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Scenes from the Passion of Christ

  • Object:

    Diptych leaf

  • Place of origin:

    France (possibly Picardy, made)

  • Date:

    ca. 1240-1260 (made)

  • Artist/Maker:


  • Materials and Techniques:

    Elephant ivory, painted and gilt

  • Credit Line:

    Salting Bequest

  • Museum number:


  • Gallery location:

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

This is the left leaf of an ivory Diptych, the so called 'Salting Leaf', made in France (possibly Picardy), in about 1240-1260.
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.
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 ca. 1250, Paris became the centre of production for figures and reliefs intended for private devotion.

Physical description

Leaf of a diptych in ivory, painted and gilt. The panel is divided horizontally into four tiers, in each of which are scenes from the Passion represented in high relief under pointed trefoil arches. Those of the of the uppermost register are crowned with tall gables that break the rectangular format of the leaf, and are decorated with rose windows and nail-headed crockets on both the inner and outer faces. The arcades of the lower register are filled with micro-architecture depicting towers and lancet windows, topped with a running chevron moulding. The arches of each register are supported on either columns or corbels. Each register depicts one or two scenes, distributed unevenly across the space. The narrative of the diptych reads from left to right, and from the top downwards, and depicts: In the top tier is the Betrayal, with Judas receiving thirty pieces of silver and Peter cutting of Malchus' ear. In the second, the Flagellation and Christ bearing His cross. In the third, the Deposition from the Cross, between figures representing the Church and the Synagogue. In the bottom tier, the Three Maries at the Sepulchre and the Risen Christ.

Place of Origin

France (possibly Picardy, made)


ca. 1240-1260 (made)



Materials and Techniques

Elephant ivory, painted and gilt


Height: 32.5 cm, Width: 12.4 cm

Object history note

Previously in the Fountaine (Sale, 1884, Catalogue, No. 529, Christies's London, bought by Professor Compars Herrmann, Vienna, for £194 5s) and then Herrmann (Sale, 1888, Catalogue, No. 249 Pl., J.M. Heberlé. Cologne) collections. To the museum through the Salting bequest, in 1910.

Descriptive line

Diptych leaf, ivory, painted and gilded, 'The Salting Leaf', depicting scenes from the Passion of Christ, French (possibly Picardy), ca. 1240-1260

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

'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, p. 89
Longhurst, Margaret H., Catalogue of Carvings in Ivory. Part II. London: Victoria and Albert Museum, 1929, p. 10
Trusted, Marjorie, ed., The Making of Sculpture. The Materials and Techniques of European Sculpture. London: 2007, p. 119, pl. 215
p. 159
Maskell, A., Ivories, London, 1905
I, pp. 75-91, II, cat. no. 36, III, pl. XIV
Koechlin, R., Les Ivoires gothiques français, 3 vols, Paris, 1924 (reprinted Paris 1968)
pp. 90-91, pl. XXVIII
Grodecki, Louis. Ivoires Français. Paris, 1947
p. 119, fig. 215
Trusted, Marjorie, ed., The Making of Sculpture. The Materials and Techniques of European Sculpture. London: 2007
part 1, pp. 212-215
Williamson, Paul and Davies, Glyn, Medieval Ivory Carvings, 1200-1550, (in 2 parts), V&A Publishing, Victoria and Albert Museum, London, 2014
Marguerite, Marie-Lys and Dectot, Xavier, ed. by, D'Or et D'Ivoire, Paris, Pise, Florence, Sienne, 1250-1320, Snooeck and Louvre Lens, Lens, 2015, exh. cat., p. 180
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. 212-215, cat. no. 67

Production Note

Once attributed to the Master of the Salting Leaf.




Gilding; Painting (image-making); Carving


Christianity; Sculpture; Religion


Sculpture Collection

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