Walrus ivory with traces of paint and gilding; 7 1/2 x 2 1/8 x 1 3/8 in. (19.2 x 5.3 x 3.5 cm)
The Cloisters Collection, 2005 (2005.274)
From about the middle of the thirteenth until the late fourteenth century, Paris was the premier center in Europe for the creation of precious ivory statuettes and reliefs for devotional purposes and mirror cases and caskets for secular use. Hundreds of ivory diptychs and triptychs and more than fifty statuettes of the Virgin and Child survive. Although numerous ivory statuettes of the crucified Christ must also have been made at the time, few northern European examples are known today. This image, with its monumental character and the sensitive rendering of the body of Jesus, is unquestionably one of the finest. The sculpture's style relates it to works produced in Paris about 1300, during the reign of King Philip the Fair, but the use of walrus ivory suggests that it was carved by a Parisian artist (or one who trained for many years in the capital) working in England, Scandinavia, or Cologne, where valuable elephant ivory was less easily obtained. The arms, made separately, have been lost.