Northern France (carving) and Upper Rhine (painting)
Elephant ivory, polychromy, gilding
closed 2 13/16 x 1 9/16 x 7/8 in. (7.2 x 4 x 2.2 cm)
The Jack and Belle Linsky Collection, 1982 (1982.60.399)
Ivory carvings of the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries took many forms, including diptychs, triptychs, caskets, combs, and mirror backs. One of the most exceptional objects, however, is the ivory booklet. Secular examples were common, but tablets with religious subjects were extremely rare and are known primarily from surviving inventories. The exterior covers of this unusual booklet show scenes of the passion and death of Christ, while the interior covers present scenes of the Virgin. Two of the interior "pages" include painted images added at a later date; these spaces originally must have been intended for some other purpose. All the other interior panels have raised edges, creating a recess for wax that the book's owner could incise with a stylus. The wax tablets within might have contained prayers of intercession or the litanies of saints.