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Casket with Christ, the Virgin, Apostles and Saints

  • Object:


  • Place of origin:

    Apulia (or Rome, carving)
    Rome (possibly, carving)

  • Date:

    1100-1200 (carving)

  • Artist/Maker:

    Unknown (carvers)

  • Materials and Techniques:

    Carved bone plaques on a walnut core

  • Credit Line:

    Salting Bequest

  • Museum number:


  • Gallery location:

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

This casket, probably based on an imported example, has adapted the structure and decoration of its Byzantine model to incorporate locally revered saints. Chrysanthus and Darias, who appear in prominent positions on the lid, were especially honoured in the Apulia region of Italy.
There can be no doubt that the box served as reliquary casket.

Physical description

The casket is made of walnut wood covered with 28 bone plaques, carved with half-length figures of Saints within elaborate foliate borders. Each saint has his or her name incised on the background, originally filled with coloured paste, traces of which can still be seen. On the flat , sliding lid Christ is shown in the centre in the Deesis position between the Virgin and St John the Baptist. On the left are Saints Julia and Darias, and on the right Alexander and Chrysantus;
On the front Saints Philip, Thomas, John the Evangelist, Peter, Paul, Andrew, Bartholomew and James the Greater; on the back Saints Stephen, Mark, Jude, Matthew, James the Less, Simon, Matthias and Luke; on one end Pope Gregory the Great is flanked by Saints Nereus, Gregory and Achilles, and on the other Saints Justus and Pankratius (one plaque is missing). All the male martyr Saints are shown with the martyr's crown or wreath, and St Peter is holding two keys, the wards of which spell out his name in monogram form. Nearly all the plaques are fixed to the core with four bone pins.

Place of Origin

Apulia (or Rome, carving)
Rome (possibly, carving)


1100-1200 (carving)


Unknown (carvers)

Materials and Techniques

Carved bone plaques on a walnut core


Length: 46.2 cm, Width: 20 cm at right, Width: 18.5 cm at left, Height: 12.7 cm

Object history note

Bequeathed by George Salting in 1910.

Historical significance: A Roman or Apulian provenance has been suggested on the basis of the iconography. All inscriptions are in Latin, the martyr Saints are Italian, and with two exception Roman.
Saints Chrysanthus and Darias were especially honoured at Oria in Apulia, and here they are seen in a prominent position on the lid of the box flanking the Virgin and Christ. The borders relate to foliate scroll decoration on the doorway of S. Nicola e Cataldo in Lecce and the figures themselves are very close to those seen on the tympanum of the North doorway of the Cathedral of Troia, dated to the first quarter of the twelfth century. Several features indicate Byzantine influence, and this casket was probably produced in imitation of an imported Byzantine example.

Historical context note

There can be no doubt that the box served as reliquary casket.

Descriptive line

Casket, ivory, for relics, with Christ, the Virgin, Apostles and Saints, Italy (Apulia or Rome), 12th century

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

P. Williamson, The Medieval Treasury, London, pp. 160-61.
Longhurst, Margaret H. Catalogue of Carvings in Ivory. Part I. London: Victoria and Albert Museum, 1927, pp. 91-92, pls LXXIV-LXXV
Gaborit-Chopin, Danielle. Ivoires du Moyen Age. Fribourg, 1978, pp. 125, 203, fig. 184
Goldschmidt, A. Die Elfenbeinskulpturen aus der romanischen Zeit. XI. Bis XIII. Jahrhundert, (Elfenbeinskulpturen IV), Berlin, 1926 (reprinted, Berlin, 1975), cat. no. 151, pl. LIV
Williamson, Paul (ed.), The Medieval Treasury: the art of the Middle Ages in the Victoria and Albert Museum, London, Victoria & Albert Museum, 1986 (reprinted in Hong Kong, 1996), pp. 160-61
Williamson, Paul. Medieval Ivory Carvings. Early Christian to Romanesque. London, V&A Publishing, Victoria and Albert Museum, 2010, pp. 344-349 , cat.no. 88
'Salting Bequest (A. 70 to A. 1029-1910) / Murray Bequest (A. 1030 to A. 1096-1910)'. In: List of Works of Art Acquired by the Victoria and Albert Museum (Department of Architecture and Sculpture). London: Printed under the Authority of his Majesty's Stationery Office, by Eyre and Spottiswoode, Limited, East Harding Street, EC, p. 88
Dell'Acqua, Francesca; Cutler, Anthony; Kessler, Herbert L.; Shalem, Avinoam; Wolf, Gerhard, eds. The Salerno Ivories: Objects, Histories, Contexts, Berlin, 2016, p.103.


Bone; Walnut




Containers; Christianity; Religion; Sculpture


Sculpture Collection

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