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Painting - The Mocking of Christ, The Scourging, The Deposition, The Entombment, The Ascension, Pentecost (diptych with miniatures behind crystal)
  • The Mocking of Christ, The Scourging, The Deposition, The Entombment, The Ascension, Pentecost (diptych with miniatures behind crystal)
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The Mocking of Christ, The Scourging, The Deposition, The Entombment, The Ascension, Pentecost (diptych with miniatures behind crystal)

  • Object:

    Painting

  • Place of origin:

    Venice (painted)

  • Date:

    ca. 1325-ca. 1350 (painted)

  • Artist/Maker:

    Unknown

  • Materials and Techniques:

    Tempera on vellum behind crystal

  • Museum number:

    143-1869

  • Gallery location:

    In Storage

This early diptych is notable for its condition and high quality and is a good example of small private devotional work that was easily transported from place to place. The miniatures protected behind thin sheets of transparent rock crystal are painted on vellum and retain their vivid colours. They depict scenes from the Life of Christ. The Mocking and the Scourging of Christ are represented in the top rectangular fields across from one another while the Deposition at lower left, faces the Entombment at lower right. In the upper triangular fields are the Ascension at left and the Pentecost at right.
The miniatures have been associated with the same (unidentified) workshop that painted a group of manuscripts for the Basilica of S. Marco in Venice in the first half of the 14th century now in the Marciana Library, Venice. Miniatures inserted behind crystal were common in 14th century Venice and rock crystal was used for a variety of objects, with centres of production not only in Venice but also in the Rhine-Meuse region, Catalonia, Paris and Prague in this period. Flat panels of crystal formed part of portable altars, reliquaries, and crosses. Similarly, crystal cylinders and vessels were used to display relics, while beakers, pitchers, cups, candlesticks were among the secular items produced. Some ascribed special values or apotropaic properties to the medium, making it particularly appropriate for use in ecclesiastical and religious objects. The now empty grooves at the interstices of the frame must have originally been decorated with semi-precious stones and/or paste imitations of precious stones, made of a hard, vitreous substance backed by foil.

Physical description

A wooden diptych with miniatures on vellum behind crystal representing: The Mocking of Christ, The Scourging, The Deposition, The Entombment, The Ascension, and Pentecost

Place of Origin

Venice (painted)

Date

ca. 1325-ca. 1350 (painted)

Artist/maker

Unknown

Materials and Techniques

Tempera on vellum behind crystal

Dimensions

Height: 24.2 cm estimate, Width: 26.3 cm estimate

Object history note

Purchased, 1868
Bought for £12 from the painter W. M. Spence in Florence in 1868.

Historical significance: This early diptych is notable for its condition and high quality and is a good example of small private devotional work that was easily transported from place to place. The miniatures protected behind thin sheets of transparent rock crystal are painted on vellum and retain their vivid colours. They depict scenes from the Life of Christ. The Mocking and the Scourging of Christ are represented in the top rectangular fields across from one another while the Deposition at lower left, faces the Entombment at lower right. In the upper triangular fields are the Ascension at left and the Pentecost at right. The miniatures have been associated with the same (unidentified) workshop that painted a group of manuscripts for the Basilica of S. Marco in Venice in the first half of the 14th century such a Missal (MS. Lat. III, iii) now in the Marciana Library, Venice. Miniatures inserted behind crystal were common in 14th century Venice and rock crystal was used for a variety of objects, with centres of production not only in Venice but also in the Rhine-Meuse region, Catalonia, Paris and Prague in this period. Flat panels of crystal formed part of portable altars, reliquaries, and crosses. Similarly, crystal cylinders and vessels were used to display relics, while beakers, pitchers, cups, candlesticks were among the secular items produced. Some ascribed special values or apotropaic properties to the medium, making it particularly appropriate for use in ecclesiastical and religious objects. The now empty grooves at the interstices of the frame must have originally been decorated with semi-precious stones and/or paste imitations of precious stones, made of a hard, vitreous substance backed by foil.

Historical context note

A diptych is a picture consisting of two separate panels facing each other and usually joined at the centre by a hinge. Painted diptychs were particularly popular from the second half of the 13th century until the early 16th in Italy, Germany and the Netherlands. In some cases a single seated or standing figure occupied each panel, while others were decorated with a series of narrative scenes from the Life of Christ. They often functioned as small-scale devotional paintings intended for private rooms or small altars in side chapels or oratories and their sizes can vary from small examples for personal use to large works suitable for a chapel altar. The early examples in the second half of the 13th century are all Italian, mainly from Tuscany and Venice. The dependence of Italian painters on Byzantine models suggests that icons from the Byzantine empire influenced this development. Painted diptychs achieved the height of their popularity in the 14th century.

Descriptive line

Diptych with miniatures behind crystal, Venetian School, ca. 1325-1350

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

Kauffmann, C.M. Catalogue of Foreign Paintings, I. Before 1800. London: Victoria and Albert Museum, 1973, p. 291, cat. no. 362.
M. Levi d'Ancona, 'Miniature venete nella collezione Wildenstein' in Arte Veneta, x, 1956, esp. p. 26 ff.
P. Toesca, Il trecento,Torino, Unione Tipografico-Editrice Torinese, 1951, p. 842, n.
T. H. Colding, Aspects of miniature painting, Copenhagen, E. Munksgaard, 1953, p. 46, figs. 47 f.

Materials

Tempera; Vellum

Techniques

Painting

Subjects depicted

Diptychs

Categories

Paintings; Christianity

Collection

Prints, Drawings & Paintings Collection

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