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Scenes from the Passion of Christ

  • Object:


  • Place of origin:

    France (Paris, made)
    Germany (possibly, made)

  • Date:

    ca. 1360-1380 (made)

  • Artist/Maker:


  • Materials and Techniques:

    Elephant ivory carved in high relief

  • Museum number:


  • Gallery location:

    Sculpture, Room 111, The Gilbert Bayes Gallery, case 8

This is an ivory diptych, made in Paris, in about 1360-1380. It depicts twelve scenes from the Passion of Christ in three tiers (6 registers). The diptych is unusual in combining features usually associated with two different groups of ivories. The inclusion of the Incredulity of St Thomas has been remarked upon as highly unusual.

Ivory was used all over Europe for religious works of art. It was often combined with precious metals and usually took the form of relief panels, for book covers, portable altars and caskets. An almost unbroken tradition of ivory carving extends from the Roman and Byzantine empires until the end of the 14th century. From about 1250, Paris became the centre of production for figures and reliefs intended for private devotion.

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 twelve scenes from the Passion of Christ in three tiers, the subjects separated by columns; above each scene are three trefoil arches. Each is topped with a crocketed gable surmounted by a finial; and between each gable is a recessed trefoil. The scenes (beginning at the top and reading across both leaves) are - the Entry into Jerusalem; the Washing of the Disciples' Feet; the Last Supper; the Agony in the Garden, the Betrayal; the Flagellation; Christ carrying his cross; the Crucifixion; the Entombment; the Resurrection; Christ meeting St. Mary Magdalene in the Garden; the Incredulity of St. Thomas.

Place of Origin

France (Paris, made)
Germany (possibly, made)


ca. 1360-1380 (made)



Materials and Techniques

Elephant ivory carved in high relief


Height: 27.3 cm, Width: 24.2 cm

Object history note

In the possession of John Webb, London, by 1862; purchased from Webb in 1867, £82.

Descriptive line

Diptych, ivory, depicting Scenes from the Passion of Christ, made in France (Paris), ca. 1360-1380

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. 23
Gross, Enid Karr. Religious relief ivory carving during the regency and reign of Charles V of France (1356 - 1380). [Ph. D. dissertation] Syracuse University, 1986, pp. 173-175, 248-249, pl. 51
Maskell, W., A Description of the Ivories Ancient and Medieval in the South Kensington Museum, London, 1872
I, p. 296, II, cat. no. 820
Koechlin, R., Les Ivoires gothiques français, 3 vols, Paris, 1924 (reprinted Paris 1968)
part 1, pp. 306-307
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. 306-307, cat. no. 102




High relief


Sculpture; Religion; Christianity


Sculpture Collection

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