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diptych leaf - The Crucifixion

The Crucifixion

  • Object:

    diptych leaf

  • Place of origin:

    France (probably French or Mosan , made)

  • Date:

    1350-1400 (made)

  • Artist/Maker:

    Unknown

  • Materials and Techniques:

    Elephant ivory

  • Museum number:

    CIRC.491-1923

  • Gallery location:

    In Storage

This is the right leaf of an ivory diptych, probably French or Mosan, from about 1350-1400.
Diptychs consisted of two tablets hinged together, while triptychs were two tablets hinged on either side of a central tablet. The smaller ones were probably held in the hand and opened like a small book, while the larger ones would have stood open on a table or altar.

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

Right leaf of a diptych representing the Crucifixion. The scene is shown below a triple arcade of trefoil arches, supported on corbels and with pendent capitals. Each arch has a high gable decorated with crockets and a crown at the summit. Trefoil decoration is incised inside the gables and in the spandrels. The emaciated figure of Christ hangs on the cross, head bent to one side, a band around his head indicating the crown of thorns. To the left is the swooning Virgin, supported by three holy women; to the right stands St John the Evangelist, his head bowed and carrying a book in his left hand, with two of the Jewish observers (one with a scroll) behind.

Place of Origin

France (probably French or Mosan , made)

Date

1350-1400 (made)

Artist/maker

Unknown

Materials and Techniques

Elephant ivory

Dimensions

Height: 6.4 cm, Width: 4.8 cm

Object history note

Given by Mrs Ellen Hearn, Villa St Louis, Menton in 1923; this and other objects presented at the same time were labelled as the Alfred Williams Hearn gift.
In the acquisitions notebook used by Mrs Hearn to record the objects she bought (which later formed part of the Hearn bequest), this leaf is probably either the 'Half an ivory diptych', bought from the dealer Thomas Sutton of Eastbourne in July 1905, valued at 112 fr. or the 'Leaf of a diptych' bought from Sutton for 800 fr. in 1914-1916. The latter is the more likley, regarding the code written on the back.

Credit: Alfred Williams Hearn Gift

Following the death of Alfred Williams Hearn in the early 20th century, a selection of objects from the Hearn collection was given to the Museum in 1923 by his widow. Mrs A. W. Hearn later bequeathed other objects from the collection in 1931, requesting in both instances that the gift and bequest be credited to Alfred Williams Hearn.

Descriptive line

Diptych leaf, right, ivory, the Crucifixion, probably French or Mosan, ca. 1350-1400

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

Review [1911-1938], Victoria & Albert Museum. Review of the Principal Acquisitions during the Year, London, 1923, p. 88
part 1, pp. 320-321
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. 320-321, cat. no. 109

Materials

Ivory

Subjects depicted

Cross; Women; Book

Categories

Sculpture; Christianity; Religion

Collection

Sculpture Collection

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