- Place of origin:
ca. 1300-1320 (made)
- Materials and Techniques:
- Museum number:
- Gallery location:
Sculpture, Room 111, The Gilbert Bayes Gallery, case 8
This is an ivory mirrorback made in Paris in about 1300-1320, representing a hunting party with a lady and her lover riding together. Ivory combs, together with mirror cases and gravoirs for parting the hair, formed an essential part of the trousse de toilette or étui (dressing case) of the typical wealthy lady or gentleman in the Gothic period.
Gothic ivory mirror backs survive in considerable numbers. The ivory cases themselves, usually between 8 and 14 cm in diameter, consisted of two paired ivory discs (described here as ‘mirror backs’), often with four crawling monsters or lions (or leaves) carved around the outer edge. These ornamental features would transform the circle into a square and make the opening of the case easier, although their vulnerability to breakage is now all too evident.
The majority of the ivory mirror cases and their leather boxes must have been purchased as expensive gifts, to be presented by the wealthy élite to their friends, family and lovers, and often as wedding presents. The subject matter of the mirror backs was almost exclusively secular.
A circular ivory mirror case depicting a hunting party. A lady, wearing a veil and wimple, and her lover ride together in the woods. She holds a falcon in her gloved left hand and turns towards her lover, her right hand on his shoulder, and he kisses her on the lips, cradling her chin in his right hand. He wears a hooded and belted surcoat and has a dagger and sword (only the pommel visible) at his waist. In front is a servant in a peaked hat leading the way and looking back over his shoulder towards the mounted couple. On the rim are four crawling monsters. The back has a double stepped rim with a bevelled edge and a recessed cut at the bottom to receive the tongue of the associated disc, now lost.
Place of Origin
ca. 1300-1320 (made)
Materials and Techniques
Height: 9.4 cm, Width: 9.6 cm
Object history note
Formerly in the Prince Petr Soltikoff Collection, Paris, until 1861; Soltikoff sale (1861, No. 356, bought Jacob). In the possession of John Webb, London, by 1862 (London 1862, cat. no. 135); purchased from Webb in 1867, for £48.
Mirrorback, ivory, a hunting party, French (Paris), ca. 1300-1320
Bibliographic References (Citation, Note/Abstract, NAL no)
Koechlin, Raymond. Les ivoires gothiques français. Paris : A. Picard, 1924, I, pp. 384, 386, II, cat. no. 1028, III, pl. CLXXIX
Inventory of Art Objects acquired in the Year 1867. 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. 8
Longhurst, Margaret H. Catalogue of Carvings in Ivory. London: Published under the Authority of the Board of Education, 1927-1929, Part II, p. 46
Maskell, W., A Description of the Ivories Ancient and Medieval in the South Kensington Museum, London, 1872
Westwood, J O. A descriptive catalogue of the Fictile Ivories in the South Kensington Museum. With an Account of the Continental Collections of Classical and Mediaeval Ivories. London: Eyre & Spottiswoode, 1876
part II, pp. 566-567
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 II, pp. 566-567, cat. no. 192
Household objects; Sculpture; Accessories