The four Evangelists thumbnail 1
The four Evangelists thumbnail 2
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Image of Gallery in South Kensington
On display at V&A South Kensington
Medieval & Renaissance, Room 8, The William and Eileen Ruddock Gallery

The four Evangelists

Plaque
second half of 11th century (made)
Artist/Maker
Place Of Origin

These are four panel reliefs carved in walrus ivory in Germany (Lower Rhine) in the middle to second half of the eleventh century. These four plaques probably intended to decorate the binding of a manuscript containing the Gospels. The role of the evangelists as the authors of these texts is stressed by showing them at their writing desks.
Similar reliefs were frequently used to decorate covers of manuscripts of the Gospels, either placed in the corners or, in the form of a cross, about a central plaque.


object details
Categories
Object Type
Parts
This object consists of 4 parts.
(Some alternative part names are also shown below)
  • Plaque
  • Panel
  • Plaque
  • Panel
  • Plaque
  • Panel
  • Plaque
  • Panel
Materials and Techniques
Ivory
Brief Description
Four plaques from a book cover showing the Four Evangelists, carved walrus ivory, Germany (Lower Rhine), second half of 11th century
Physical Description
Four ivory bookcovers depicting the four Evangelists. Each is shown seated writing at a lectern, flanked on either side by a pinnacled round tower, with two windows at the top and an open door at the bottom. Above each Evangelist is his respective emblem emerging from the clouds: Matthew has an angel, Mark a lion, Luke an ox and John an eagle. Below is a ground of leaf ornament. There are traces of paint and gilding which may be of a later date.
Dimensions
  • Each panel weight: 0.08kg
  • Each panel depth: 1.7cm
  • Height: 9cm
  • Width: 5.5cm
Object history
From the Webb collection, purchased by the Museum for £70 in 1865.
Historical context
Similar reliefs were frequently used to decorate covers of manuscripts of the Gospels, either placed in the corners or, in the form of a cross, about a central plaque. Very similar examples exist with the same disposition of the basic elements, and a set in the Walters art gallery, Baltimore, is still attached to a silver and filigree bookcover on a copy of the Gospels dating from 1062. (see Medieval Ivories in the Walter's Art Gallery - Baltimore 1969, no.5)

Williamson notes that the head of St Matthew's angel is a type seen on an eleventh-century portable altar in Melk. This is one of a group of related portable altars, and it may be dated by an inscription on it to the second half of the eleventh-century, which seems to be the most likely date for these Evangelist plaques.
Subjects depicted
Summary
These are four panel reliefs carved in walrus ivory in Germany (Lower Rhine) in the middle to second half of the eleventh century. These four plaques probably intended to decorate the binding of a manuscript containing the Gospels. The role of the evangelists as the authors of these texts is stressed by showing them at their writing desks.

Similar reliefs were frequently used to decorate covers of manuscripts of the Gospels, either placed in the corners or, in the form of a cross, about a central plaque.
Bibliographic References
  • Williamson, P. The Medieval Treasury (V&A Publications, 1986), p.100-101
  • Walters Art Gallery, P. Medieval Ivories in the Walters Art Gallery (Baltimore, 1969), cat. no. 5
  • Inventory of Art Objects acquired in the Year 1865. Inventory of the Objects in the Art Division of the Museum at South Kensington, arranged According to the Dates of their Acquisition. Vol. 1. London : Printed by George E. Eyre and William Spottiswoode for H.M.S.O., 1868, p. 33
  • cf. Medieval Ivories in the Walters Art Gallery. Baltimore: Wlaters Art Gallery, 1969, p.2
  • Williamson, Paul. Medieval Ivory Carvings. Early Christian to Romanesque. London, V&A Publishing, Victoria and Albert Museum, 2010, pp. 268, 9, cat. no. 70
  • Stiegemann, Christoph & Wemhoff, Matthias (eds.), Canossa 1077 - Erschütterung der Welt : Geschichte, Kunst und Kultur am Aufgang der Romanik, München : Hirmer, 2006454
Collection
Accession Number
220 to C-1865

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record createdNovember 30, 2006
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