Scenes from the Life of Christ thumbnail 1
Scenes from the Life of Christ 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

Scenes from the Life of Christ

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

Byzantine ivory plaques of this type, originally serving as icons or parts of diptychs, were brought to Italy in large numbers and often reused as book covers. The scenes depicted here are the Annunciation, the Nativity, the Transfiguration, the Raising of Lazarus, the Maries at the Sepulchre and the Meeting in the Garden.
Originally the plaque might have been part of a diptych. If this is the case, it is clear that the plaque was later reused. Both lateral borders were shaved down to reduce the width of the plaque and perhaps to eliminate the hinge holes on the right side. It is probable that the plaque was employed as a book-cover, probably on a western manuscript. Judging by the wear at the upper right and the flattening effect of the abrasion to the upper arm of the apostle behind Christ in the Raising of Lazarus scene, it would seem likely that it served as the back cover. One might expect that the now-missing right leaf was set into the front cover.


object details
Categories
Object Type
Materials and Techniques
Elephant ivory
Brief Description
Panel, ivory, Scenes from the Life of Christ, Byzantine (Constantinople) or the Holy Land, 12th century
Physical Description
Ivory panel. On the top the The Annunciation and the Nativity with the Wahsing of the Christ Child. In the middle the Transfiguration and the Raising of Lazarus. On the bottom the Maries at the Sepulchre and Christ with the Maries in the Garden (the Chairete). On top and bottom are narrow borders of leaf elements. There are three holes both at the top and bottom, now filled with either bone or wood plugs. Two fruther plugged holes along the right edge; and another two in the middle row, near the left border and on teh right , between Christ and Lazarus. The back is plain.
Dimensions
  • At left height: 25cm
  • At right height: 24.8cm
  • At top width: 12cm
  • At bottom width: 12.2cm
  • Depth: 1.3cm
  • Weight: 0.38kg
Style
Marks and Inscriptions
  • D L II ... / Priori ... / Dom ... / Wienhoc [ft?] (This inscription in ink is visible on the back of the plaque. The transcription above was taken by Paul Williamson in 2010.)
  • DEDIT / Priori [with contraction mark] ... / Dominus / Wienhoorst (This reading of the ink inscription was taken by Victor Borges and Glyn Davies in 2017, based on an examination under U/V light. )
Object history
Purchased from John Webb, £100.

Originally the plaque might have been part of a diptych. If this is the case, it is clear that the plaque was later reused. Both lateral borders were shaved down to reduce the width of the plaque and perhaps to eliminate the hinge holes on the right side. It is probable that the plaque was employed as a book-cover, probably on a western manuscript. Judging by the wear at the upper right and the flattening effect of the abrasion to the upper arm of the apostle behind Christ in the Raising of Lazarus scene, it would seem likely that it served as the back cover. One might expect that the now-missing right leaf was set into the front cover.
Historical context
Various works in a related style - probably the products of the same school but not necessarily the same workshop - survive including a plaque with the Entry into Jerusalem in the British Museum, a Nativity in Liverpool and panels showing the raising of Lazarus and the Last Judgement in the V&A. In this group compositions tend to be crowded with comparatively small-scale figures, their heads seen in almost full profile but with features carved on the steeply cut concealed side.
Subjects depicted
Summary
Byzantine ivory plaques of this type, originally serving as icons or parts of diptychs, were brought to Italy in large numbers and often reused as book covers. The scenes depicted here are the Annunciation, the Nativity, the Transfiguration, the Raising of Lazarus, the Maries at the Sepulchre and the Meeting in the Garden.

Originally the plaque might have been part of a diptych. If this is the case, it is clear that the plaque was later reused. Both lateral borders were shaved down to reduce the width of the plaque and perhaps to eliminate the hinge holes on the right side. It is probable that the plaque was employed as a book-cover, probably on a western manuscript. Judging by the wear at the upper right and the flattening effect of the abrasion to the upper arm of the apostle behind Christ in the Raising of Lazarus scene, it would seem likely that it served as the back cover. One might expect that the now-missing right leaf was set into the front cover.
Associated Objects
Bibliographic References
  • Inventory of Art Objects acquired in the Year 1867. 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. 11
  • Longhurst, Margaret H. Catalogue of Carvings in Ivory. London: Published under the Authority of the Board of Education, 1927-1929, Part I, p. 45
  • Goldschmidt, A. and Weitzmann, K. Die byzantinischen Elfenbeinskulpturen des X. - XIII. Jahrhunderts, Zweiter Band: Reliefs, Berlin, 1934 (reprinted, Berlin, 1979), cat.no. 198
  • Williamson, Paul, ed. The Medieval Treasury: the Art of the Middle Ages in the Victoria and Albert Museum. London: Victoria and Albert Museum, 1986, pp. 164-165
  • Cutler, Anthony. The Hand of the Master: Craftsmanship, Ivory and Society in Byzantium (9th-11th centuries). Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press, 1994, pp. 33, 76-77, 143-144, 187, figs. 31, 165-166
  • Hanson, John. The Stuttgart Casket and the Permeability of the Byzantine Aristic Tradition. Gesta. 37, 1998, pp. 22-23, fig. 14
  • Keck, Andrew S. A Group of Talo-Byzantine Ivories. The Art Bulletin. 12, 1930, p. 151, fig. 6
  • Williamson, Paul. Medieval Ivory Carvings. Early Christian to Romanesque. London, V&A Publishing, Victoria and Albert Museum, 2010, pp. 134-137, cat.no. 31
  • Dell'Acqua, Francesca; Cutler, Anthony; Kessler, Herbert L.; Shalem, Avinoam; Wolf, Gerhard, eds. The Salerno Ivories: Objects, Histories, Contexts, Berlin, 2016, pp.105-106.
  • Byzantine Art, a European Art, Athens : Printing Office of the Institut Français d'Athènes, 196490
  • Evans, Helen C & Wixom, William D (ed.), The Glory of Byzantium; art and culture of the Middle Byzantine era A.D. 843-1261, Metropolitan Museum, New York, 1997
  • Sibbelee, Hans, Het Wonder: Miracula Christi, Archiepiscopal Museum, Utrecht, 1962
Collection
Accession Number
295-1867

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record createdJanuary 10, 2003
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