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Two carved ivory panels featuring four scenes from the life of Christ

Two tall pentagonal ivory panels are joined with a metal hinge. Each panel has a decorative arch that frames four carved scenes. In the upper left corner is Christ on the cross surrounded by a woman on his left and a man on his right. The upper right corner features Christ with a halo surrounded by several figures with clasped hands. The lower left shows a reclining Mary nursing the infant Jesus with animals in the foreground. In the bottom right corner, three men face right toward Mary holding the infant Jesus on her knee, a star above them all.

Gallery Text

In the late Middle Ages, Christian spirituality increasingly focused on the salvation of individual souls. Devotional practice was no longer confined to the liturgy, but was supplemented with private prayer. Individuals acquired their own prayer books, and the growing aristocratic and bourgeois classes commissioned small devotional works, like the portable ivory shown here. The invention of printmaking led to the proliferation of sacred images, some inspired by earlier manuscript illuminations. Other objects, like the bronze plaque here, were in turn modeled after prints.

[1946.56, 1957.217, 1962.282, BR65.10]

Identification and Creation

Object Number
Unidentified Artist
Diptych with Four Scenes from the Life of Christ
Other Titles
Alternate Title: Diptych with four Representations of Religious Sciences
Work Type
14th century
Creation Place: Europe, France, Ile-de-France
Persistent Link


Level 2, Room 2440, Medieval Art, Medieval Art
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Physical Descriptions

21.7 x 12.9 x 1.6 cm (8 9/16 x 5 1/16 x 5/8 in.)


Recorded Ownership History
[Brummer Gallery, Inc., New York, NY, December 1946, sold;] to the Fogg Art Museum by friends of Rosalind Gray Potter.

Acquisition and Rights

Credit Line
Harvard Art Museums/Fogg Museum, Gift in memory of Rosalind Gray Potter from a group of friends
Accession Year
Object Number
European and American Art

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Publication History

  • Georg Swarzenski, "A Gothic Ivory Diptych", Bulletin of the Fogg Art Museum (December 1947), X, 6, p. 179-84. p. 180, repr.
  • Richard H. Randall, Jr., The Golden Age of Ivory: Gothic Carvings in North American Collections, Hudson Hills Press (New York, NY, 1993), no. 58, p. 68, repr.
  • Gothic Ivories Project at The Courtauld Institute of Art, London, website, Courtauld Institute of Art, 2010, [accessed 7-7-21]

Exhibition History

  • The Spirit of the Cathedral, Old South Church, Boston, 05/01/1964 - 05/31/1964
  • Re-View: S422-423 Western Art of the Middle Ages & Renaissance, Harvard Art Museums/Arthur M. Sackler Museum, Cambridge, 08/16/2008 - 06/18/2011
  • 32Q: 2440 Medieval, Harvard Art Museums, Cambridge, 11/16/2014 - 01/01/2050

Subjects and Contexts

  • Google Art Project

Verification Level

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