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Diptych

  • Object:

    Diptych

  • Place of origin:

    Mosan (probably Mosan or Rhenish, made)

  • Date:

    ca. 1340-1370 (made)

  • Artist/Maker:

    Unknown

  • Materials and Techniques:

    Elephant ivory

  • Museum number:

    A.19-1940

  • Gallery location:

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

This is an ivory diptych, made in about 1340-1370, probably Mosan or Rhenish, depicting the Crucifixion and the Resurrection.

Ivory plaques such as this were normally arranged in diptychs or triptychs. Diptychs consisted of two tablets hinged together, while triptychs were two tablets hinged on either side of a central tablet. The smaller ones were probably held in the hand and opened like a small book, while the larger ones would have stood open on a table or altar. In the 14th century Mainz and Cologne were probably the main centres of German ivory production. The elaborate style of this piece is based on French models.

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

Diptych depicting The Crucifixion and the Resurrection.
It has a single scene on each leaf, topped with an arcade of three trefoil arches supported on corbels. Above each arch is a crocketed gable with a foliate finial. There is a stepped moulding along the upper edge if both leaves. The left leaf depicts the Crucifixion, with Mary swooning on the left and being supported by two holy women, while on the right St John the Evangelist stands with bowed head, holding a book in his hands. Behind John stand the tow Jews in characteristic headgear, one pointing towards Christ, the other holding a scroll. The right leaf shows the Resurrection; Christ emerges from the tomb holding a cross staff in his left hand and blessing with his right. To either side, standing angels raise their hands in prayer, while below, three soldiers sleep.

Place of Origin

Mosan (probably Mosan or Rhenish, made)

Date

ca. 1340-1370 (made)

Artist/maker

Unknown

Materials and Techniques

Elephant ivory

Dimensions

Height: 10.4 cm, Width: 15.3 cm when open

Object history note

As annotation on a photograph of the diptych in the Conway Library, London, states that it was in the collection of Hollingworth Magniac (1786-1867), but it is not mentioned in the 1862 catalogue of that collection; it was certainly in the Fountain collection, Narford Hall, Norfolk, before 1884; (sale Christie, Manson & Woods, London, June 16th 1884, lot 522); then collection McAndrew, Holly Hill, Coleman's Hatch, Sussex, from which it was sold in 1925 (Christie's, London, 2 December 1925, lot 149); collection of Canon Lewis Gilbertson, Rector of St Martin's Church, Ludgate Hill, London; bequeathed by Mrs Gilbertson (d. 1940) in memory of her husband, 1940.

Descriptive line

Diptych, ivory,the Crucifixion and the Resurrection, probably Mosan or Rhenish, ca. 1340-1370

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

part 1, pp. 280-281
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. 280-281, cat. no. 91

Materials

Elephant ivory

Subjects depicted

Men; Book; Soldiers; Angels; Tomb; Scroll

Categories

Sculpture; Christianity; Religion

Collection

Sculpture Collection

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