- Museum number
Section of a staff or handle showing the 12 Apostles and 4 Evangelist symbols; ivory (elephant ?). Possibly from a flabellum (liturgical fan). Hollowed and shaped at the lower end to form a spiral screw for insertion into another section. Surface decoration carved in four registers, depicting standing figures with their attribues in architectural niches with beaded rounded arches and foliate capitals.
- Production date
Height: 203 millimetres
Width: 22 millimetres
- Curator's comments
- Text taken from Zarnecki et al, 1984, cat. no. 277, see bibliography
(Text refers to a group of ivory staffs which are described together cat. no, 215, 216, 217 and 218)
'This group of four ivory staff or flabellum (liturgical fan) handels, with a fifth now in Florence (Goldschmidt 1926, 62), seem to be the work of one artist: for example, 215, 217, and 218 use complex, dense leafwork (as opposed to scrolls) with prominent veining. Both 215, around Mary's Mandorla, and 217, on the rim below the top register, have a series of rosettes alternating with vertical rows of dots. The Lion of St Mark on 217 and the bestiary lion on 216 have identical faces and manes. Furthermore, the contition of 215, and of the figure round the top of the Florence staff, lack the fine trough folds so noticable on 217. Unfinished faces have bulbous eyes with no lids, whereas finished ones are small and naturalistic.
Goldschmidt attributed all five ivories (with another that does not belong) to England or France, around 1200 and it is hard to improve on his suggestion though there are one or two indications that England is more likely. Fore example, the peculiar capitals supporting the arcades on 217 find their closest antecedents in 'Mercian' art around 800 on the reliefs with figures at Castor (Stone, 1955,pl. 15) and Breedon on the Hill (Kendrick, 1938, pl. LXXIII). An ivory descovered at Kirkstall Abbey in Yorkshire (Beckwith, 1972, no. 163) has rosettes separated by framed beading similar to that already mentioned as appearing on 215. In terms of style both the figures and the foliagefind parallels on the lavabo fragments from Much Wenlock (169) [of catalogue] so that one might suggest, as a hypothesis for further exploration, that the ivories originated in the Midlands or the north of England. Another feture indicating a northern origin is the Scandinavian lip-lappet of the winged 'dog' with a serpent's tail on 216 (cf. Wilson, Klindt Jensen, 1966, pl.LXXI).
The survival of a homogeneous group of as many as five ivories suggests that they all came from a single source, for example a church treasury. Although it is unlikely that they are all part of one object they may have formed part of a set of, say, processional staffs. The iconography has, as yet, proved of little use in assessing their function or provenance. On 215 there is a seated bishop having a mitre placed on his head by an angel while in the act of blessing a kneeling figure. He is accompanied by two haloed ecclesiastics, but the precise subject is unknown. Equally the Byzantine-derived garb and attributes of the angels on the middle two registers of 215 raise more questions than they answer. The 'encyclopedic' subject matter of the Florence staff and 216 also merits further investigation.. The Florence staff also includes what may be a group of the Liberal Arts, but shown as male practitioners rather than female personifications (see Evans, 1978):; also a set of Labours of the Months containing Spinario which appears only in Italy (Webster, 1938, esp. no. 32). However, some such cycle was known in England by about 1200 since Labours, including Spinario, form the basis of some of the figured capitalsin the south transcept at Wells Cathedral. The bestiary subject on 216 are even more unexpected. The taxonomy represented by the different registers - birds (with one exception), winged beasts, beasts and animals with serpents' tails - suggest a progression from airborne creatures to those that go on their bellies (perhaps a lower section of the handle, now missing, containing fish). This clasification is very unusal and may be unique.
Apart from the styalistic comparison with Much Wenlock, the dating of theses ivories is suggested by their content. The mitre, placed on the bishop's head on 215, is of a form which was unknown until about 1150 and became common only in subsequent decades. In general the range of subjects and the orderliness of their arrangement indicates a period when such themes as the Bestiary and the Labours of the Months have been assimilated into the intellectuan and the visual repertoire, and that too implies the second half of the 12th century. The refinement of the carving on such a small scale, particularly on 216, is reminiscent of the love of minuteness evident elsewhere after about 1170, for example in the initials of manuscripts.'
Dlaton, 1909, p. 61
Goldschmidt, 1926, no.66
- Not on display
- Exhibition history
2013 28 Nov - present, Norwich Castle Museum, Norman Connections LT loan
1984 5 Apr-8 Jul, London, Hayward Gallery, English Romanesque Art 1066-1200 cat. no. 217, ill. p. 229
- Acquisition date
- Britain, Europe and Prehistory
- Registration number