Plaque with Christ Presenting the Keys to Saint Peter and the Law to Saint Paul

Date: ca. 1150–1200

Geography: Made in Westphalia, Germany

Culture: German

Medium: Elephant ivory

Dimensions: Overall: 5 15/16 x 3 3/8 x 3/8 in. (15.1 x 8.5 x 0.9 cm)

Classification: Ivories

Credit Line: The Cloisters Collection, 1979

Accession Number: 1979.399


Christ Giving the Keys to Peter and the Law to Paul (traditio clavis et legis) became an established theme in art in fourth-century Rome in order to emphasize the primacy of Peter and the importance of Paul. Early depictions of the subject are usually monumental in scale, as, for example, when they served as apse decorations, but occasionally, in the later medieval period, the event is represented in ivory. A significant departure from traditional depictions of this scene is the absence of the rock upon which Christ usually stands, which, here, has been replaced by a domed and arcaded rotunda, a vivid evocation of the church.