Christ enthroned thumbnail 1
Christ enthroned 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

Christ enthroned

Panel
mid 10th century to second half 10th century (made)
Artist/Maker
Place Of Origin

This relief of Christ once formed part of a central plaque of a triptych but its original ivory background and frame have been cut away. Christ is shown as the Pantocrator ('Creator of All'), with his right hand raised in blessing. This was a Byzantine composition which was taken up in the West, especially in Venice and Sicily.
The group to which this ivory belongs is known as the 'Romanos' group, from a plaque representing the Emperor Romanos and his bride Eudokia dated to either 945-949 or 1068-1071 depending on whether the two figures are seen as the Emperor Romanos II and his wife Eudokia or as the later Emperor Romanos IV and Eudokia Makrembolitissa. The present carving belongs with the finest examples of this group, and its iconographic type - with Christ's right hand within the folds of his cloak - links it to earlier images of the Pantocreator from the late ninth century onwards.


object details
Categories
Object Type
Materials and Techniques
Elephant ivory, with traces of crimson paint
Brief Description
Panel, ivory, depicting Christ Enthroned, Byzantine (Constantinople), middle or second half of the 10th century
Physical Description
Ivory panel depicting Christ seated on a wide, cushioned throne with bead-and-reel legs, his feet upon a footstool. His left hand holds a book resting on his knee and his right is raised in benediction from within the folds of his cloak. Vestiges of the plain background remain on each side of Christ's head, and traces of a cross can be seen at the level of Christ's ears. There are traces of crimson paint, mostly in the deep folds of the drapery and in the background around the footstool, are not original. There are three holes drilled.
Dimensions
  • Height: 11.8cm
  • Width: 6.8cm
  • Depth: 0.9cm
  • Weight: 0.06kg
Style
Object history
Originally at the centre of a plaque, it probably formed part of a small triptych.

Originally the figure was part of a plaque, the background of which has been cut away. This was presumably done because the extremely thin background - seen on the best Byzantine plaques - had broken or been badly cracked. It is also not possible to judge if the throne was backless or had a high back, both types being depicted in Middle Byzantine ivories. There are traces of crimson paint, mostly in the deep folds of the drapery and in the background around the footstool, are not original. The three holes were probably drilled after the plaque's conversion to an applique figure, probably on a book cover.

In the possession of John Webb, London, purchased from Webb, 1867.
Historical context
There are other Byzantine ivory plaques of the seated Christ, all very close to this example; one in the Bodleian Library in Oxford has also been cut away and now has a gilded background but others still have their ivory surround. The Christ was probably originally the centre of a triptych. Byzantine ivories have been divided into several stylistic groups. These 'groups' are not so clear-cut as it once seemed and their dating is a problematic issue since few pieces give any indication as to when they were produced and it is possible that the style of the carvings remained static for long periods of time, undergoing only minimal changes even over a century. The group to which this ivory belongs is known as the 'Romanos' group, from a plaque representing the Emperor Romanos and his bride Eudokia dated to either 945-949 or 1068-1071 depending on whether the two figures are seen as the Emperor Romanos II and his wife Eudokia or as the later Emperor Romanos IV and Eudokia Makrembolitissa.
Subject depicted
Summary
This relief of Christ once formed part of a central plaque of a triptych but its original ivory background and frame have been cut away. Christ is shown as the Pantocrator ('Creator of All'), with his right hand raised in blessing. This was a Byzantine composition which was taken up in the West, especially in Venice and Sicily.

The group to which this ivory belongs is known as the 'Romanos' group, from a plaque representing the Emperor Romanos and his bride Eudokia dated to either 945-949 or 1068-1071 depending on whether the two figures are seen as the Emperor Romanos II and his wife Eudokia or as the later Emperor Romanos IV and Eudokia Makrembolitissa. The present carving belongs with the finest examples of this group, and its iconographic type - with Christ's right hand within the folds of his cloak - links it to earlier images of the Pantocreator from the late ninth century onwards.
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. 7
  • Longhurst, Margaret H. Catalogue of Carvings in Ivory. London: Published under the Authority of the Board of Education, 1927-1929, Part I, p. 42
  • Goldschmidt, A. and Weitzmann, K. Die byzantinischen Elfenbeinskulpturen des X. - XIII. Jahrhunderts, Zweiter Band: Reliefs, Berlin, 1934 (reprinted, Berlin, 1979), cat.no. 63, pl. XXIV
  • Williamson, Paul, ed. The Medieval Treasury. 1986, pp. 92-93
  • Cutler, Anthony. The Hand of the Master: Craftsmanship, Ivory and Society in Byzantium. Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press, 1994, pp. 217-218, 279, n. 125
  • Williamson, Paul. Medieval Ivory Carvings. Early Christian to Romanesque. London, V&A Publishing, Victoria and Albert Museum, 2010, pp. 106, 7, cat.no. 23
Collection
Accession Number
273-1867

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record createdFebruary 11, 2004
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