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Panel  - Cover of a set of writing tablets

Cover of a set of writing tablets

  • Object:

    Panel

  • Place of origin:

    Germany (Mosan or Rhenish , made)

  • Date:

    1375-1400 (made)

  • Artist/Maker:

    Unknown

  • Materials and Techniques:

    Elephant ivory

  • Credit Line:

    Bequeathed by Mrs Gilbertson in memory of her husband Canon Gilbertson.

  • Museum number:

    A.27-1940

  • Gallery location:

    In Storage

This ivory panel formed the cover for a set of writing tablets. The Virgin Mary is depicted in the centre, standing holding the baby Jesus on her left arm. On her left is St James the Greater with his pilgrim's ataff and to the righ St Christopher with the Child on his shoulder. The group are surmounted by a triple canopy. In the arches the date, 1503, has been added over a hundred years after the original carving.
The present plaque was almost certainly paired, like the Louvre example, with an image of the Crucifixion.
Ivory covers for writing tablets survive in good numbers from the fourteenth century. Wax writing tablets or panels of a hard material filled with layers of wax that could be inscribed with a stylus, were common in Antiquity and continued in use throughout the early Middle Ages.
They were particularly useful for note taking, given their portability and the fact that their surfaces could be erased and reused.
The majority of such tablets would have been made of wood, although other materials such as gold, silver, bone and ivory were also used. In most cases the tablets formed part of a group of up to eight panels, only the covers of which were carved with imagery on their outer faces. The imagery on most surviving tablets and boxes derives primarily from diptychs, with a quality of carving lower than that commonly found on diptychs, at least partly as a result of the thinner ivory material on the tablets.

Physical description

Cover of a set of writing tablets. The Virgin and Child between St James the Greater and St Christopher. The Virgin stands holding the Child on her left arm. To the left is St James the Greater with his pilgrim's staff and on the right St Christopher with the Child on his shoulder. The figures are surmounted by a triple canopy and in the arches is the inscribed date 1503. The back has sunken panels to receive wax. The engraved date, 1503, is over a hundred years later than that of the carving.

Place of Origin

Germany (Mosan or Rhenish , made)

Date

1375-1400 (made)

Artist/maker

Unknown

Materials and Techniques

Elephant ivory

Dimensions

Height: 9.8 cm, Width: 5.6 cm

Object history note

In the collection of Canon Lewis Gilbertson, Rector of St Martin's Church, Ludgate Hill, London, by 1923. Bequeathed by Mrs Gilbertson in memory of her husband Canon Gilbertson, 1940.

Descriptive line

Plaque, ivory, lid of a box or cover of a set of writing tablets, Germany (Mosan or Rhenish), about 1375-1400

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

part 1, pp. 377-378
Williamson, Paul and Davies, Glyn, Medieval Ivory Carvings, 1200-1550, (in 2 parts), V&A Publishing, Victoria and Albert Museum, London, 2014
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. 377-378, cat. no 132

Materials

Ivory

Subjects depicted

Staff

Categories

Religion; Christianity; Sculpture

Collection

Sculpture Collection

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