The Douce Ivory

This ivory panel was made in Aachen, at the court of Charlemagne, where intellectual and artistic life thrived. Court artists engaged with classical art, particularly that of the Late Antique period. Here Christ holds his cross-staff over his shoulder as an emblem of victory. He is shown standing on a lion and a serpent, according to the prophecy in the psalm: ‘Thou shalt tread upon the lion and adder: the young lion and the dragon shalt thou trample under feet.’ The smaller scenes begin, top left, with the figure of Isaiah holding a scroll bearing the first word of his prophecy on the coming of Christ, and continue with scenes from Christ’s ministry. The plaque is set in an eighteenth-century binding, but the manuscript within is also of Carolingian origin.

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Plaque: ivory, 210 × 125 mm
Manuscript: in Latin, on parchment; 129 leaves, 290 × 195 mm
Late eighteenth-century French binding: red leather with gold tooling, with recess for ivory