Panel with an Ivory Crucifixion Scene


On view at The Met Fifth Avenue in Gallery 304

This panel originally may have served as the sumptuous cover of a sacred book. Incorporating a variety of costly materials and refined artistic techniques, it represents the kind of luxurious multimedia work much prized by medieval people. While many of the stone, glass, and enamel ornaments that once embellished the frame have been lost, the central Crucifixion scene survives mostly intact, comprising individually-carved ivory figures set against a gilded silver backing dominated by the cross. Jesus, the largest and most volumetric figure, is flanked by his mother Mary and Saint John the Evangelist. Additionally, two anonymous mourning figures hover over the cross, occupying spaces typically designated for the sun and moon or pairs of angels.

Short inscriptions hammered from the back of the metal surface provide the abbreviated name of Jesus of Nazareth at the top of the cross and, at the base, the words "Felicia Regina." The plaque thus names the likely commissioner of this work, Queen Felicia of Aragon and Pamplona (part of modern-day northern Spain). Queen Felicia, who reigned during the late eleventh century, may have had the panel made together with a closely related companion piece also in the Met’s collection (17.190.134), gifting both to the convent of Santa Cruz de la Serós. The convent, located near the Aragonese capital of Jaca, had close ties to the royal family and welcomed many female members of the family into its community.

The wooden core supporting the metalwork sheath seems to be a post-medieval replacement.

Panel with an Ivory Crucifixion Scene, Silver-gilt with pseudo-filigree, glass & stone cabochons, cloisonné enamel, elephant ivory with traces of gilding on pine support, Spanish

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