Polyptych with Scenes from Christ's Passion

Date: ca. 1350

Geography: Made in Rhineland, France or Germany

Culture: French or German

Medium: Ivory, paint, and gilding with metal mounts

Dimensions: Overall (open): 9 7/16 x 12 11/16 x 3/8 in. (23.9 x 32.2 x 1 cm)
Overall (closed): 9 7/16 x 3 1/8 x 1 5/8 in. (23.9 x 8 x 4.2 cm)

Classification: Ivories

Credit Line: Gift of J. Pierpont Morgan, 1917

Accession Number: 17.190.205


This quadriptych, essentially two diptychs hinged together, is one of only a few of this rare type of devotional object. A dense, almost cinematic, telling of the final hours before Jesus' Crucifixion is presented across the four panels, first along the bottom register, then the top. The narrative begins with his arrest in the Garden of Gethsemane and his subsequent questioning by Pontius Pilate, the Roman governor of Judaea. In the third niche, both Judas' suicide and Pilate symbolically washing his hands of responsibility are represented: two opposite reactions to the guilt of Jesus' sentence. The last niche on the lower level presents two moments of Christ's torments: his buffeting and stripping. While the event is only summarily mentioned in the gospels, the depiction of the buffeting is especially persuasive as the features of Jesus' face are visible under the cloth wrapped around his head. The top register starts with the Flagellation and the Carrying of the Cross and ends with two scenes directly before the Crucifixion: the nailing of Christ to the cross and the erection of the cross.

The quadriptych's emphasis on the torments Christ suffered during the Passion reflects contemporary devotional trends in the mid-fourteenth century.