Or are you looking for Search the Archives?

Please complete the form to email this item.

Diptych leaf - The Crucifixion

The Crucifixion

  • Object:

    Diptych leaf

  • Place of origin:

    France (probably Paris , made)

  • Date:

    ca. 1340-1350 (made)

  • Artist/Maker:


  • Materials and Techniques:

    Carved ivory

  • Credit Line:

    Given by Mrs Catherine Ward

  • Museum number:


  • Gallery location:

    In Storage

This is the right leaf on an ivory diptych, made in France, probably Paris, in about 1340-1350. 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. Other workshops emerged in Italy and Germany. Venice was one of the centres of ivory carving in Italy.
Ivory plaques such as this were normally arranged in diptychs or triptychs. 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

Diptych leaf depicting the Crucifixion. The leaf is topped with an arcade of trefoil arches, each with a gable ornamented with two crockets and a finial. To either side of the central gable is a trefoil. To the left, the Virgin sags in the arms of two of the holy women and the right St John the Evangelist stands with a book in his left hand, pressing his right to his face in grief; behind stand the two Jews, conversing. The sun and moon emerge from the left and right borders of the frame. The back of the leaf is flat, and bears traces of glue.

Place of Origin

France (probably Paris , made)


ca. 1340-1350 (made)



Materials and Techniques

Carved ivory


Height: 10.7 cm, Width: 7.1 cm

Object history note

Given by Mrs. Catherine Ward, Nottingham, in 1999.

Descriptive line

Diptych leaf, ivory, right leaf, depicting The Crucifixion, France (probably Paris), ca. 1340-1350

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

Williamson, Paul, “Acquisition of Sculpture at the Victoria & Albert Museum, 1992-1999”, in: Burlington Magazine, Dec. 1999, CXLI, p. 784, fig. IV
part 1, pp. 276-277
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. 276-277, cat. no. 89



Subjects depicted

Women; Cross


Christianity; Religion; Reliefs; Sculpture


Sculpture Collection

Large image request

Please confirm you are using these images within the following terms and conditions, by acknowledging each of the following key points:

Please let us know how you intend to use the images you will be downloading.