Room 111, The Gilbert Bayes Gallery, case DR8

During the 14th century specialist ivory craftsmen 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 as their work often combines French and local styles.
The Gothic Triptych was to all intents and purposes a sub-branch of the tabernacle polyptych, with a shallower central panel and two, rather than four, hinged wings. The subject matter was the same, dominated by single images of the standing Virgin and Child and scenes from the infancy of Christ. Triptychs – like diptychs – are better suited to the needs of a travelling clientele, who would wish to take these small portable altars with them as aids to prayer. Some of them were intended to be carried in cases, usually of cuir bouilli (boiled leather).

Physical description

Carved ivory centre panel from a triptych. A bishop (dressed in mitre and chasuble and with gloves and maniple) in the act of benediction is depicted beneath a trefoil arch supported on slender columns and surmounted by elaborate architecture representing the roof of a church. Two small figures, a man and woman, kneel on either side, their hands clasped together in prayer: a bare-headed man on the left and a woman with barbette and filet on the right.

Place of Origin

France (North; possibly Amiens, made)


ca. 1250 (made)



Materials and Techniques

Carved elephant ivory


Height: 11.3 cm at centre, Width: 8.4 cm at base, Depth: 2.1 cm at centre, Depth: 1.2 cm at sides

Object history note

In the possession of John Webb, London by 1862; puchased from the Webb Collection in 1867 (£10).

Descriptive line

Panel, carved ivory, from a triptych, depicting a bishop between two kneeling donors, Northern France (possibly Amiens), about 1250

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

Longhurst, Margaret H. Catalogue of Carvings in Ivory. London: Published under the Authority of the Board of Education, 1927-1929, Part II, p. 9
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. 11
Giusi, Paola. Una Madonna in Avorio nel Museo Duca di Martina. Bollettino d'Arte. 76, 1982. Ser 6, 14, pp. 77-86, fig. 7
Natanson, Joseph. Gothic Ivories of the 13th and 14th Centirues. London: A. Tiranti, 1951, pp. 16, 33, pl. 14
p. 112
Maskell, W., A Description of the Ivories Ancient and Medieval in the South Kensington Museum, London, 1872
I, p. 65, II, cat. no. 30, III, pl. XI
Koechlin, R., Les Ivoires gothiques français, 3 vols, Paris, 1924 (reprinted Paris 1968)
part 1, pp. 164-5
Williamson, Paul and Davies, Glyn, Medieval Ivory Carvings, 1200-1550, (in 2 parts), V&A Publishing, Victoria and Albert Museum, London, 2014
Williamson, Paul and Davies, Glyn, Medieval Ivory Carvings, 1200-1550, (in 2 parts), V&A Publishing, Victoria and Albert Museum, London, 2014, part 1, pp. 164-5, cat. no. 50





Subjects depicted

Prayer; Columns (architectural elements); Arches; Bishops (prelates); Churches; Mitres; Crozier; Devotion


Christianity; Sculpture; Religion


Sculpture Collection

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