Plaque with the Journey to Emmaus and Noli Me Tangere

ca. 1115–20
Made in León, Spain
Ivory, traces of gilding
Overall: 10 5/8 x 5 1/4 x 3/4 in. (27 x 13.4 x 1.9 cm) Weight: 30.5oz. (866g)
Credit Line:
Gift of J. Pierpont Morgan, 1917
Accession Number:
  • Description

    Two appearances of the risen Christ are represented on this ivory plaque. Christ's encounter with two disciples on the road from Jerusalem to Emmaus is depicted at the top. According to the Gospel of Luke, the disciples, "their faces full of gloom," lamented Christ's crucifixion to a stranger they met on the road. Knowing that he was not recognized, Christ explained that it was preordained that the Messiah must suffer in order to redeem humankind (Luke 24:13-27). The figures are not placed in an illusionistic setting but are portrayed against a neutral background. The travelers are equipped with appropriate traveling gear—staff, water gourd, and purse—and their spirited discussion is emphasized by their lively stride.

    In the lower register, Christ appears to Mary Magdalene, who, according to the Gospel of John, stood weeping outside Jesus' empty tomb. Seeing Christ and thinking he was the gardener, she said, "If it you, sir, who removed him, tell me where you have laid him, and I will take him away." Jesus said, "Mary!" She turned to him and said, "Rabbuni!" (Hebrew for "My Master"). Jesus said, "Noli me tangere [Do not touch me] for I have not as yet ascended to the Father" (John 20:11-17). The drama of both these narratives is effectively conveyed through the vigorous, elongated bodies, gesturing heads, and large hands. The swirling drapery with pearled borders similarly emphasizes the action. The plaque was part of a larger composition representing scenes from the life of Christ, but its context remains unknown.

  • Signatures, Inscriptions, and Markings

    Inscription: Inscribed: legend above figures: D(omi)N(u)S LOQVITVR MARIE (The Lord talks to Mary.)

  • Provenance

    Traumann ; E. Guilhou, Paris; Georges Hoentschel (French, Paris 1855–1915 Paris); J. Pierpont Morgan, London and New York (until 1917)

  • See also