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Christ in the House of Simon and the Entry into Jerusalem (obv.)

  • Object:

    Panel

  • Place of origin:

    Metz (for the obverse, made)
    Alto Adige (for the reverse, made)

  • Date:

    ca. 870-880 (made)
    late 8th to ealry 9th century (made)

  • Artist/Maker:

    Unknown

  • Materials and Techniques:

    Elephant ivory

  • Museum number:

    257-1867

  • Gallery location:

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

This is an ivory plaque probably made in Alto Adige / Tirol in the late eights to early ninth century and depicts the Baptism and the Ascension of Christ.
During the period 900-1200, ivories were produced all over Europe, often in monasteries and ecclesiastical or royal courts. Ivory carvings appeared on book covers, reliquary caskets, antependia (the panel in front of an altar) and religious icons. The upper half depicts the scene when Christ rode into Jerusalem on an ass. He arrived on the Sunday before Good Friday and was welcomed by the citizens with palm branches. In the lower half St Mary Magdalene is shown anointing Christ’s feet as he sits with his apostles for a meal in the house of Simon.
It has long been recognised that the present plaque is closely related stylistically to a diptych in the Musée de Cluny in Paris and a plaque showing Christ in Majesty with four angels now in the Bayerisches Nationalmuseum in Munich.
The relief was cut down at the top, losing the upper part of the Ascension which would have shown Christ, when the back was carved in the late ninth century. This face then became the reverse of the plaque, and was probably set into a recess on a book-cover. It is consequently abraded and rubbed at its highest points, especially on the faces and on the bodies of the Virgin and St. John the Baptist. The small triangular section of ivory at the bottom left corner of the plaque seems to have been added to create a square corner. This might indicate that the leaf was carved from a Late Antique diptych. The four holes in the corners were presumably made when the reverse of the plaque was put into use on a book-cover.

Place of Origin

Metz (for the obverse, made)
Alto Adige (for the reverse, made)

Date

ca. 870-880 (made)
late 8th to ealry 9th century (made)

Artist/maker

Unknown

Materials and Techniques

Elephant ivory

Dimensions

Height: 13.2 cm, Width: 8.6 cm, Depth: 0.8 cm, Weight: 0.1 kg

Object history note

From the Webb Collection. Formerly in the Soltikoff Collection (Sale, 1861, No.14). Purchased from Webb, £30.
The relief was cut down at the top, losing the upper part of the Ascension which would have shown Christ, when the back was carved in the late ninth century. This face then became the reverse of the plaque, and was probably set into a recess on a book-cover. It is consequently abraded and rubbed at its highest points, especially on the faces and on the bodies of the Virgin and St. John the Baptist. The small triangular section of ivory at the bottom left corner of the plaque seems to have been added to create a square corner. This might indicate that the leaf was carved from a Late Antique diptych. The four holes in the corners were presumably made when the reverse of the plaque was put into use on a book-cover.

Historical context note

It has long been recognised that the present plaque is closely related stylistically to a diptych in the Musée de Cluny in Paris and a plaque showing Christ in Majesty with four angels now in the Bayerisches Nationalmuseum in Munich. The Paris diptych has also been re-carved and its earlier side shaved down, but the outlines of the scenes are still legible and the halos visible.

Descriptive line

Panel, ivory, double-sided, depicting Christ in the House of Simon and the Entry into Jerusalem and on the reverse the Baptism and Ascension of Christ, Metz, ca. 1870-80 and (reverse) probably Alto Adige South Tirol, late 8th to early 9th century

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

Longhurst, Margaret H. Catalogue of Carvings in Ivory. London: Published under the Authority of the Board of Education, 1927-1929, Part I, p. 34
Williamson, Paul. Medieval Ivory Carvings. Early Christian to Romanesque. London, V&A Publishing, Victoria and Albert Museum, 2010, pp. 148-51, cat.no. 35
Inventory of Art Objects Acquired in the Year 1867. In: Inventory of the Objects in the Art Division of the Museum at South Kensington, Arranged According to the Dates of their Acquisition. Vol I. London: Printed by George E. Eyre and William Spottiswoode for H.M.S.O., 1868, p. 10
Dell'Acqua, Francesca; Cutler, Anthony; Kessler, Herbert L.; Shalem, Avinoam; Wolf, Gerhard, eds. The Salerno Ivories: Objects, Histories, Contexts, Berlin, 2016, p.89.

Production Note

On the back is an earlier carving of the Ascension and the Baptism which is thought to be probably from Alto Adige, South Tirol, dating from the late 8th to the early 9th century.

Materials

Ivory

Techniques

Relief

Subjects depicted

Basin; Angel; Tree

Categories

Christianity; Sculpture; Religion

Collection

Sculpture Collection

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