Collection online

plaque

  • Object type

  • Museum number

    1904,0702.1

  • Description

    Plaque; ivory; carved with the Adoration of the Magi: the Virgin is seated frontally holding the Christ child in her lap; behind her on the left is an angel carrying a cross-staff, while the three Magi dressed in trousers, chlamyses and Phrygian caps present their offerings with veiled hands; below this, the Nativity: the Virgin lies on a mattress at left; at the right is the child lying in a manger flanked by the ox and ass and with the star of Bethlehem above; in front of the manger Salome extends her withered hand to the child. On the back nine lines of a prayer in Greek.

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  • Culture/period

  • Date

    • 500-550 (circa)
  • Findspot

  • Materials

  • Technique

  • Dimensions

    • Length: 217 millimetres
    • Width: 123 millimetres
    • Depth: 15 millimetres
  • Inscriptions

      • Inscription Type

        inscription
      • Inscription Script

        Greek
      • Inscription Position

        reverse
      • Inscription Language

        Greek
      • Inscription Content

        Χ(ριστ)ῶ μὲν δῶ[ρα] πρὸσεφε|ρων οἱ μάγοι [ἐγ]ὼ δὲ ῥύπον | πολλῶν ἁμπλακημάτ[ων] | + Χ(ριστ)ὲ ὁ Θ(εό)ς ὁ εἰσὲ ἐλ[πίζων | οὐ]κ ἀποτυγχάν[ει] π[οτέ] | + Χ(ριστ)ὲ ὁ Θεός σκέπε φρ[ούρει] | φ[ύ]λαττε τῶ σῶ δούλ(ω) Κ[....] | τῶ ὑπὲρ τ(ὴν) ἄπασαν κτίσ(ιν) [ε]|χωντι κατὰκριθήναι
      • Inscription Transliteration

        Χριστῷ μὲν δῶρα προσέφερον οἱ μάγοι, / ἐγὼ δὲ ῥύπον πολλῶν ἀμπλακημάτων.
        + Χριστὲ ὁ Θεός, ὁ εἰς σὲ ἐλπίζων οὐκ ἀποτυγχάνει ποτέ.
        + Χριστὲ ὁ Θεός, σκέπε, φρούρει, φύλαττε τῷ σῷ δούλῳ Κ[....], τῷ ὑπὲρ τὴν ἅπασαν κτίσιν ἔχοντι κατακριθῆναι.
      • Inscription Translation

        The Magi offered gifts to Christ, but I [offer him] the filth of [my] numerous sins.
        Christ [our God], he who places hope in You never fails.
        Christ [our] God, shelter, guard, protect Your servant K[...], who will be condemned more than the whole world.
      • Inscription Comment

        The handwriting is datable to the twelfth century. The first phrase (Χριστῷ μὲν δῶρα, etc.) is in twelve-syllable verse. The second one (Χριστὲ ὁ Θεός, ὁ εἰς σὲ ἐλπίζων, etc.) was, according to legend, inscribed by King Abgar of Edessa on an image of Christ miraculously imprinted upon a cloth. It occurs also on the two identical, eleventh-century lead seals of a certain Kalokyros, now in Dumbarton Oaks (inv. BZS.1955.1.4171 and BZS.1958.106.4898).
  • Curator's comments

    C. Delvoye, 'Les ivoires paleobyzantines', Corsi di Cultura sull'arte ravennate e bizantina, 1971, 213; Ed. K. Weitzmann, Age of Spirituality: Late Antique and Early Christian Art....New York, 1979, no. 476 (exh. cat.); Exh. cat., We Three Kings: the Magi in Art and Legend, Aylesbury, 1995, no. 1; Y. Israeli and D. Mevorah, Cradle of Christianity, Jerusalem (Israel Museum), 2000, 93 and 218; M. Vassilaki (ed.), Mother of God: Representations of the Virgin in Byzantine Art, Athens (Benaki Museum), Athens, 2000, no. 3 (A. Eastmond); R. Cormack and M. Vassilaki (eds), Byzantium 330-1453, London (Royal Academy), 2008, no. 22 , 81 and 383 (A. Eastmond)Blurton 1997
    Icons, images of saints or holy scenes, were venerated in Orthodox churches from the sixth century onwards. They were produced in a variety of materials and techniques.

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  • Bibliography

    • Volbach 1976 131 bibliographic details
    • Dalton 1909 14 bibliographic details
    • Blurton 1997 188 bibliographic details
    • Weitzmann 1979 476 bibliographic details
  • Location

    On display: G41/dc13

  • Exhibition history

    Exhibited:

    2012-2013 11 Nov-25 Aug, USA, Art Institute of Chicago, Tradition Transformed: Late Roman and Early Byzantine Treasures from the British Museum
    2008 25 Oct-2009 22 Mar, London, Royal Academy of Arts, Byzantium 330-1453 AD
    2000 16 Oct-2001 14 Jan, Greece, Athens, Benaki Museum, The Mother of God
    2000 24 Mar-3 Oct, Israel, Jerusalem, The Israel Museum, The Cradle of Christainity
    1998 9 Feb-3 May, India, Mumbai, Sir Caswasjee Jahangir Hall, The Enduring Image
    1997 13 Oct-1998 5 Jan, India, New Delhi, National Museum, The Enduring Image
    1995 25 Oct-1996 21 Jan, Aylesbury, Buckinghamshire County Museum, We Three Kings
    1977 New York, Metropolitan Museum of Art, Age of Spirituality, no. 476

  • Subjects

  • Associated names

  • Acquisition name

  • Acquisition date

    1904

  • Department

    Britain, Europe and Prehistory

  • Registration number

    1904,0702.1

Plaque; ivory; leaf from a diptych; decorated with the Adoration of the Magi: the Virgin is seated frontally holding the Christ child in her lap; behind her on the left is an angel carrying a cross-staff, while the three Magi dressed in trousers, chlamyses and Phrygian caps present their offerings with veiled hands; below this, the Nativity: the Virgin lies on a mattress at left; at the right is the child lying in a manger flanked by the ox and ass and with the star of Bethlehem above; in front of the manger Salome extends her withered hand to the child. On the back nine lines of a prayer in Greek.

Plaque; ivory; leaf from a diptych; decorated with the Adoration of the Magi: the Virgin is seated frontally holding the Christ child in her lap; behind her on the left is an angel carrying a cross-staff, while the three Magi dressed in trousers, chlamyses and Phrygian caps present their offerings with veiled hands; below this, the Nativity: the Virgin lies on a mattress at left; at the right is the child lying in a manger flanked by the ox and ass and with the star of Bethlehem above; in front of the manger Salome extends her withered hand to the child. On the back nine lines of a prayer in Greek.

Image description

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