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The Four Evangelists

  • Object:

    Plaque

  • Place of origin:

    Cologne (made)

  • Date:

    mid 11th century (carving)

  • Artist/Maker:

    Unknown

  • Materials and Techniques:

    Carved ivory, probably walrus ivory (although secondary dentine not visible)

  • Museum number:

    248-1867

  • Gallery location:

    Medieval & Renaissance, Room 8, The William and Eileen Ruddock Gallery, case 4

This ivory plaque, made in Germany (Lower Rhine, Cologne) in the mid 11th century depcits the four evangelists – Matthew, Mark, Luke and John – who held a special position among the saints as the authors of the Gospels. They often appeared on the covers of Gospel books. These small plaques would have been placed either in the corners or around a central plaque to form a cross.
The four plaques show the long-standing influence of the Carolingian style up until the middle of the eleventh century. The evangelist figures are clearly related in style to those found in manuscripts produced in Cologne and its environs in the mid-eleventh century.

Physical description

The Four Evangelists. Each is seated before a lectern accompanied by his particular symbol. St Matthew is sharpening his quill; St Mark writing; St Luke (shown frontally rather than in profile) listening to his symbol, with his quill ready in his right hand; St John writing, turns his head back towards his symbol, the eagle. Only Matthew and John have haloes. Because of their fragility the plaques are now mounted on a perspex plate.

Place of Origin

Cologne (made)

Date

mid 11th century (carving)

Artist/maker

Unknown

Materials and Techniques

Carved ivory, probably walrus ivory (although secondary dentine not visible)

Dimensions

Height: 2.5 cm each plaque, Width: 2.3 cm each plaque, Depth: 0.7 cm, Weight: 0.02 kg

Object history note

Formerly in the Webb collection. Acquired by the museum in 1867, for £10.

Historical significance: The four plaques show the long-standing influence of the Carolingian style up until the middle of the eleventh century. The evangelist figures are clearly related in style to those found in manuscripts produced in Cologne and its environs in the mid-eleventh century, such as the similarly sized examples in the Initium page of St. Gereon Gospels in Stuttgart of about 1050-67.

Historical context note

Similar reliefs were frequently used to decorate covers of manuscripts of the Gospels or Evangelistary, either placed in the corners or, in the form of a cross, around a larger central relief.

Descriptive line

Plaques, ivory, depicting the four Evangelists, Lower Rhenish (Cologne), mid 11th century

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 I. p.74.
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. 9.
Williamson, Paul. Medieval Ivory Carvings. Early Christian to Romanesque. London, V&A Publishing, Victoria and Albert Museum, 2010, pp. 266, 7, cat.no. 69

Production Note

Lower Rhenish

Materials

Ivory

Techniques

Carving

Subjects depicted

Lectern; Eagle; Quill

Categories

Reliefs; Sculpture; Christianity; Religion; Plaques & Plaquettes

Collection

Sculpture Collection

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