Scenes from the Life of Christ thumbnail 1
Scenes from the Life of Christ thumbnail 2
+21
images
Image of Gallery in South Kensington
On display at V&A South Kensington
Sculpture, Room 111, The Gilbert Bayes Gallery

Scenes from the Life of Christ

Panels
second half of 12th century (made)
Artist/Maker
Place Of Origin

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. This panel and inv.no. 280-1867 are twelve panels that may have decorated the frame of a large icon or formed part of a reliquary.
They depict (from the top left) three Saints, the parable of the Rich Young Man, Christ and the Woman of Samaria, Christ Healing the Blind Man, the Raising of Lazarus, the Healing of the Demoniac, the Deposition from the Cross, the Entombment, the Incredulity of St Thomas, the Charge to the Apostles, the Death of the Virgin, and three Saints.


object details
Categories
Object Type
Parts
This object consists of 6 parts.
(Some alternative part names are also shown below)
  • Relief
  • Plaque
  • Panel
  • Plaque
  • Panel
  • Plaque
  • Panel
  • Plaque
  • Panel
  • Plaque
Materials and Techniques
Elephant ivory carved in low relief
Brief Description
Panel, ivory, Scene from the Life of Christ, Byzantine (probably Constantinople), second half of 12th century
Physical Description
Six detached ivory panels depicting scenes from the life of Christ.

279:1-1867 - three standing saints

279:2-1867 - the Entombment

279:3-1867 - the Deposition from the Cross

279:4-1867 - Christ Healing the Lame Man

279:5-1867 - Christ Healing the man possessed by devils

279:6-1867 - the Dormition of the Virgin

Dimensions
  • Each height: 4.4cm (Note: for 279:1-1867, 279:2-1867 - h: 4.4 cm, w: 5cm for 279:3-1867 - h: 4.3 cm, w: 5cm for 279:4 - h: 4.6 cm, w: 5.1 cm for 279:5 - h: 4.3 cm, w: 4.9 cm for 279:6 - h: 4.5 cm, w: 4.9 cm )
  • Each width: 5cm
Object history
NB. While the term ‘lame’ has been used in this record, it has since fallen from usage and is now considered offensive. The term is repeated in this record in its original historical context.



There can be no doubt that the plaques must have belonged to a larger ensemble which would have included more scenes from the Passion of Christ and probably also from his infancy. It is perhaps more likely however that they decorated the frame of a substantial icon, flanking a large central image of Christ or the Virgin and Child, in the manner of several extant icons with accompanying small scenes. Or that they formed part of an icon made up entirely of many smaller images, such as the painted example with no fewer than 36 scenes from the Life of Christ and five images of the Virgin at the top, at Sinai. These types of icon were most commonly seen in the late 11th to 14th centuries. The fact that the plaque with the Dormition of the Virgin is noticeably more rubbed than the others might indicate that the original context of the group was a Marian icon.

In the possession of John Webb, purchased from Webb, £ 10.
Production
The reliefs were formerly described as German work, but they are most likely Byzantine (probably Constantinople)
Subject depicted
Summary
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. This panel and inv.no. 280-1867 are twelve panels that may have decorated the frame of a large icon or formed part of a reliquary.

They depict (from the top left) three Saints, the parable of the Rich Young Man, Christ and the Woman of Samaria, Christ Healing the Blind Man, the Raising of Lazarus, the Healing of the Demoniac, the Deposition from the Cross, the Entombment, the Incredulity of St Thomas, the Charge to the Apostles, the Death of the Virgin, and three Saints.
Associated Objects
Bibliographic References
  • 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. 11
  • Goldschmidt, A. and Weitzmann, K. Die byzantinischen Elfenbeinskulpturen des X. - XIII. Jahrhunderts, Zweiter Band: Reliefs, Berlin, 1934 (reprinted, Berlin, 1979), cat.no. 127
  • Byzance: l'Art Byzantin dans les Collections Publiques Françaises. Paris, 1992, no. 173. Catalogue of the exhibition held Musée National du Louvre, Paris, 1992-1993
  • Cutler, Anthony.PProlegomena to the Craft of Ivory Carving in Late Antiquity and the Early Middle Ages. In: Altet, Xavier Barral i, ed. Artistes, Artisans et Production Artistique au Moyen Age, II. Commande et Travail. Paris: Picard, 1987, p. 458, n. 196
  • Beckwith, John. Problèmes Posés par Certaines Sculptures sur Ivoire du Haut Moyen Age. Les Monuments Historiques de la France. 12, 1966, pp. 12-17
  • Williamson, Paul. Medieval Ivory Carvings. Early Christian to Romanesque. London, V&A Publishing, Victoria and Albert Museum, 2010, pp. 140-143 , cat.no. 33
Collection
Accession Number
279:1 to 6-1867

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record createdDecember 29, 2003
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