- Museum number
Four panels making up the sides of a reliquary casket or portable altar; whalebone. The top and base have not survived. The two long sides (1 and 4) each show six Apostles, standing beneath a round arch arcade supported by elaborately decorated columns. One of these (4) has a hole in the centre indicating a key-hole for the casket. One short side with the Crucifixion, Virgin and St John (2) , the other with Christ in Majesty and four symbols of the Evangelists (3).
- Production date
- 1130-1140 (circa)
Height: 82 millimetres (.1)
Height: 82 millimetres (.2)
Height: 82 millimetres (.3)
Height: 82 millimetres (.4)
Width: 229 millimetres (.1)
Width: 133 millimetres (.2)
Width: 126 millimetres (.3)
Width: 229 millimetres (.4)
- Curator's comments
- Text from Zarnecki et al 1984, cat. no. 203, see bibliography.
'Two of the four panels have rebates showing that they were once fitted together to form a box, but the top and base have not survived. Originally it was either a reliquary or a portable altar, and if the latter the only example to survive in Britain. A keyhole on one of the larger sides indicates that it was originally made to be locked, like so many portable altars that survived on the Continent.
The two long sides show the Twelve Apostles under an arcade carried on elaborately decorated columns. On the shorter sides there is the Crucifixion with rather oversize figures of the Virgin and St John, and at the other end a Christ in Majesty in a mandorla supported by four Evangelist symbols. The sequence of these symbols, beginning with St Mark's Lion, is unique and almost certainly the result of copying a vertical model which started with the Eagle of St John top left, followed by Matthew, Mark and Luke. This would also explain why the Winged Man of St Matthew appears lying on his back: in the model he would have been upright.
The canopies, especially the domed individual ones at one end of each of the long sides, which are pierced by circles, suggest that the carver had seen Byzantine ivories of the 10th and 11th centuries in which such canopies are very popular.
The figure style relates to the sculptured frieze added to the west front of Lincoln Cathedral at the time of Bishop Alexander between 1123 and 1146. The simple broad drapery folds of the Apostles also look like the double capitals carved for the Romanesque cloisters of Norwich Cathedral, of which only fragments remain.'
Lasko, 1964, pp. 489-95
Lasko, 1972a, p. 236
Beckwith, 1972, no. 81
- 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. 203
1974 8 May-7 Jul, London, V&A, Ivory Carving in Early Modern England 700-1200, cat.42
- Acquisition date
- Britain, Europe and Prehistory
- Registration number