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Diptych - The Virgin and Child and the Crucifixion

The Virgin and Child and the Crucifixion

  • Object:


  • Place of origin:

    Paris (made)

  • Date:

    ca. 1350-1375 (made)

  • Artist/Maker:


  • Materials and Techniques:

    Elephant ivory carved in relief

  • Museum number:


  • Gallery location:

    In Storage

This is an ivory diptych made in about 1350-1375 in Paris. The diptych represents the Virgin and Child, and the Crucifixion, each represented under a single trefoil arch. These two subjects are frequently combined to form diptychs which become very monotonous in style.
Diptychs of this type, juxtaposing the Virgin and Child with the Crucifixion, often beneath single trefoil arches, remained popular for much of the fourteenth century and were produced in large numbers at various levels of quality. Nevertheless, several clear sub-groups can be discerned within this general production.

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 with the Virgin and Child, attended by angels, and the Crucifixion. There are grotesque heads in the spandrels.
Each panel is framed by a trilobed arch supported on consoles and surmounted by a gable with large foliate crockets. In the area to either side are roundels, each with a quatrefoil moulding and the face of a green man in the centre. There is a row of beading below the upper border. The left leaf depicts the standing Virgin with Child flanked by two candle-bearing angels, the Virgin being crowned by a third angel who appears from beneath the arch. The Virgin holds a flower stem, while the Christ Child holds an orb or apple and reaches towards the Virgin's mantle with his right hand. The candlestick bases held by the angels are each pierced with dowel holes, into which the separately-carved candles would once have been set. The right leaf shows the Crucifixion, with the cross depicted as being made of rough wood. To the left is the swooning Virgin, supported from behind by a single holy woman. To the right stands St John the Evangelist, a book in his left hand, and touching his breast with his right. Behind, stands a bearded man in a pointed cap, pointing towards Christ. Above the cross, an angel appears beneath the arch, holding the sun in his right hand and the moon in his left.

Place of Origin

Paris (made)


ca. 1350-1375 (made)



Materials and Techniques

Elephant ivory carved in relief


Height: 13.3 cm, Width: 6.9 cm each leaf

Object history note

In the possession of John Webb, London, by 1862; purchased from Webb in 1867 for £30.

Descriptive line

Diptych, ivory, the Virgin and Child and the Crucifixion, French (Paris), ca. 1350-1375

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

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. 6
Longhurst, Margaret H. Catalogue of Carvings in Ivory. London: Published under the Authority of the Board of Education, 1927-1929, Part II, p. 25
Les Fastes du Gothique : le Siècle de Charles V. Paris, 1981, no. 159, p. 198
p. 90
Maskell, W., A Description of the Ivories Ancient and Medieval in the South Kensington Museum, London, 1872
I, pp. 201, 217, 223, II, cat. no. 543
Koechlin, R., Les Ivoires gothiques français, 3 vols, Paris, 1924 (reprinted Paris 1968)
p. 128, note 6
Williamson, Paul, The Thyssen-Bornemisza Collection. Medieval Sculpture and Works of Art, London, 1987
part 1, pp. 298-299
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. 298-299, cat. no. 99

Production Note

Previously considered to be German from Swabia or the Upper Rhine and to date from the early 14th century.





Subjects depicted

Angels; Cross; Crown; Candlesticks


Christianity; Sculpture; Religion


Sculpture Collection

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