Three Holy Women at the Sepulcher, early 10th century
Northern Italy (Milan?)
Elephant ivory; 7 1/2 x 4 1/4 in. (19 x 10.8 cm)
Purchase, The Cloisters Collection and Lila Acheson Wallace Gift, 1993 (1993.19)
This ivory plaque representing the Easter miracle of Christ's resurrection from the dead probably once served as part of a decorative cover for a liturgical manuscript. It shows the visit of the three women to the Holy Sepulcher, the burial place of Christ, where they discover an angel guarding the empty tomb. The soldiers guarding the tomb are sound asleep. Christ's absence is emphasized here as his abandoned shroud hovers in the doorway of the towered mausoleum at center. Scenes of the women at the empty tomb are featured with relative frequency on ivories of the ninth and early tenth centuries, an artistic development that seems to coincide with an increased emphasis on the events at the tomb seen in the Easter liturgy of this period.