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The Crucifixion

  • Object:

    Plaque

  • Place of origin:

    Cologne (made)

  • Date:

    ca. 1050 (made)

  • Artist/Maker:

    Unknown

  • Materials and Techniques:

    Carved elephant ivory

  • Museum number:

    252-1867

  • Gallery location:

    In Storage

This is an ivory panel made ca. 1050 in the Lower Rhine, Cologne, Germany. The panel depicts the Crucifixion with various emblematic figures. To the left are the Virgin, a figure symbolic of the Church, holding a chalice to receive the Blood of Christ, and Longinus; to the right, St. John, the Centurion, and Stephaton, who turns away holding the sponge and a pail. Above the arms of the cross are lamenting angels, the Sun and Moon and, issuing from clouds, the Dextera Dei holding a wreath. At the foot of the cross is the coiled serpent and, in the lower corners, two half-length figures, that on the right perhaps symbolising the Synagogue. There is a narrow border of foliage.
Goldschmidt associated the plaque with another showing Christ in Majesty, now in the Louvre in Paris. They are of the same size and may have come from the covers of related manuscripts. . The doll-like, sturdy proportions of the figures also bring to mind the mid-eleventh-century high-relief narrative panels on the wooden doors of St. Maria im Kapitol in Cologne.

Physical description

Ivory panel carved in high relief with the Crucifixion. Christ is shown with a cruciform nimbus. At his feet is the coiled serpent (shown here as a small winged dragon) and above his head the Dextera Dei issues from the clouds, holding a wreath. Above the arms of the cross four angels fly down and gesture towards Christ, and the lamenting personifications of the Sun (on the left) and the Moon (on the right) emerge from boat-like crescents. Below the arms of the cross, on the left, are the Virgin and a figure holding a chalice into which Christ's blood gushes. Below is Longinus, who originally held a separately made spear, now missing, in his left hand. On the right are St John the Evangelist, with book, and a figure who, looking up at Christ, turns away from the cross. This is probably to be identified as the centurion rather than Synagoga, who is more usually shown in this pose and attitude. Below, Stephaton, holding a bucket of vinegar in his left hand, offers a sponge to Christ. In the lower corners are two further, half-length, figures: that on the right appears to be the personification of Synagogue, with broken staff. The identification of the man on the left remains uncertain. The scene is framed by a border of stylised acanthus.

Place of Origin

Cologne (made)

Date

ca. 1050 (made)

Artist/maker

Unknown

Materials and Techniques

Carved elephant ivory

Dimensions

Height: 13.3 cm, Width: 9.5 cm

Object history note

Purchased from Webb, £46.

Descriptive line

Plaque, ivory, the Crucifixion, Lower Rhine, Cologne, Germany, ca. 1050

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

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.
Longhurst, Margaret H. Catalogue of Carvings in Ivory. London: Published under the Authority of the Board of Education, 1927-1929. Part I. p. 72.
Seiferth, Wolfgang S. Synagogue and Church in the Middle Ages: Two Symbols in Art and Literature. New York, 1970. pp. 8, 171(n. 3).
Williamson, Paul. Medieval Ivory Carvings. Early Christian to Romanesque. London, V&A Publishing, Victoria and Albert Museum, 2010, pp. 264, 5, cat.no. 68

Production Note

Lower Rhine

Materials

Ivory

Techniques

Carving; High relief

Subjects depicted

Moon; Cross; Bucket; Angels; Figures; Sun; The Centurion

Categories

Christianity; Religion; Sculpture; Death

Collection

Sculpture Collection

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