Or are you looking for Search the Archives?

Please complete the form to email this item.

The Transfiguration

  • Object:

    Book cover

  • Place of origin:

    Lorraine (Metz, made)

  • Date:

    ca. 870-880 (made)

  • Artist/Maker:


  • Materials and Techniques:

    Elephant ivory carved in high relief

  • Museum number:


  • Gallery location:

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

This is one of two ivory plaques, probably from a book cover, made in Lorraine (Metz) in about 870-880. This plaque shows the Transfiguration, while the other (Mus. no. 255-1867) would show Christ healing the Leper and the Blind.
During the period 900-1200, ivories were produced all over Europe, often in monasteries and ecclesiastical or royal courts. The pieces were used for liturgical purposes. Ivory carvings appeared on book covers, reliquary caskets, antependia (the panel in front of an altar) and religious icons. This was probably originally from a book cover.
The Transfiguration shows the moment when Christ made known his divine nature to his apostles Peter, James and John, in the presence of the Old Testament patriarchs Moses and Elijah. It took place on Mount Tabor in Galilee.
Melzak convincingly connected the plaques with the Later Metz ivory panels of the border of the 'Cathedra Petri' in Rome and dated them to 870- 80. Iconographically the scenes of the healing of the leper and the healing of the blind man may be compared with those on the contemporary plaques in Berlin and Würzburg and products in Metz.

Physical description

The Transfiguration, panel in two compartments. Above Christ in a mandorla standing between Moses and Elias; below, the three adoring disciples point and cower in fear. The panel is surrounded by borders of foliage, itself contained inside a plain frame.

Place of Origin

Lorraine (Metz, made)


ca. 870-880 (made)



Materials and Techniques

Elephant ivory carved in high relief


Height: 8.3 cm, Width: 5.8 cm at bottom, Width: 6 cm at top, Depth: 0.5 cm, Weight: 0.02 kg

Object history note

Purchased from Webb, £25.

Descriptive line

Book cover, ivory, The Transfiguration, Carolingian, France, Lorraine (Metz), ca. 870-880

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

Lasko, Peter. Ars sacra: 800-1200. Harmondsworth: Penguin Books, 1972, pp. 78-9 and plate 68
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. 10
Longhurst, Margaret H. Catalogue of Carvings in Ivory. London: Published under the Authority of the Board of Education, 1927-1929, Part I, p. 68
Ribbert, Magaret. Untersuchungen zu den Elfenbeinarbeiten der älteren Metzer Gruppe.Witterschlick/Bonn: Verlag M. Wehle, 1992, p. 279, pl. 183
Williamson, Paul. Medieval Ivory Carvings. Early Christian to Romanesque. London, V&A Publishing, Victoria and Albert Museum, 2010, pp. 194-5, cat.no. 47




High relief; Carving

Subjects depicted



Christianity; Sculpture; Religion; Plaques & Plaquettes


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.