Art/ Collection/ Collection/ Art Object

Icon with the Crucifixion

Date:
mid-10th century
Geography:
Made in probably Constantinople
Culture:
Byzantine
Medium:
Ivory
Dimensions:
Overall: 5 15/16 x 3 1/2 x 5/16 in. (15.1 x 8.9 x 0.8 cm)
Classification:
Ivories
Credit Line:
Gift of J. Pierpont Morgan, 1917
Accession Number:
17.190.44
On view at The Met Fifth Avenue in Gallery 303
This Byzantine depiction of the Crucifixion emphasizes Christ's victory over death. Christ's body is shown limply attached to the cross, his arms bent at the elbows and his legs turned, pushing his hip slightly outward. His head falls forward against his left shoulder. The Virgin and Saint John the Baptist mourn his passing, and underneath the foot support, the three soldiers divide Christ's seamless garment.

These figures are frequently portrayed as witnesses to Christ's sacrifice for humankind. The presence of the bearded reclining man stabbed by the base of the cross, however, is unique among surviving Byzantine representations of the Crucifixion. Depicted as a defeated and subdued warrior, this figure personifies Hades, the Classical ruler of the underworld, the abode of the dead. In this case, the cross signifies both the weapon with which Christ's Crucifixion wins man's salvation and a victory standard. The impact of this message is brilliantly conveyed through the simplicity of the composition, which is marked by large areas of uncarved ivory underneath the architectural canopy. The resulting shallow space creates a dramatic stage for the figures, whose elongated bodies are articulated by the finely chiseled folds of their classically inspired drapery.
Inscription: Inscribed in Greek: [initials for] Jesus Christ; [initals for] Mother of God; [initials for] Saint John; The Division of the Cloak; The Cross Implanted in the Stomach of Hades
Edmond Bonnaffé, Paris; his sale, Hôtel Drouot, Paris (May 3–6, 1897, no. 246 to Bourgeois Frères(?)); Bourgeois Frères, Paris and Cologne; Baron Albert Oppenheim, Cologne(until d. 1904); J. Pierpont Morgan, London and New York
Catalogue des objets d'art et de haute curiosité de la Renaissance [...] Composant la Collection E. Bonnaffé. Paris: Hôtel Drouot, May 3–6, 1897. no. 246, p. 49.

Schlumberger, Gustave Léon. L'Épopée byzantine à la fin du Xe siècle: Part 2, Basile II le tueur de Bulgares. Librairie Hachette et Cie, 1900. p. 13.

Kunsthistorische Ausstellung, Düsseldorf 1902: Illustrirter Katalog. Düsseldorf: August-Bagel-Verlag, 1902. no. 1202, p. 106.

Molinier, Émile. Collection du Baron Albert Oppenheim: Tableaux et objets d'art, catalogue précédé d'une introduction. Paris: Librairie Centrale des Beaux-Arts, 1904. no. 65, p. 29, pl. XLVIII.

The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "Consular Diptychs and Christian Ivories." The Metropolitan Museum of Art Bulletin, o.s., 13, no. 8 (August 1918). pp. 171–73.

Breck, Joseph, ed. The Metropolitan Museum of Art, The Pierpont Morgan Wing: A Brief Guide to the Art of the Renaissance, Medieval and Earlier Periods. New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 1918. ill. p. 6.

Breck, Joseph. "Pre-Gothic Ivories in the Pierpont Morgan Collection." The Metropolitan Museum of Art Bulletin, o.s., 15, no. 1 (January 1920). pp. 12–17.

Volbach, Wolfgang Fritz. Die Bildwerke des Deutschen Museums: Volume 1, Die Elfenbeinbildwerke. Berlin: Walter de Gruyter & Co., 1923. p. 9.

Breck, Joseph, and Meyric R. Rogers. The Pierpont Morgan Wing: A Handbook. 1st ed. New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 1925. pp. 22, 47, 114, fig. 26, ill. p. 49.

Chase, George H., and Chandler Rathfon Post. A History of Sculpture. New York: Harper & Brothers, 1925. pp. 181–82, fig. 101.

Breck, Joseph, and Meyric R. Rogers. The Pierpont Morgan Wing: A Handbook. 2nd ed. New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 1929. pp. 22, 47, 114, fig. 26, ill. p. 49.

Goldschmidt, Adolph, and Kurt Weitzmann. Die Byzantinischen Elfenbeinskulpturen des X.-XIII. Jahrhunderts. Vol. 2. Berlin: Bruno Cassirer, 1934. no. 6, pp. 13–14, 26, pl. II, fig. 6.

Rorimer, James J., and William Holmes Forsyth. "The Medieval Galleries." The Metropolitan Museum of Art Bulletin, n.s., 12, no. 6 (February 1954). pp. 123, 129.

Thoby, Paul. Le crucifix, des origines au Concile de Trente. Nantes: Bellanger, 1959. no. 114, pp. 86, 248, fig. 114, pl. L.

Beeson, Nora B., ed. Guide to The Metropolitan Museum of Art. New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 1972. no. 23, p. 215, fig. 23.

Schrader, Jack L. "An Ivory Koimesis Plaque of the Macedonian Renaissance." Bulletin: The Museum of Fine Arts, Houston 3, no. 6 (1972). pp. 79–80, fig. 8.

Haussherr, Reiner. "Die Skulptur des frühen und hohen Mittelalters an Rhein Maas." In Rhein und Maas : Kunst und Kultur 800-1400 : Band 2 Berichte, Beiträge und Forschungen zum Themenkreis der Ausstellung und des Katalogs. Köln: Museum Schnütgen, 1973. p. 392.

Frazer, Margaret English. "Hades Stabbed by the Cross of Christ." Metropolitan Museum Journal 9 (1974). pp. 153–61, fig. 1, 2.

The Metropolitan Museum of Art. The Metropolitan Museum of Art Guide, edited by Kathleen Howard. New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 1983. no. 16, p. 344.

Hürkey, Edgar J. Das Bild des Gekreuzigten im Mittelalter: Untersuchungen zu Gruppierung, Entwicklung und Verbreitung anhand der Gewandmotive. Worms: Werner'sche Verlagsgesellschaft, 1983. no. 243, pp. 217–18, fig. 243.

Husband, Timothy B., and Charles T. Little. Europe in the Middle Ages. New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 1987. no. 41, p. 49.

Cutler, Anthony. The Hand of the Master: Craftsmanship, Ivory, and Society in Byzantium (9th–11th centuries). Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1994. pp. 77, 99, 157, 172, 176, 244, 249, fig. 78, pl. V.

The Metropolitan Museum of Art. The Metropolitan Museum of Art Guide, edited by Kathleen Howard. 2nd ed. New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 1994. no. 17, p. 378.

Evans, Helen C., and William D. Wixom, ed. The Glory of Byzantium: Art and Culture of the Middle Byzantine Era, A.D. 843–1261. New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 1997. no. 97, pp 151–52.

Connor, Carolyn L. The Color of Ivory: Polychromy on Byzantine Ivories. Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press, 1998. p. 84.

Evans, Helen C., Melanie Holcomb, and Robert Hallman. "The Arts of Byzantium." The Metropolitan Museum of Art Bulletin, n.s., 58, no. 4 (Spring 2001). p. 46.



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