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Ivory pyxis with the Healing of the Demoniac


Height: 86.000 mm

Sneyd Collection

M&ME 1903,5-14,1

Britain, Europe and Prehistory

    Ivory pyxis with the Healing of the Demoniac

    Carolingian, early 9th century AD
    From Aix-la-Chapelle (Aachen, Germany), court school of Charlemagne

    Christ casting out devils from a possessed man (Matthew 9:32-33)

    This pyxis, acquired from an old English collection in Newcastle, was said to have come from Aix-la-Chapelle (Aachen). Like the ivory panel with Nativity scenes in The British Museum, it was probably carved in the court school of Charlemagne, king of the Franks (768-814), king of the Lombards (774-814), and Holy Roman emperor (800-814).

    Christ, bearing a long cross, approaches the possessed man, who stands before a tomb with two columns and bolted folding doors. Two disciples follow Christ and another three converse among themselves on the opposite side. An interior surrounding is suggested by a curtain, carved below the space once occupied by a lock.

    This, the only pyxis that survives from the Carolingian period, is a good illustration of the admiration that the Carolingians had for Late Antique art. Ivory carvings of the fifth and sixth century were preserved for many centuries, often in church treasuries, and served as models for Carolingian carvers. The model for this example may have been Syrian, as the unusual subject matter appears in works of art from that area. In two places the Carolingian carver has misplaced the clavi or ornamental stripes worn on the tunics. He evidently had no personal knowledge of the costumes he was copying.

    D. Kötzsche. H. Küffner and G Mörsch (eds.), Charlemagne, oeuvre, rayonneme (Aix-la Chapelle, 1965)

    O.M. Dalton, Catalogue of the ivory carving (London, Trustees of the British Museum, 1909)


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