Christ Blessing thumbnail 1
Christ Blessing thumbnail 2
+1
images
Not currently on display at the V&A

Christ Blessing

Panel
late 9th century (made)
Artist/Maker

This relief is said to have come from Syria. Probably, with A.2-1912 from the covers of a book.
The iconographical tradition of representing Christ was slow to develop in Byzantine art. Once established, however, images of Christ remained remarkably consistent because of an emphasis from sixth-century onwards on the authentic likeness of Christ that were all supposedly derived from Acheiropoiet fashioned during his lifetime but lost.
The best known type is that of Christ Pantokrator - "all sovereign". Traditionally the pantokrator was depicted frontally disposed, a severe bearded figure, blessing with his right hand raised before his chest, while clasping a Gospel book or scroll in his left. On the present example the type of the head is unusually free, and full of character, and in this respect resembles the heads of Christ on the reverse of coins of Justinianus II (685-695); these also have the cross behind the head, without the halo.
Reliefs treated with stain in the manner of this panel, are rare, and the colour was probably used to give the appearance of steatite. The green hue could also come as a result of burial, as ivory is extremely permeable and may absorb colour from surrounding materials.


object details
Categories
Object Type
Additional TitleChrist Pantocrator (generic title)
Materials and Techniques
Carved ivory
Brief Description
Panel-relief, ivory in relief, part of icon or book cover, Christ Pantocrator, Byzantine, probably late 19th century
Physical Description
Panel depicting the figure of Christ in half-length; the left hand holding a scroll the right hand delivering a blessing. The draperies are richly folded, and there is a jewelled cruciform halo behind Christ's head. The panel has a raised border: the background has almost completely perished, and is restored with green tinted plaster.
Dimensions
  • Height: 15cm
  • Width: 12cm
From registers
Style
Object history
Acquired in London. Said to have come from Syria. Probably, with A.2-1912 from the covers of a book.
Historical context
The iconographical tradition of representing Christ was slow to develop in Byzantine art. Once established, however, images of Christ remained remarkably consistent because of an emphasis from sixth-century onwards on the authentic likeness of Christ that were all supposedly derived from Acheiropoiet fashioned during his lifetime but lost.

The best known type is that of Christ Pantokrator - "all sovereign". Traditionally the pantokrator was depicted frontally disposed, a severe bearded figure, blessing with his right hand raised before his chest, while clasping a Gospel book or scroll in his left. On the present example the type of the head is unusually free, and full of character, and in this respect resembles the heads of Christ on the reverse of coins of Justinianus II (685-695); these also have the cross behind the head, without the halo.

Reliefs treated with stain in the manner of this panel, are rare, and the colour was probably used to give the appearance of steatite. There seem to be no grounds for the addition of a circle in the plaster restoration of the halo.
Production
Byzantine Empire, probably late 9th century
Subject depicted
Summary
This relief is said to have come from Syria. Probably, with A.2-1912 from the covers of a book.

The iconographical tradition of representing Christ was slow to develop in Byzantine art. Once established, however, images of Christ remained remarkably consistent because of an emphasis from sixth-century onwards on the authentic likeness of Christ that were all supposedly derived from Acheiropoiet fashioned during his lifetime but lost.

The best known type is that of Christ Pantokrator - "all sovereign". Traditionally the pantokrator was depicted frontally disposed, a severe bearded figure, blessing with his right hand raised before his chest, while clasping a Gospel book or scroll in his left. On the present example the type of the head is unusually free, and full of character, and in this respect resembles the heads of Christ on the reverse of coins of Justinianus II (685-695); these also have the cross behind the head, without the halo.

Reliefs treated with stain in the manner of this panel, are rare, and the colour was probably used to give the appearance of steatite. The green hue could also come as a result of burial, as ivory is extremely permeable and may absorb colour from surrounding materials.
Bibliographic References
  • Longhurst, Margaret H. Catalogue of Carvings in Ivory. Part I. London: Victoria and Albert Museum, 1927, p. 40
  • Talbot Rice, David & Hirmer, Max, The Art of Byzantium, London, Thames & Hudson, 1959
  • Williamson, Paul. Medieval Ivory Carvings. Early Christian to Romanesque. London, V&A Publishing, Victoria and Albert Museum, 2010, pp. 64-5, cat.no. 11
Collection
Accession Number
A.4-1910

About this object record

Explore the Collections contains over a million catalogue records, and over half a million images. It is a working database that includes information compiled over the life of the museum. Some of our records may contain offensive and discriminatory language, or reflect outdated ideas, practice and analysis. We are committed to addressing these issues, and to review and update our records accordingly.

You can write to us to suggest improvements to the record.

Suggest Feedback

record createdOctober 29, 2007
Record URL