Book Cover with Byzantine Icon of the Crucifixion

Date: 1000 (ivory); before 1085 (setting)

Geography: Made in Constantinople (Ivory); Made in Jaca, Spain (Setting)

Culture: Byzantine (ivory); Spanish (setting)

Medium: Silver-gilt with pseudo-filigree, glass, crystal, and sapphire cabochons, ivory on wood support

Dimensions: Overall: 10 3/8 x 8 5/8 x 1 in. (26.4 x 21.9 x 2.5 cm)

Classification: Ivories

Credit Line: Gift of J. Pierpont Morgan, 1917

Accession Number: 17.190.134


Byzantine ivories were highly prized in the West, where most survived in church treasuries or were incorporated into deluxe bookbindings. The ivory from this plaque originally formed the center of a Byzantine three-paneled icon, and its inclusion in a setting with filigree, precious stone, and glass simulating precious stone indicates the special homage accorded these Eastern works of art. This plaque is one of a pair that served as book covers. They were likely one of the many gifts to the nunnery of Santa Cruz de los Serós from its reputed founder, Queen Felicia, wife of Sancho V Ramírez (r. 1063–94), king of Aragon and Navarre. Her name, in fact, appears on the other cover.