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St Peter dictating the Gospel to St Mark at Rome

  • Object:

    Panel

  • Place of origin:

    Alexandria (or Constantiople, carved)

  • Date:

    ca. 630-640 (carved)

  • Artist/Maker:

    Unknown

  • Materials and Techniques:

    Carved ivory

  • Museum number:

    270:1-1867

  • Gallery location:

    Medieval & Renaissance, Room 8, The William and Eileen Ruddock Gallery, case 2 []

This ivory plaque made in Alexandria or Constantinople, probably in about 630-640, represents St Peter dictating the Gospel to St Mark. The quality of the ivory is outstanding and their relation to classical sources is evident.
The lost upper part of this plaque probably bore a representation of the city of Rome. The angel behind the two saints has been interpreted as a personification of the genius of Rome. Both are evidence for the long-lasting idea of Rome and its importance.
The plaque clearly forms part of a group of six ivory reliefs dedicated to scenes from the Life of St. Mark, the other five being in the collections of the Castello Sforzesco in Milan. The present plaque seems to be the earliest in the narrative, illustrating the beginning of the Saint's mission to carry the word of Christ as the intermediary of St Peter.

Physical description

St Peter, seated to the left, dicatating the Gospel to St Mark, who sits writing: between is a lectern, above which is an angel holding a sceptre. The Greek iscriptiopn reads Polis Roma (The City of Rome)

Place of Origin

Alexandria (or Constantiople, carved)

Date

ca. 630-640 (carved)

Artist/maker

Unknown

Materials and Techniques

Carved ivory

Marks and inscriptions

'Polis Roma'
'The city of Rome'

Dimensions

Height: 13.5 cm, Width: 10 cm at top, Depth: 0.8 cm, Weight: 0.1 kg

Object history note

Formerly Webb collection. Acquired 1867.

Historical significance: The quality of the ivory is outstanding and their relation to classical sources is evident. The lost upper part of the plaque probably once bearing a representation of the city of Rome. The angel behind the two saints has been interpreted as a personification of the genius of Rome. Both are evidence for the long-lasting idea of Rome and its importance.

Historical context note

The plaque clearly forms part of a group of six ivory reliefs dedicated to scenes from the Life of St. Mark. The present plaque seems to be the earliest in the narrative, illustrating the beginning of the Saint's mission to carry the word of Christ as the intermediary of St Peter. The plaques are all carved in an identical style and measurements are the same. The complete Milan plaques are all 19.4 cm high, so it is expected that the upper section of the present plaque, showing the City of Rome, would have been about 6cm high. They belonged to the Milanese painter Giuseppe Bossi, and on his death passed to the Accademia di Belle Arti di Brera, being transferred in 1862 to the civic collections. Hans Graeven was the first scholar to associate the plaques with an ivory throne documented as having been taken from Alexandria to Constantinople and presented by the Byzantine Emperor Heraclius (610-41) to Primigenius, the patriarch of Grado 630-49.

Descriptive line

Panel, ivory, depicting Saint Peter dictating the Gospel to Saint Mark, Alexandria or Constantinople, ca. 630-640

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

P. Williamson. On the date of the Symmachi panel and the so-called Grado chair ivories. In: C. Entwistle, ed. Through a Glass Brightly: STudies in Byzantine and Medieval Art and Archeology presented to David Buckton. Oxford, 2003, pp. 49-49
Longhurst, Margaret H. Catalogue of Carvings in Ivory. London: Published under the Authority of the Board of Education, 1927. Part I, p. 32
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. 10
Williamson, Paul. Medieval Ivory Carvings. Early Christian to Romanesque. London, V&A Publishing, Victoria and Albert Museum, 2010, p. 56-59, cat.no. 9

Materials

Ivory

Techniques

Carving

Subjects depicted

Lectern; Apostles; Dolphins; Angel; Stool; Diptych

Categories

Plaques & Plaquettes; Sculpture; Christianity; Religion

Collection

Sculpture Collection

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