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Diptych - The Nativity, the Adoration of the Magi, the Crucifixion and the Coronation of the Virgin
  • The Nativity, the Adoration of the Magi, the Crucifixion and the Coronation of the Virgin
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The Nativity, the Adoration of the Magi, the Crucifixion and the Coronation of the Virgin

  • Object:

    Diptych

  • Place of origin:

    Paris (made)

  • Date:

    ca. 1340-1360 (made)

  • Artist/Maker:

    Unknown

  • Materials and Techniques:

    Carved elephant ivory

  • Credit Line:

    Salting Bequest

  • Museum number:

    A.554-1910

  • Gallery location:

    Sculpture, Room 111, The Gilbert Bayes Gallery, case DR9

This is an ivory diptych, made in about 1340-1370, in Paris, France.
Ivory plaques such as this were normally arranged in diptychs or triptychs. Diptychs consisted of two tablets hinged together, while triptychs were two tablets hinged on either side of a central tablet. The smaller ones were probably held in the hand and opened like a small book, while the larger ones would have stood open on a table or altar.
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

Ivory diptych with scenes in four compartments, each surmounted by three trefoil arches. The arches are topped with cursory crockets and finials, with a moulding above. The narrative runs from left to right, bottom to top: the Nativity with the Annunciation to the Shepherd, the Adoration of the Magi, the Crucifixion, and the Glorification of the Virgin.. The relief carving is realtively deep, but none of the sculptural elements has been entirely excavated from the background.

In the Coronation scene, Christ and the Virgin are seated on a long bench; the former holds a book in His left hand and blesses with His right; the latter is in an attitude of prayer; at each side on brackets are kneeling angels bearing censers. Below is the Adoration of the Magi; the infant Christ stands on His mother's knee and receives a gift from a kneeling king.

Place of Origin

Paris (made)

Date

ca. 1340-1360 (made)

Artist/maker

Unknown

Materials and Techniques

Carved elephant ivory

Dimensions

Height: 15.8 cm, Width: 20.9 cm

Object history note

In the collection of John Salting, London, by 1909; bequeathed by Salting, in 1910.

Descriptive line

Diptych, ivory, with scenes from the life of Christ, France (Paris), ca. 1340-60

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

Longhurst, Margaret H. Catalogue of Carvings in Ivory. Part II. London: Victoria and Albert Museum, 1929, p. 19
'Salting Bequest (A. 70 to A. 1029-1910) / Murray Bequest (A. 1030 to A. 1096-1910)'. In: List of Works of Art Acquired by the Victoria and Albert Museum (Department of Architecture and Sculpture). London: Printed under the Authority of his Majesty's Stationery Office, by Eyre and Spottiswoode, Limited, East Harding Street, EC, pp. 91, 92
I, pp. 174-75, II, cat. no. 320, II, pl. LXXVII
Koechlin, R., Les Ivoires gothiques français, 3 vols, Paris, 1924 (reprinted Paris 1968)
part 1, pp. 278-279
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. 278-279, cat. no. 90

Production Note

Previously considered to be German.

Materials

Elephant ivory

Techniques

Carving

Subjects depicted

Angels; Arches

Categories

Christianity; Sculpture; Religion

Collection

Sculpture Collection

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