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The Virgin and Child and the Crucifixion

  • Object:

    Diptych

  • Place of origin:

    Paris (made)

  • Date:

    ca. 1340 (made)

  • Artist/Maker:

    Unknown

  • Materials and Techniques:

    Carved elephant ivory

  • Museum number:

    292-1867

  • Gallery location:

    Sculpture, Room 111, The Gilbert Bayes Gallery, case DR9

This is an ivory diptych made in Paris in France about 1340. On the left leaf the Virgin, crowned by two flying angels, stands holding the Child, attended by two angels bearing candlesticks. On the right leaf is the Crucifixion. The present diptych can be grouped with two others (V&A Mus. no. 294-1867) and one in the Courtauld institute. They share a number of unusual characteristics, in particular the carefully delineated morses worn by the candle-bearing angels and their lack of wings.

The devotional diptych is in many ways the object type most associated with the notion of Gothic ivory carving. The earliest examples probably date to the 1240s; these are complex, large and ambitious works that emerged, somewhat surprisingly, with no obvious precursors. The owners of ivory diptychs sometimes appear within their images. Such portraits indicate that they were special requests on the part of their commissioners, and they parallel the similar figures that appear in manuscripts and panel paintings of the period. The iconography of Gothic diptychs oscillated between two poles. The first of which is the desire to present narratives (Life of Christ and Virgin Mary) for envisaging. The second was the use of non-narrative images to form the focus of devotion.

Physical description

Ivory diptych carved in high relief. Both leaves depict a single scene, beneath a trefoil arch, supported on corbels and surmounted by a simple roll moulding and small gable, the tympanum of which is pierced with a small trefoil oculus. The gable is topped with large foliate crockets and finials, and each leaf bears a simple moulding along the upper edge of the frame.

On the left leaf the Virgin, crowned by two flying angels, stands holding the Child, attended by two angels bearing candlesticks. The Christ-Child reaches towards his mother’s veil, while above, two angels emerge from behind the arch to place a crown upon her head. In the spaces above the gable two three-quarter length angels swing censers with their right hands while holding incense boats in their left. On the right leaf is the Crucifixion with two weeping angels, the Virgin, two Maries, St. John and two Jews. To the left stands a group of three women; at the front, the Virgin swoons, and is supported from behind by the two Maries. To the right St. John the Evangelist stands grieving, his hand clasped in prayer, while the two Jews are shown behind in conversation; one holds a speech scroll and the other a tau-shaped walking stick. Above the crucifix, two half-length grieving angels appear from behind the arch. In the space above the gable, two further three-quarter length angels are shown, holding the sun and the moon.

Place of Origin

Paris (made)

Date

ca. 1340 (made)

Artist/maker

Unknown

Materials and Techniques

Carved elephant ivory

Dimensions

Height: 16.6 cm, Width: 20.4 cm when open

Object history note

Probably the ivory bought by John Webb, London, from the Soltykoff sale (Soltykoff 1861, lot 247). Certainly in the possession of John Webb by 1862 (London 1862, cat. no. 79) and purchased from him in 1867 (£84).

Descriptive line

Diptych, carved ivory, depicting the Virgin and Child and the Crucifixion, France (Paris), ca. 1340

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. 26
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. 7
p. 121
Maskell, W. A Description of the Ivories Ancient and Medieval in the South Kensington Museum, London, 1872
I, pp. 202, 218-219, 222-223, II, cat. no. 544
Koechlin, R., Les Ivoires gothiques français, 3 vols, Paris, 1924 (reprinted Paris 1968)
part 1, pp. 270-271
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. 270-271, cat. no. 87

Materials

Ivory

Subjects depicted

Cross; Angels; Candlesticks; Candles

Categories

Sculpture; Christianity; Religion

Collection

Sculpture Collection

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