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Art/ Collection/ Art Object

Fragment of a Marble Tomb Relief with Christ Giving the Law

late 300s
Overall: 19 1/2 x 52 3/4 x 6 in. (49.5 x 134 x 15.2 cm)
Credit Line:
Gift of Mrs. Joseph Brummer and Ernest Brummer, in memory of Joseph Brummer, 1948
Accession Number:
On view at The Met Fifth Avenue in Gallery 300
The authority of the Christian church grew rapidly with emperor Constantine's recognition of the faith as a legal religion within the Roman Empire in 313. Increasingly the most powerful centers of the church were the old imperial capital, Rome; the new imperial capital, Constantinople, the New Rome; Alexandria; Jerusalem/Caesarea; and Antioch. During the late fourth century, the church in Rome developed images stressing the importance of Saint Peter to whom Christ had given the keys to the kingdom (Matt. 16: 18-20). Traditionally considered the first bishop of Rome, Saint Peter was martyred and buried in the city. These Roman images would spread widely among peoples throughout western Europe as they accepted the authority of the church of Rome.

One of these images, the traditio legis, Christ Giving the Law to Saint Peter, shows Christ offering an unfurled scroll containing the law to Saint Peter in recognition of his role as the leader of the church. To the left of Christ stands Saint Paul, also martyred in Rome, acknowledging the authority conferred on Peter. Four other apostles survive on this relief. The scene is placed within a traditional Roman sarcophagus form, a series of niches framed by columns decorated with putti in vine scrolls.
Counts Benttini Piceni di Sarzana ; [ Ugo Jandolo, Rome (sold 1927)]; [ Brummer Gallery, Paris and New York (1927–1948)]
Rorimer, James J. "The Authenticity of the Chalice of Antioch." In Studies in Art and Literature for Belle da Costa Greene, edited by Dorothy Miner. Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press, 1954. p. 163, fig. 133.

Rorimer, James J., and William Holmes Forsyth. "The Medieval Galleries." The Metropolitan Museum of Art Bulletin, n.s., 12, no. 6 (February 1954). p. 122.

The Metropolitan Museum of Art. Guide to the Collections: Medieval Art. New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 1962.

Beeson, Nora B., ed. Guide to The Metropolitan Museum of Art. New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 1972. no. 1, p. 210.

Weitzmann, Kurt, ed. Age of Spirituality: Late Antique and Early Christian Art, Third to Seventh Century. New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 1979. no. 502, pp. 558-559.

Kitzinger, Ernst. "Christian Imagery: Growth and Impact." In Age of Spirituality: A Symposium, edited by Kurt Weitzmann. New York and Princeton, New Jersey: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 1980. p. 145, fig. 5.

Howard, Kathleen, ed. The Metropolitan Museum of Art Guide. New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 1983. no. 4, p. 339.

Husband, Timothy B., and Charles T. Little. Europe in the Middle Ages. New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 1987. no. 11, pp. 24-25.

Howard, Kathleen, ed. The Metropolitan Museum of Art Guide. 2nd ed. New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 1994. no. 4, p. 373.

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