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The Ascension

  • Object:

    Panel

  • Place of origin:

    Cologne (made)

  • Date:

    ca. 1150-1160 (made)

  • Artist/Maker:

    Unknown

  • Materials and Techniques:

    Walrus ivory

  • Museum number:

    258-1867

  • Gallery location:

    Sculpture, Room 111, The Gilbert Bayes Gallery, case DR10

This is an ivory panel made in Cologne in about 1150-1160 representing the Ascension.
During the period 900-1200, ivories were produced all over Europe, often in monasteries and ecclesiastical or royal courts. Pieces such as these were used for liturgical purposes. Ivory carvings appeared on book covers, reliquary caskets, antependia (the panel in front of an altar) and religious icons.
Forty days after his Resurrection, Christ was taken up to heaven in a cloud by angels, leaving behind the apostles and the Virgin. Here the prophet Habakkuk is shown beneath, holding a scroll inscribed in Latin ‘The sun is risen’.
A place of production in Cologne and a date around the middle of the 12th century have been established for this and related pieces. The panel is part of six reliefs (in different museums) belonging together and which probably have once formed an altar frontal, or a setting on some other type of church furniture, such as a door or pulpit.

Physical description

Relief in walrus ivory made up of slices of tusk fastened together; depicts the Ascension of our Saviour; Christ strides upwards in a mandorla, holding in his left hand the banner of the Resurrection. He steps up from a round stone on top of Mount Olivet, on which are incised flowers and the inscription ABACVC. This refers the prophet Habakkuk below, holding a scroll inscribed ELEVATUS EST SOL (Risen in the Sun). The mandorla is embellished with faux-jewelled effect and wisps of cloud decorate the inside. To the right are the Virgin and five apostles, to the left the other six apostles, and above are the Dextera Dei and two angels who grasp who grasp the mandorla. Panel is made up of three plaques of walrus ivory. dovetailed together. Black ink, clearly Post-Medieval fills the lines of the incised flowers below Habacuc.

Place of Origin

Cologne (made)

Date

ca. 1150-1160 (made)

Artist/maker

Unknown

Materials and Techniques

Walrus ivory

Marks and inscriptions

'ELEVATUS EST SOL'
'Risen in the Sun'
Inscribed on scroll held by prophet Habacuc.

Dimensions

Height: 14.5 cm, Width: 11.3 cm at top

Object history note

Purchased from Webb, £45.
A place of production in Cologne and a date around the middle of the 12th century have been established for this and related pieces. The panel is part of six reliefs (in different museums) belonging together and which probably have once formed an altar frontal, or a setting on some other type of church furniture, such as a door or pulpit.

Descriptive line

Panel relief, walrus ivory, The Ascension, Germany (Cologne), ca. 1150-1160

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

Lasko, Peter. Ars sacra : 800-1200. Harmondsworth: Penguin Books, 1972, pp. 179-80
Longhurst, Margaret H. Catalogue of Carvings in Ivory. London: Published under the Authority of the Board of Education, 1927, Part I, p. 78
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
Williamson, Paul. Medieval Ivory Carvings. Early Christian to Romanesque. London, V&A Publishing, Victoria and Albert Museum, 2010, pp. 282, 3, cat.no. 73

Materials

Ivory

Techniques

Carving

Subjects depicted

Heaven; Angels; Scroll; Banner; Flowers

Categories

Christianity; Sculpture; Religion; Plaques & Plaquettes

Collection

Sculpture Collection

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