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The Annunciation and the Nativity

  • Object:


  • Place of origin:

    Germany (probably Liège or Cologne, carving)

  • Date:

    ca. 1000-1050 (carving)

  • Artist/Maker:

    Unknown (carvers)

  • Materials and Techniques:

    Ivory carving

  • Museum number:


  • Gallery location:

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

This is an ivory plaque probably made in Liège or Cologne in the first half of the eleventh century, depicting the Annunciation and Nativity. The story of the Virgin’s life could be found in the Gospels, but artists embellished the basic narrative with picturesque details. For example, in the Nativity scene in this plaque, Mary’s shoes are neatly placed on a footstool beside her.
This relief is an exact, but apparently contemporary, copy of the upper left-hand portion of a book cover, formerly in the Cathedral Treasury in Zagreb (Croatia). It should be noted that the Zagreb plaques were stolen, presumably between about 1914 and 1928, and were purchased by the Cleveland Museum of Art. They were later returned to Zagreb and reset into the seventeenth-century silver cover of the Plenarium from whence they had come.

Physical description

In the upper part of the plaque is the Annunciation, in the lower the Nativity. The latter scene shows the Virgin reclining on her bed with ehr shoes placed on a footstool below. Joseph is shown seated in the bottom right corner with a small tree separating him from teh Virgin, and above is the Christ-Child in cradle with the ox and the ass behind. Above is a representation of the city of Bethlehem.
The scenes are framed by a plain moulded border at the sides and top.

Place of Origin

Germany (probably Liège or Cologne, carving)


ca. 1000-1050 (carving)


Unknown (carvers)

Materials and Techniques

Ivory carving


Height: 10 cm, Width: 7 cm, Depth: 0.7 cm, Weight: 0.04 kg

Object history note

Formerly in the Webb collection. Acquired by the museum in 1867.

Historical significance: This relief is an exact, but apparently contemporary, copy of the upper left-hand portion of a book cover, formerly in the Cathedral Treasury in Zagreb (Croatia), now in the Cleveland Museum of Art. The upper right-hand portion is reproduced in an ivory relief in the British Museum, which formed originally part of a book cover with the present relief (Goldschmidt II, pl. XXI).

Historical context note

The relief formed originally part of a book cover.

Descriptive line

Panel, ivory, depicting the Annuniciation and Nativity, probably Liège or Cologne, ca.1000-1050

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

A. Goldschmidt, Die Elfenbeinskulpturen aus der Zeit der karolingischen und sächsischen Kaiser, II, Berlin, 1918, no. 63, pl. XXI.
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.
Longhurst, Margaret H. Catalogue of Carvings in Ivory. London: Published under the Authority of the Board of Education, 1927-1929. Part I. p. 71.
An Ivory Book Cover in the John Huntington Collection. Bulletin of the Cleverland Museum of Art. October, 1928. pp. 165-168.
Williamson, Paul. Medieval Ivory Carvings. Early Christian to Romanesque. London, V&A Publishing, Victoria and Albert Museum, 2010, pp. 222, 3, cat.no. 55






Christianity; Religion; Plaques & Plaquettes; Sculpture


Sculpture Collection

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