Or are you looking for Search the Archives?

Please complete the form to email this item.

Christ in Majesty

  • Object:

    Panel

  • Place of origin:

    France (or Flanders, made)

  • Date:

    second half of 11th century (made)

  • Artist/Maker:

    Unknown

  • Materials and Techniques:

    Carved ivory

  • Museum number:

    2-1872

  • Gallery location:

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

During the period 900-1200, ivories were produced all over Europe, often in monasteries and ecclesiastical or royal courts. Pieces such as this were used for liturgical purposes. Ivory carvings appeared on book covers, reliquary caskets, antependia (the panel in front of an altar) and religious icons.
The present plaque is unusual in representing Christ in apocalyptic form, severe of visage and holding the attributes of judgement and retribution. The highly unusual feature of the perforated globe has puzzled several scholars. It was also suggested that the small circle held a relic, but there doesn't appear to be any evidence to support this. It was made in Northern France or Flanders, probably under Anlgo-Saxon influence, probably in the second half of the 11th century.

Physical description

Relief depicting Christ in Majesty. Christ is shown as the Maiestas Domini of the Last Judgement. Enclosed within a rope-like mandorla, the elongated figure is seated on the throne of Heaven with the earth as his footstool (Matthew, V, 34-35). He has a cruciform nimbus and wears a diadem on his head. A book rests on his left knee, in his covered left hand he holds a flaming chalice ('the cup of his vengeance'), and in his right the key of David or of death and hell and a sceptre with cross.
He is seated on a cushion, resting on a circle within a vesica. In the foru corners are the symbols of the four Evangelists, the whole composition framed by a simple undecorated border with inner and outer rebates. The back is entirely plain.

Place of Origin

France (or Flanders, made)

Date

second half of 11th century (made)

Artist/maker

Unknown

Materials and Techniques

Carved ivory

Dimensions

Height: 14.6 cm, Width: 8.5 cm

Object history note

Previously in the Essingh Collection at Cologne (Sale, Cologne, 1865, No.855). Purchased from Webb, £ 40.

Historical significance: The present plaque is unusual in representing Christ in apocalyptic form, severe of visage and holding the attributes of judgement and retribution. The highly unusual feature of the perforated globe has puzzled several scholars. The radiocarbon dating of the ivory gives an early date of the late seventh to the early eighth century, for the raw material and suggests that the carver was utilizing an earlier panel. It was also suggested that the small circle held a relic, but there doesn't appear to be any evidence to support this.

Descriptive line

Panel relief, ivory, Christ in Majesty, Northern France or Flanders, probably under Anlgo-Saxon influence, probably second half of 11th century

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

List of Objects in the Art Division, South Kensington, Acquired During the Year 1872, Arranged According to the Dates of Acquisition. London: Printed by George E. Eyre and William Spottiswoode for H.M.S.O., p. 1
Published under the Authority of the Board of Education, 1927-1929, Part I, p. 82
Elbern, Victor H. Der eucharistische Kelch im frühen Mittelalter: Teil I: die Formentwicklung; Teil II: Ikonographie und Symbolik. Zeitschrift des Deutschen Vereins für Kunstwissenschaft. 17, 1963, p. 157
Wehrhahn-Stauch, Liselotte. Eine ungewöhnliche Maiestas-Domini-Darstellung. Zeitschrift für Kunstgeschichte. 32, 1969, pp. 1-28
Kahsnitz, Rainer. [Exhibition review]Rhein und Maas, Kunst und Kultur, 800 - 1400 : zu d. Ausstellung in Köln - Brüssel im Sommer 1972. Zeitschrift für Kunstgeschichte. 36, 1973, p. 306
Williamson, Paul. Medieval Ivory Carvings. Early Christian to Romanesque. London, V&A Publishing, Victoria and Albert Museum, 2010, pp. 312-15, cat. no. 80

Production Note

Northern France or Flanders, probably under Anlgo-Saxon influence; probably second half of 11th century. The authenticity of this relief has been doubted.

Materials

Ivory

Techniques

Carving

Subjects depicted

Chalice; Mandorla; Book; Footstool; Sceptre; Angels

Categories

Christianity; Sculpture; Religion; Plaques & Plaquettes

Collection

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.