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The Coronation of the Virgin

  • Object:

    Triptych

  • Place of origin:

    Venice (made)

  • Date:

    ca. 1360 - ca. 1370 (made)

  • Artist/Maker:

    Unknown

  • Materials and Techniques:

    Elephant ivory, painted and gilded

  • Museum number:

    143-1866

  • Gallery location:

    Medieval & Renaissance, Room 9, The Dorothy and Michael Hintze Gallery, case 4

This tiptych is made in Venice in about 1360-1370. The central panel shows the Coronation of the Virgin beneath a choir of angels. The wings are in three tiers. The bottom one shows St George (left) and the Archangel Michael (right). The two upper tiers show the Annunciation twice. Triptychs of this type were copied in bone and other cheaper materials.
Throughout the ages artists and craftsmen have made virtuoso carvings as a display of their skill and ingenuity. Although ivory, wood and stone are relatively easy to carve, other materials such as gemstones are much more demanding. Most of the carvings shown here were made for wealthy patrons and collectors, who delighted in the rarity of the material and quality of the carving.
The Gothic Triptych was to all intents and purposes a sub-branch of the tabernacle polyptych, with a shallower central panel and two, rather than four, hinged wings. The subject matter was the same, dominated by single images of the standing Virgin and Child and scenes from the infancy of Christ. Triptychs – like diptychs – are better suited to the needs of a travelling clientele, who would wish to take these small portable altars with them as aids to prayer. Some of them were intended to be carried in cases, usually of cuir bouilli (boiled leather).

Physical description

In the central panel, under a trefoil ogee arch, the Coronation of the Virgin takes place beneath a choir of twenty musician angels. On the wings of the triptych are the archangel Michael, St. John the Baptist and the angel of the annunciation (on the left), and St George, St John the Evangelist, and the Virgin of the Annunciation (on the right side). On the outside of the wings, extensive remains of incised cross-hatching indicate that two standing figures of angels with upstretched wings, perhaps of ivory but possibly of gilt metal were once glued to the surface. The triptych is fully painted and gilded, and although this is unlikely to be original, it is possible that it follows the original colour scheme.

Place of Origin

Venice (made)

Date

ca. 1360 - ca. 1370 (made)

Artist/maker

Unknown

Materials and Techniques

Elephant ivory, painted and gilded

Dimensions

Height: 26.8 cm, Width: 16 cm total excluding ivory strip on left wing, Depth: 3.5 cm, Weight: 0.6 kg, Width: 8.2 at base of central panel

Object history note

Formerly in the Webb collection. Purchased from Webb in 1866, for £350.

Historical significance: The form of the foliate ogee arch, supported on thin spiral colonettes, the luxuriant cruckets, the rich surface, the iconographic typ, and the figure style all point towards a Venetian provenance of the triptych. The design of the arch follows that on the so-called Porta dei Fiori on the North side of San Marco in Venice of the thirteenth century, but the iconography reflects the type of the Coronation of the Virgin with musician angels seen most commonly in Venetian paintings in the third quarter of the fourteenth century by Paolo Veneziano and others. The general form of the triptych, with crocketed gable, standing figures at the sides and richly patterned borders, calls to mind the late-fourteenth-century Holy Sacraments tabernacle in San Marco.

Historical context note

The triptych served for devotional purposes.

Descriptive line

Triptych, ivory, the Coronation of the Virgin, made in Italy (Venice), 1360-1370

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

P. Williamson, 'Gothic ivories in Detroit and Baltimore', in: Apollo, CXLV (421), March 1997, p. 49, fig. 4
Inventory of Art Objects acquired in the Year 1866. Inventory of the Objects in the Art Division of the Museum at South Kensington, arranged According to the Dates of their Acquisition. Vol. 1. London : Printed by George E. Eyre and William Spottiswoode for H.M.S.O., 1868, p. 18
Longhurst, Margaret H., Catalogue of Carvings in Ivory. London: Published under the Authority of the Board of Education, 1927-1929, p. 61
Medioevo e produzione artistica di serie : smalti di Limoges e avori gotici in Campania. Napoli: Museo Duca di Martina, 1981-1982, pp. 35-36
Randall, Richard H. Jr., Masterpieces of Ivory from the Walters Art Gallery. London: Walthers Art Gallery, 1985, no. 351
Williamson, Paul. 'Avori Italiani e Avori Francesi'. In: Pace, Valentino, ed., Il Gotico Europeo in Italia. Napoli: Electa Napoli, 1994, pp. 293, 295
Tomasi, Michele. 'Baldassarre Ubriachi, le Maître, le Public'. In: Revue de l'art. 134, 2001, pp. 53-54, fig. 4
Tomasi, Michele. 'Angeli per gli Embriachi'. In: Parenti, Daniela, ed. Intorno a Lorenzo Monaco: Nuovi Studi Sulla Pittura Tardogotica. Livorno: Sillabe, 2007, pp. 168-175
pp. 61-62
Maskell, W., A Description of the Ivories Ancient and Medieval in the South Kensington Museum, London, 1872
part 1, pp. 200-203
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. 200-203, cat. no. 64

Materials

Ivory; Gilt

Techniques

Gilding

Subjects depicted

Angels

Categories

Images Online; Christianity; Sculpture; Religion; Christianity

Collection

Sculpture Collection

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