Or are you looking for Search the Archives?

Please complete the form to email this item.

The Larnaca Tympanum

  • Object:

    Tympanum

  • Place of origin:

    Larnaca (made)

  • Date:

    ca. 1210 - ca. 1230 (made)

  • Artist/Maker:

    Unknown

  • Materials and Techniques:

    Marble

  • Museum number:

    A.2-1982

  • Gallery location:

    Medieval & Renaissance, Room 8, The William and Eileen Ruddock Gallery, case WN

This small tympanum was excavated in Larnaka, Cyprus, shortly before 1882 by the noted archaeologist Cesnola. It must have stood above one of the doors into a church. However, it is far too small to have been above any of the Western doors. Scenes of this sort, combining narrative images with representations of Christ enthroned in heaven were common choices for portal imagery. The person entering the church was encouraged to think about the events of Christ's life, but also about his ever-present nature.

It is likely that the artists who carved this piece had trained in Tuscany, and they were also clearly aware of Byzantine artistic conventions.

This piece emphasises that artistic styles did not change overnight - they could co-exist in the same period. The composition of this tympanum owes something to gothic examples. But the figure style, in particular the heads of the Apostles, and the awkwardly twisting postures of the angel figures, show the continuing vitality of romanesque conventions.

Physical description

Tympanum, marble, with a relief of the Ascension. The relief shows the Ascension with the twelve apostles, two archangels and the Virgin orans; other scenes show the Carrying of the Cross, the Crucifixion, the Baptism of Christ, the Annunciation, and the Maries at the Sepulchre.

Place of Origin

Larnaca (made)

Date

ca. 1210 - ca. 1230 (made)

Artist/maker

Unknown

Materials and Techniques

Marble

Dimensions

Height: 62.3 cm, Width: 104.7 cm including wings, Depth: 8 cm

Object history note

It is not known which church this piece is from. It was first published by the archaeologist Cesnola in 1882. It came to London as part of the Lawrence Collection of Cypriot antiquities, and was sold on to the Pitt Rivers Collection in Farnham.

Historical significance: This piece emphasises that artistic styles did not change overnight - they could co-exist in the same period. The composition of this tympanum owes something to gothic examples. But the figure style, in particular the heads of the Apostles, and the awkwardly twisting postures of the angel figures, show the continuing vitality of romanesque conventions.

Historical context note

This small tympanum must have stood above one of the doors into a church. However, it is far too small to have been above any of the Western doors.

Scenes of this sort, combining narrative images with representations of Christ enthroned in heaven were common choices for portal imagery. The person entering the church was encouraged to think about the events of Christ's life, but also about his ever-present nature.

Descriptive line

Tympanum, marble, with a relief of the Ascension of Christ, Cyprus (Larnaca), about 1210-30

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

P. Williamson (ed.), European Sculpture at the Victoria and Albert Museum, London, 1996, p. 49
A. Palma di Cesnola, Salaminia (Cyprus); The History, Treasures and Antiquities of Salamis in the Island of Cyprus, London, 1882, p.108 and pl. IX
C. Enlart, L'art gothique et de la Renaissance en Chypre, Paris, 1899, vol. 1, pp. 15-16
T.S.R. Boase, 'v. The Arts in Cyprus, Ecclesiastical Art' in K.M. Setton (ed.), A History of the Crusades, Madison, 1977, vol. IV, p. 186
M. Willis, 'The Larnaca Tympanum' in Kypriakon Spoudon, May 1981, pp. 15-28
P. Hetherington, 'The Larnaka Tympanum and its origins: a persisting problem from 19th century Cyprus', in Report of the Department of Antiquities, Cyprus, 2000, Nicosia, 2000, pp. 361-378

Production Note

This sculpture was excavated in Larnaka, Cyprus, shortly before 1882 by the noted archaeologist Cesnola.

Because so little is known about medieval Cypriot sculpture, this piece has been variously dated. However, convincing parallels have been suggested between this piece and late twelfth century sculpture in Tuscany.

The authenticity of this piece was recently questioned by Paul Hetherington, who regards it as a nineteenth century pastiche, but his argument is not wholly convincing.

Subjects depicted

Halo; Angels; Wings; Apostles; Mandorlas; Crosses

Categories

Sculpture; Religion; Christianity; Architectural fittings

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.