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Box - The Seven Cardinal Virtues and Pope Innocent XI

The Seven Cardinal Virtues and Pope Innocent XI

  • Object:


  • Place of origin:

    The Netherlands (or Italy, made)

  • Date:

    ca. 1679 - ca. 1689 (made)

  • Artist/Maker:


  • Materials and Techniques:

    Carved ivory with metal lining, and linen edging (possibly later)

  • Museum number:


  • Gallery location:

    In Storage

This ivory box was probably made in the late 17th century in the Netherlands or Italy. It is cylindrical and shows in high relief under low canopies the Seven Cardinal Virtues. The bottom of the box is made of a thin medallion of ivory with a portrait of Pope Innocent XI, who was Pope from 1676 to 1688. This is likely to have been made on a turning machine, and the portrait is probably based on a bronze medal by Giovanni Hamerani (1646-1705) of ca. 1679. Its shape and the figurative elements suggest it may have been used to hold unconsecrated wafers, as was suggested when it was first acquired. The medallion appears to form part of an ensemble, although may conceivably have been married up with the box at a later date.
An inked inscription on the bottom of the medallion reads, 'Der Cabinet de Mr. de Bruges', which may denote its provenance. The figures are also reminiscent of the work of François Du Quesnoy.

Physical description

Cylindrical ivory box carved in low relief with femqale figures representing the seven cardinal virtues beneath an arcade. They are identified in ink on the metal mount of the base, with inscriptions in some places rubbed and incomplete. On the base is a medallion that depicts Pope Innocent XI (Benedetto Odesalchi) in bust profile with a beard, wearing his papal tiara and vestments. Inscribed.

Place of Origin

The Netherlands (or Italy, made)


ca. 1679 - ca. 1689 (made)



Materials and Techniques

Carved ivory with metal lining, and linen edging (possibly later)

Marks and inscriptions

'La charité / l'esperance / la Justice / la Verité / la Tempérance / la Force / la Foi'
'Charity / Hope / Justice / Truth / Temperance / Fortitude / Faith'
on the metal mount of the base

on the medallion, forming the base

'Du cabinet de Mr. Yd [illegible] de Bruges No. 2 cat 9'
probably implying a South Netherlandish provenance
on the back of the ivory medallion of the base ink;


Height: 9.9 cm with mounts, Height: 7.8 cm ivory alone, Height: 7.8 cm Hieght of ivory alone., Diameter: 6.4 cm

Object history note

Bought for £48 in 1867 from the Webb Collection.; perhaps formerly in Bruges.

Descriptive line

Box, cylindrical in ivory, depicting the seven cardinal virtues, Italian or Netherlands, ca. 1679-89

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. 6.
Longhurst, Margaret H. Catalogue of Carvings in Ivory. London: Published under the Authority of the Board of Education, 1927-1929. Part I. p. 76.
Maskell, W. A Description of the Ivories Ancient and Mediaeval in the South Kensington Museum. London, 1872, p. 117.
Trusted, Marjorie, Baroque & Later Ivories, Victoria & Albert Museum, London, 2013, cat. no. 299, pp. 304, 5


Ivory; Metal


Low relief

Subjects depicted

Seven Cardinal Virtues


Religion; Containers; Christianity


Sculpture Collection

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