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The Deposition from the Cross

  • Object:

    Panel

  • Place of origin:

    Hereford (probably, made)

  • Date:

    ca. 1150 (made)

  • Artist/Maker:

    Herefordshire school (maker)

  • Materials and Techniques:

    Carved elephant ivory

  • Museum number:

    3-1872

  • Gallery location:

    Medieval & Renaissance, Room 8, The William and Eileen Ruddock Gallery, case 11

Although much carving in England was carried out using walrus tusks, elephant ivory was occasionally used. The artists were probably based in or around the monasteries that produced illuminated manuscripts, to which their style is often related. The unusual style of this piece probably links it to Hereford. The plaque was almost certainly made to embellish a book cover.
The plaque is carved from elephant ivory, an extremely rare occurrence of the use of this material - rather than walrus ivory - in England in the 12th century. It is also the case that the plaque appears to be an 'unicum', with no comparable pieces known. Considered together, these two observations point towards the raw material brought from elsewhere specifically for this commission, and suggest that the plaque was executed in a workshop or by an individual craftsman unused to working on this scale or with this material.

Physical description

Ivory panel carved with reliefs depicting the Deposition from the Cross. The body of Christ is partially detached from the cross. To the right, Joseph of Arimathea stands on a high three-legged stool supporting the body; He grasps Christ with both hands around the chest as he slumps to one side, his cheek resting on the Virgin's head and his right arm around her shoulders. She holds Christ's left hand tenderly, pressing it to her cheek. A second haloed, Holy Woman (probably St Mary Magdalene) stands behind the Virgin, her left hand raised in grief. At the foot of the cross Nicodemus crouches forward to remove the nail from the left feet of Christ. He holds the nail in his left hand and raises his pliers in his right. On the ground in front of the cross is an upturned skull. Two angels fly above the arms of the cross. The cross is of unusual shape, with semi-circular ends to the arms and a second cross or titulus on the extended upper arm. In the terminals are the stylized letters for Alpha and Omega. The frame is of repeating foliate scrolls of two different types.

Place of Origin

Hereford (probably, made)

Date

ca. 1150 (made)

Artist/maker

Herefordshire school (maker)

Materials and Techniques

Carved elephant ivory

Dimensions

Height: 21.1 cm, Width: 11.8 cm at top, Width: 11.7 cm at bottom, Depth: 0.9 cm, Weight: 0.3 kg

Object history note

Bought from John Webb in 1872.

Historical significance: The plaque is carved from elephant ivory, an extremely rare occurrence of the use of this material - rather than walrus ivory - in England in the 12th century. It is also the case that the plaque appears to be an 'unicum', with no comparable pieces known. Considered together, these two observations point towards the raw material brought from elsewhere specifically for this commission, and suggest that the plaque was executed in a workshop or by an individual craftsman unused to working on this scale or with this material.

Historical context note

The plaque was almost certainly made to embellish a book cover.

Descriptive line

Panel, ivory, The Deposition From The Cross, England, perhaps Herefordshire School, ca. 1150

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 I, p. 93
Beckwith, John. An Ivory Relief of the Deposition. The Burlington Magazine. 98, 1956, pp. 228-234
Ratkowska, Paulina. The Iconography of the Deposition without St. John. Journal of the Warburg and Courtauld Institutes. 27, 1964, pp. 312-317
Beckwith, John, Review of T.S.R. Boase, English Art. The Tablet. 31. October, 1953
Capelli, Gianni. Benedetto Antelami : la "Deposizione" nel Duomo di Parma. Parma: Battei, 1975, p. 19, pl. 8
Ferrándiz y Ruiz, José. Marfiles y Azabaches Españoles. Barcelona: Ed. Labor, 1928, p. 179, pl. LVI
Williamson, Paul. An Introduction to Medieval Ivory Carvings. London: H.M.S.O., 1982, pp. 16-17, pl. 23
Thurlby, Malcolm. The Herefordshire School of Romanesque Sculpture. Herefordshire: Logaston, 1999, pp. 153-156, fig. 241
Gaborit-Chopin, D. Ivoires du Moyen Age. Fribourg, 1978, pp. 107-108, 199, pl. 152
Beckwith, John, Review of English art: 1100 - 1216 by T. S. R. Boase. The Tablet. 31. Oct 1953
Williamson, Paul. Medieval Ivory Carvings. Early Christian to Romanesque. London, V&A Publishing, Victoria and Albert Museum, 2010, pp. 398-401, cat. no. 100

Materials

Ivory

Subjects depicted

Christianity; Death; Devotion; Salvation; Angels; Skull (skeleton component); Crucifixes

Categories

Images Online; Sculpture; Religion; Christianity; Death

Collection

Sculpture Collection

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