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The Crucifixion with the Virgin and St John

  • Object:

    Pendant

  • Place of origin:

    Constantinople (made)

  • Date:

    ca. 900 (made)

  • Artist/Maker:

    Unknown

  • Materials and Techniques:

    Jasper

  • Credit Line:

    Purchased under the Bequest of Mr Francis Reubell Bryan

  • Museum number:

    A.77-1937

  • Gallery location:

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

The Crucifixion was one of the central Christian images, in the Byzantine East as much as the West. This luxurious object would have formed the focus of its owner's prayers.

Cameos with religious imagery were objects for personal devotional use in the Byzantine world. The choice of a semi-precious hardstone for this piece emphasises both its importance as an object to its original owner, and its luxurious nature. The suspension loop, although not original, almost certainly reflects how the object would have originally been used, when it was probably worn as an 'enkolpion', a sacred image to be worn at the breast.

Physical description

Carved jasper relief, the figures carved in quite high relief, with full forms. Christ is shown wearing an ample loin cloth, his feet nailed separately to a suppedaneum. To his right stands the Virgin Mary, raising her right arm, covered by her mantle, towards Christ. To his left stands John the Evangelist holding a roll in his left hand. Above are representations of the Sun and the Moon.

Place of Origin

Constantinople (made)

Date

ca. 900 (made)

Artist/maker

Unknown

Materials and Techniques

Jasper

Marks and inscriptions

IC XC
Jesus Christ
The IC XC inscription is placed on the plaque above Christ's head.

HCTAUWCIC
is crucified
This inscription is split on the two sides of the cross.

Dimensions

Height: 6.5 cm not including suspension loop, Width: 6 cm, Height: 7.5 cm Including suspension loop, Depth: 1 cm, Weight: 0.06 kg

Object history note

This piece was bought from Adolpho Loewi, an art dealer in Venice, who had 'purchased it from a private family in Rome' (V&A archives). Nothing is known of its early history. It is possible, given the Roman provenance, that this was one of the many portable Byzantine objects that seem to have made their way into Italy before the fifteenth century.

Historical significance: The Crucifixion was one of the central Christian images, in the Byzantine East as much as the West. This luxurious object would have formed the focus of its owner's personal devotional practices.

Historical context note

Cameos with religious imagery were objects for personal devotional use in the Byzantine world, in effect portable icons or amulets. The choice of a semi-precious hardstone for this piece emphasises both its importance as an object to its original owner, and its luxurious nature. The suspension loop, although not original, almost certainly reflects how the object would have originally been used, when it was probably worn as an 'enkolpion', a sacred image to be worn at the breast.

Descriptive line

Jaspar pendant depicting The Crucifixion with the Virgin and St John, Byzantine (Constantinople), ca. 900

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

Williamson, P. The Medieval Treasury, London: 1986, pp. 86-87.
P. Williamson (ed.), European Sculpture at the Victoria and Albert Museum, London, 1996, pp. 38-39
Williamson, P, (ed.) European Sculpture at the Victoria and Albert Museum. London, 1996, pp.38-39.

Production Note

It was originally suggested, in a report by Volbach and Goldschmidt, that this carved jasper dated from the twelfth century, but a number of peculiarities of the iconography have much earlier parallels (St John holds a roll rather than a book; the unusual pose of the Virgin). Subsequent scholars have accepted this as a much earlier piece.

Materials

Jasper

Techniques

Carving

Subjects depicted

Sun; Moon; Cross; Saint

Categories

Sculpture; Christianity

Collection

Sculpture Collection

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