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The Borradaile Triptych

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Height: 270.000 mm (centre panel)
Width: 157.000 mm (centre panel)
Height: 270.000 mm (centre panel)
Width: 157.000 mm (centre panel)
Thickness: 10.000 mm (leaves)

Bequeathed by Charles Borradaile

M&ME 1923,12-5,1

Prehistory and Europe

    The Borradaile Triptych

    Byzantine, 10th century AD
    From Constantinople (modern Istanbul, Turkey)

    Three hinged ivory panels depicting the Crucifixion of Christ and saints

    This triptych is named after Charles Borradaile, who purchased it in 1905/6 and later bequeathed it to The British Museum. It was said to have come from a convent in Rheims, northern France. The figures on the triptych are beautifully carved in high relief in the elongated fashion typical of tenth-century carving. The ivory is exceptionally well-preserved.

    The central panel depicts Christ on the Cross, flanked by the Virgin Mary and St John the Evangelist. The archangels Michael and Gabriel are positioned to either side of Christ's head. A Greek inscription below the cross arms translates 'Behold thy Son; Behold thy Mother' (John 19;26-7). Pairs of saints, all carefully identified by inscriptions, occupy the registers on the leaves to the sides. Seven of the saints wear long robes and bear crosses, or in one case, a scroll. The three military saints, George, Theodore Stratilates and Eustathius, can be identified by their swords and spears. Like the larger figures in the central panel, the saints all have pearled haloes.

    When the triptych is closed, it is revealed that the outsides of the two leaves are also deeply carved. Each leaf bears a cross with a Greek inscription which translates 'Jesus Christ victorious'. Small roundels with busts of saints decorate the centres and terminals of the crosses.

    D. Buckton (ed.), Byzantium: treasures of Byzant (London, The British Museum Press, 1994)

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