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Panel - The Nativity and The Adoration of the Magi

The Nativity and The Adoration of the Magi

  • Object:


  • Place of origin:

    Germany (Mosan or Rheinish , made)

  • Date:

    ca. 1370-1400 (made)

  • Artist/Maker:


  • Materials and Techniques:

    Ivory relief

  • Museum number:


  • Gallery location:

    In Storage

This is an ivory plaque from a set of writing tablets, originating from Germany, Mosan or Rheinsh, made in about 1370-1400.
Ivory was used all over Europe for religious works of art. It was often combined with precious metals and usually took the form of relief panels, for book covers, portable altars and caskets. An almost unbroken tradition of ivory carving extends from the Roman and Byzantine empires until the end of the 14th century. From about 1250, Paris became the centre of production for figures and reliefs intended for private devotion. 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

Plaque in two parts. In the upper register the Adoration of the Magi: at the left a man taking out the horses of the Magi from a battlemented building. One is pointing to a star. The groom wears the later fourteenth century fashion of an elaborate separate hood that falls around his shoulders, a closely-fitted tunic and a low-slung belt.
The lower register depicts the Nativity with the Annunciation to the Shepherds on a hill in the background. The Virgin reclines on a couch and caresses the Child lying in a wattle cradle by her side. St. Joseph sits at the foot of the couch warming his hands over a charcoal fire. By the side of the cradle and ass and an ox. In the centre background, an angel appears in the sky behind a single shepherd with pipe, and points to a scroll. All scenes take place under Gothic arcades.

Place of Origin

Germany (Mosan or Rheinish , made)


ca. 1370-1400 (made)



Materials and Techniques

Ivory relief


Height: 10.9 cm, Width: 7.4 cm

Object history note

From the Salting bequest, 1910. Probably before in the collection of Edmund Waterton of Walton Hall. Then collection of George Salting, by 1909.

Descriptive line

Plaque, ivory relief, from a set of writing tablets, The Nativity and the Adoration of the Magi, German (Mosan or Rhenish), ca. 1370-1400

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

'Salting Bequest (A. 70 to A. 1029-1910) / Murray Bequest (A. 1030 to A. 1096-1910)'. In: List of Works of Art Acquired by the Victoria and Albert Museum (Department of Architecture and Sculpture). London: Printed under the Authority of his Majesty's Stationery Office, by Eyre and Spottiswoode, Limited, East Harding Street, EC, p. 90
Longhurst, Margaret H. Catalogue of Carvings in Ivory. Part II. London: Victoria and Albert Museum, 1929, p. 21
part 1, pp. 372-373
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. 372-373, cat. no. 130





Subjects depicted

Lamp; Star; Ass; Fire; Angel; Horses; Ox; Shepherds; Cradle


Christianity; Religion; Reliefs; Sculpture


Sculpture Collection

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