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The Virgin and Child

  • Object:


  • Place of origin:

    France (probably Northern France , made)

  • Date:

    ca. 1300 (made)

  • Artist/Maker:


  • Materials and Techniques:

    Carved ivory

  • Museum number:


  • Gallery location:

    Sculpture, Room 111, The Gilbert Bayes Gallery, case 8

This is a ivory tabernacle polyptych probably made in Northern France in about 1300. The polyptych represents the Virgin and Child, the Coronation of the Virgin and the scenes from the infancy of Christ. The term tabernacle polyptych has been used here (ref. Williamson and Davies) to describe an object which consists of a deep central chamber with canopy, usually containing the Virgin and Child, and four hinged wings with narrative scenes, which would distinguish them from the smaller category of simpler polyptychs, which are made up of a series of plaques hinged together but with no central tabernacle.
A feature that links most tabernacle polyptychs together is the method of facture: Although the Virgins in the tabernacles appear from the front to be statuettes they are with few exceptions carved integrally with the back and base panels, which is remarkably skilful.

Physical description

Carved ivory shrine, a centre piece with two folding shutters on each side. The central section is divided in two. Below, the standing Virgin holds a flower in her right hand and the Christ-Child in her left; he is dressed in a long tunic, holds an apple in his left hand and rests his right on the Virgin's chest. The Virgin and Child are flanked by standing angels holding candlesticks. Above is the Glorfication of the Virgin, an angel flying down from clouds to crown the Virgin (the crown and the angel's forearms now missing).
On the wings are scenes from the infancy of Christ: the Annunciation, the Visitation the Nativity, the Adoration of the Magi, and the Presentation in the Temple.

Place of Origin

France (probably Northern France , made)


ca. 1300 (made)



Materials and Techniques

Carved ivory


Height: 24.5 cm, Width: 21.5 cm open

Object history note

In the collection of Anton Josef Essingh (1787-1864), Cologne; purchased by John Webb, London, at the Essingh sale, J.M. Heberlé (H. Lempertz), Cologne, 18 September 1865, lot 861, pl. 5); on loan to the Museum from 1867 and purchased from Webb in 1872 (£225).

Descriptive line

Polyptych, carved ivory, the Virgin and Child, the Coronation of the Virgin and the life of Christ, probably Northern France, ca. 1300

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

List of Objects in the Art Division, South Kensington, Acquired During the Year 1872, Arranged According to the Dates of Acquisition. London: Printed by George E. Eyre and William Spottiswoode for H.M.S.O., p. 1
Longhurst, Margaret H. Catalogue of Carvings in Ivory. London: Published under the Authority of the Board of Education, 1927-1929, Part II, p. 14
Cf. Förster, Otto H. Kölner Kunstsammler. Berlin: de Gruyter, 1931, pp. 125-126, fig. 72
part 1, pp. 154-156
Williamson, Paul and Davies, Glyn, Medieval Ivory Carvings, 1200-1550, (in 2 parts), V&A Publishing, Victoria and Albert Museum, London, 2014
pp. 144-145
Maskell, W., A Description of the Ivories Ancient and Medieval in the South Kensington Museum, London, 1872
I, pp. 130, 131-32, II, cat. no. 171, 111, pl. XLII
Koechlin, R., Les Ivoires gothiques français, 3 vols, Paris, 1924 (reprinted Paris 1968)
Marguerite, Marie-Lys and Dectot, Xavier, ed. by, D'Or et D'Ivoire, Paris, Pise, Florence, Sienne, 1250-1320, Snooeck and Louvre Lens, 2015, exh. cat., pp. 210-213, 255
Williamson, Paul and Davies, Glyn, Medieval Ivory Carvings, 1200-1550, (in 2 parts), V&A Publishing, Victoria and Albert Museum, London, 2014, part 1, pp. 154-156, cat. no. 47





Subjects depicted

Angels; Nativity; Apple; The Life of Christ; The Coronation of the Virgin; Candlestick


Christianity; Religion


Sculpture Collection

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