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Diptych leaf  - The Crucifixion

The Crucifixion

  • Object:

    Diptych leaf

  • Place of origin:

    Germany (probably, made)

  • Date:

    ca. 1350-1400 (made)

  • Artist/Maker:


  • Materials and Techniques:

    Elephant ivory

  • Credit Line:

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

  • Museum number:


  • Gallery location:

    In Storage

This ivory panel, carved with a scene of the Crucifixion, is the right leaf of a diptych. Jesus Christ is shown on the cross flanked on the left by the Virgin Mary and the two Maries and on the right St John and two Jews. The scene is surmounted by a triple arched canopy with some unusual brickwork between the arches.

The devotional diptych is in many ways the object type most associated with the notion of Gothic ivory carving. The earliest examples probably date to the 1240s; these are complex, large and ambitious works that emerged, somewhat surprisingly, with no obvious precursors. The owners of ivory diptychs sometimes appear within their images. Such portraits indicate that they were special requests on the part of their commissioners, and they parallel the similar figures that appear in manuscripts and panel paintings of the period. The iconography of Gothic diptychs oscillated between two poles. The first of which is the desire to present narratives (Life of Christ and Virgin Mary) for envisaging. The second was the use of non-narrative images to form the focus of devotion.

Physical description

The leaf of a diptych, ivory. The Crucifixion with, to the left, the Virgin and the two Maries and to the right, St John and two Jews. Surmounted by a triple arched canopy with brickwork between the arches. There are the remains of a hinge on the left side.
The Virgin Mary collapses, her arms spread, and is supported from behind by one of the two holy women; on the right, St John the Evangelist holds a book in his covered right hand, and raises his left to his face in a gesture of grief, while behind stand two figures of Jews, recognisable by their headgear; the face of the first is obscured by John, but his hand can be seen pointing at Christ, while the second holds an object in his left hand that is intended for a scroll but which cannot be recognised as such in the carving. The scene is topped with an arcade of three tall trefoil arches supported on corbels, each arch with a crocketed gable terminating in a cross finial. Behind the gables, a tiles roof is visible. At the upper edge is a concave moulding.

Place of Origin

Germany (probably, made)


ca. 1350-1400 (made)



Materials and Techniques

Elephant ivory


Height: 9.2 cm, Width: 5.6 cm

Object history note

According to the label on the back of the ivory, this leaf passed through the hands of the art dealer Dr Hermann Burg of Cologne (and later, London) and Hyam and Co. of Brompton Road, London; in the collection of Canon Lewis Gilbertson, Rector of St, Martin's Church, Ludgate Hill, London, by 1928; bequeathed by Mrs Gilbertson (d. 1940) in memory of her husband, Canon Gilbertson, in 1940.

Descriptive line

Diptych leaf, ivory, the Crucifixion, probably German (Lower Rine), ca. 1350-1400

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

part 1, pp. 322, 323
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. 322, 323, cat. no. 110



Subjects depicted

Cross; Women


Sculpture; Christianity; Religion; Death


Sculpture Collection

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