Art/ Collection/ Art Object

Cover of a Writing Tablet

ca. 1325–50
Made in Paris, Île-de-France, France
Overall: 3 11/16 x 2 5/16 x 5/16 in. (9.3 x 5.9 x 0.8 cm)
Credit Line:
The Cloisters Collection, 2003
Accession Number:
2003.131.3a, b
On view at The Met Cloisters in Gallery 14
Both sides of this ivory reveal scenes of courtship taking place under trefoil arches. On one side (not shown), a man holding a bird of prey- a symbol of his status- has received a coronet from a woman and reciprocates by crowning her, thus signifying her victory in winning his love. On the other side (below, left) the lovers kneel in adoration before the god of love, who throws darts to seal their devotion. Inspired by numerous contemporary love poems, these scenes are part of the stages of love as defined in courtly literature such as the influential Roman de la Rose (ca. 1230-75).

Intended to cover writing tablets, such plaques were among the deluxe products of Paris during the fourteenth century and were possibly made on the rue de la Tabletterie, a name indicating their special use. Poems or messages would have been written on smooth sheets of ivory that had recessed areas filled with wax for the text. Perfect economy of technique and purity of style are clearly evident in these amorous images. In their elegance of form and gesture the courtly couples seem also to convey a moral and spiritual life that appears both mannered and artificial but is infused with joie de vivre.
Graf Ludwig zu Oettingen-Wallerstein(probably before 1824) ; Princes of Oettingen-Wallerstein(by descent, until 2003)
Hagen, Frederik. "Bilder aus dem Ritterleben und aus der Ritterdichtung: nach Elfenbeingebilden und Gedichten des Mittelalters." Abhandlungen der Königlichen Akademie der Wissenschaften zu Berlin Jahre 1855 (1856). pp. 499–500, pl. IV.V, nos. 1–2.

Eye, August von, and Jacob Falke. Kunst und Leben der Vorzeit von Beginn des Mittelalters bis zu Anfang des 19. Jahrhunderts in Skizzen nach Original-Denkmälern. Vol. 1. Nuremberg: Verlag von Bauer & Raspe, 1858. pl. XLVII.

Essenwein, August Ottmar. "Über einige mittelalterliche Elfenbeinschnitzwerke und besonders über ein Spiegelgehäuse im Cistercienser-Stifte Reun in Steiermark." Anzeiger für Kunde der deutschen Vorzeit: Organ des Germanischen Museums, n.s., 13, no. 6 (June 1866). col. 203.

Schricker, A. "Regensburg: Noch einmal die Wandmalereien im von Hösslin'schen Hause (Bierl'sche Apotheke zum 'Elefanten')." Repertorium für Kunstwissenschaft 7 (1884). p. 192.

Grupp, Georg. Kulturgeschichte des Mittelalters. Vol. 2. Stuttgart: Jos. Roth'sche Verlagsbuchhandlung, 1895. p. 402, fig. 31.

Koechlin, Raymond. Les Ivoires Gothiques Français: Volume I, Text. Paris: Editions Auguste Picard, 1924. no. 1221 and 1221 bis, pp. 433, 435, 436.

Koechlin, Raymond. Les Ivoires Gothiques Français: Volume II, Catalogue. Paris: Editions Auguste Picard, 1924. no. 1221 and 1221 bis, p. 429.

Koechlin, Raymond. Les Ivoires Gothiques Français: Volume III, Plates. Paris: Editions Auguste Picard, 1924. no. 1221 and 1221 bis, pl. CC.

Grodecki, Louis. Ivoires français. Arts, styles et techniques. Paris: Librairie Larousse, 1947. p. 117.

Müller, Markus. Minnebilder: französische Minnedarstellungen des 13. und 14. Jahrhunderts. Cologne: Böhlau Verlag, 1994. pp. 41, 199–200, fig. 29, 119.

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.

Vogel, Carol. "Inside Art: Cloisters to Get Medieval Ivories." The New York Times (April 18, 2003). p. E30, ill.

Cruse, Mark. "Intimate Performance: An Ivory Writing Tablet Cover at The Cloisters." In Cultural Performances in Medieval France: Essays in Honor of Nancy Freeman Regalado, edited by Eglal Doss-Quinby, Roberta L. Krueger, and E. Jane Burns. Gallica, Vol. 5. Rochester, N.Y.: Boydell and Brewer, 2007. pp. 57–69, fig. 1–2.

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Lyon, Christopher. Couples in Art: Artworks from The Metropolitan Museum of Art selected by Colin Eisler in collaboration with Caroline Kelly. Munich, London, New York: Prestel, 2011. pp. 118–19.

Dillon, Emma. "Sensing Sound." In A Feast for the Senses: Art and Experience in Medieval Europe, edited by Martina Bagnoli. Baltimore: Walters Art Museum, 2016. pp. 103, 104, 108, fig. 7.7.

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