The Entombment of Christ and the Harrowing of Hell thumbnail 1
The Entombment of Christ and the Harrowing of Hell thumbnail 2
+1
images
Not currently on display at the V&A

The Entombment of Christ and the Harrowing of Hell

Panel
late 12th century (made)
Artist/Maker
Place Of Origin

This ivory panel depicting 'The Entombment of Christ and the Harrowing of Hell' was made in Italy (Tuscany), in the late 12th century.
Its original context remains an open question. It could have been part of a diptych. Its subject matter would point to its use as a book cover and it would also suggest that it was not an isolated, single panel. It could also have formed part of a cycle of scenes from Christ's Passion or it might have been on the left door of a tabernacle.
The iconographic type of the Entombment loosely follows Byzantine precedents. Beckwith (Beckwith 1965, pp. 169-70) pointed out that the creator has committed an iconographic solecism by including the Virgin (and possibly the two Maries) behind Christ. The Virgin was not present in the episode.


object details
Categories
Object Type
Materials and Techniques
Elephant ivory
Brief Description
Panel, ivory, The Entombment of Christ and the Harrowing of Hell, Italy (Tuscany), late 12th century
Physical Description
On the lower half of the panel Joseph of Arimathea and Nicodemus, both bearded and haloed, wearing long tunics and barefoot, are carrying the shrouded body of Christ towards the sepulchre. On the left a stylized palm-tree denotes the garden in which Joseph of Arimathea had placed the tomb. Above two angels emerge from the clouds. The first holds a rod in his hand and points or blesses with his right, and the second flies down with a cloth covering his hands. A small cross is placed centrally on the Virgin's veil, she is haloed, and stands behind Christ with hands joined in prayer. Christ, long haired, bearded, cross-haloed, wearing a long tunic and a cloak, originally holding a long cross-staff, stands on the gates of Hell and reaches out to grasp the hand of Adam.
Dimensions
  • Height: 20.2cm
  • Width: 8.1cm
Object history
Bought from Miss W. Coldstream, London, in 1963, for £100, and said to have been in the possession of her family 'for some considerable time'.



The panel used to be in the Cappella di S. Jacopo in the Pistoia Cathedral, by 1759. When the panel was still there and illustrated in Gori's 'Thesaurus veterum diptychorum', it was largely complete, apart from a section missing from the upper half. The whereabouts of the right side of the panel are not known.

Its stylistic characteristics - especially the facial types and the dense fold system of the draperies - relate in general terms to Tuscan Romanesque reliefs in marble of the second half of the 12th century in Pistoia, S. Cassiano a Settimo and Lucca.



Historical significance: The iconographic type of the Entombment loosely follows Byzantine precedents, perhaps transmitted through Italian models of similar form to the late eleventh-century example at S. Angelo in Formis (Beckwith 1965, pp. 169-70). Beckwith also pointed out that the creator has committed an iconographic solecism by including the Virgin (and possibly the two Maries) behind Christ. The Virgin was not present in the episode.
Historical context
Its original context remains an open question. It could have been part of a diptych. Its subject matter would point to its use as a book cover and it would also suggest that it was not an isolated, single panel. It could also have formed part of a cycle of scenes from Christ's passion or it might have been on the left door of a tabernacle.
Subjects depicted
Summary
This ivory panel depicting 'The Entombment of Christ and the Harrowing of Hell' was made in Italy (Tuscany), in the late 12th century.

Its original context remains an open question. It could have been part of a diptych. Its subject matter would point to its use as a book cover and it would also suggest that it was not an isolated, single panel. It could also have formed part of a cycle of scenes from Christ's Passion or it might have been on the left door of a tabernacle.

The iconographic type of the Entombment loosely follows Byzantine precedents. Beckwith (Beckwith 1965, pp. 169-70) pointed out that the creator has committed an iconographic solecism by including the Virgin (and possibly the two Maries) behind Christ. The Virgin was not present in the episode.
Bibliographic References
  • Beckwith, J. 'A Rediscovered Italo-Byzantine carving in ivory', in Miscellanea Pro Arte. Festschrift für Hermann Schnitzler, Düsseldorf, 1965, pp. 168-70
  • Williamson, Paul. Medieval Ivory Carvings. Early Christian to Romanesque. London, V&A Publishing, Victoria and Albert Museum, 2010, pp. 350-53, cat.no. 89
  • Robinson, J.C. (ed.). Catalogue of the Special Exhibition of Works of Art of the Mediaeval, Renaissance, and more recent periods: on loan at the South Kensington Museum, June 1862. London: Printed by George E. Eyre and William Spottiswoode for H.M. Stationery Office, rev. ed. January 1863.no. 174
Collection
Accession Number
A.12-1963

About this object record

Explore the Collections contains over a million catalogue records, and over half a million images. It is a working database that includes information compiled over the life of the museum. Some of our records may contain offensive and discriminatory language, or reflect outdated ideas, practice and analysis. We are committed to addressing these issues, and to review and update our records accordingly.

You can write to us to suggest improvements to the record.

Suggest Feedback

record createdJune 24, 2009
Record URL