Art/ Collection/ Art Object

Plaque with the Fountain of Youth

ca. 1320–40
Made in Paris, Île-de-France, France
Overall: 4 7/16 x 2 5/8 x 3/16 in. (11.2 x 6.6 x 0.4 cm)
Credit Line:
The Cloisters Collection, 2003
Accession Number:
On view at The Met Cloisters in Gallery 14
The lower scene depicts three episodes in the progress of an amorous relationship. Beneath trefoil arches a woman recoils from the advances of her lover at the left; she has a more tentative response in the center; and on the right she embraces him as he chucks her chin. Above, under an identical arcade, is the fountain of youth, an image rarely represented in art during this period but known from romance literature. At the left, a bearded, old man with a walking stick enters the raised fountain's flowing waters, which are already inhabited by two smiling, youthful couples.

In addition to devotional statuettes, diptychs, and triptychs, which survive in large numbers, Parisian ivory carvers supplied their clients with combs, boxes, mirror cases, and other objects frequently decorated with secular themes. This plaque was undoubtedly made to be the cover of a set of wax writing tablets. The ivory leaves would have been held together by a cord passed through the two holes that can be seen at the top. Small traces of paint indicate that this ivory was probably originally partially polychromed.
Graf Ludwig zu Oettingen-Wallerstein(probably before 1824) ; Princes of Oettingen-Wallerstein(by descent, until 2003)
Koechlin, Raymond. "Les ivoires gothiques." In Histoire de l'art depuis les premiers temps chrétiens jusqu'à nos jours: Volume 2, Formation, expansion et évolution de l'art gothique. Part 1, edited by André Michel. Paris: Armand Colin et Cie., 1906. pp. 495–96.

Koechlin, Raymond. Les Ivoires Gothiques Français: Volume I, Text. Paris: Editions Auguste Picard, 1924. no. 1215, pp. 436, 440, 491.

Koechlin, Raymond. Les Ivoires Gothiques Français: Volume III, Plates. Paris: Editions Auguste Picard, 1924. no. 1215, pl. CXCIX.

Koechlin, Raymond. Les Ivoires Gothiques Français: Volume II, Catalogue. Paris: Editions Auguste Picard, 1924. no. 1215, p. 427.

Rapp Buri, Anna. Der Jungbrunnen in Literatur und bildender Kunst des Mittelalters. Zürich: Juris Verlag, 1976. no. 8, pp. 66–67, 124, 144, fig. 6.

The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "Recent Acquisitions: A Selection, 2002-2003." The Metropolitan Museum of Art Bulletin, n.s., 61, no. 2 (Fall 2003). p. 13.

Wardropper, Ian. "The Impact of the Federal Rule on Museum Quality Ivory Objects." IFAR Journal 17, no. 1 (2016). pp. 21–22, fig. 1.

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