Plaque with the Journey to Emmaus and Noli Me Tangere

Date: ca. 1115–20

Geography: Made in León, Spain

Culture: Spanish

Medium: Ivory, traces of gilding

Dimensions: Overall: 10 5/8 x 5 1/4 x 3/4 in. (27 x 13.4 x 1.9 cm)
Weight: 30.5oz. (866g)

Classification: Ivories

Credit Line: Gift of J. Pierpont Morgan, 1917

Accession Number: 17.190.47


Two appearances of Christ after his resurrection from the dead are represented on this ivory plaque. Christ's encounter with two disciples traveling from Jerusalem to the town of Emmaus is depicted at the top. The disciples, not recognizing the stranger who has joined them, lament Christ's crucifixion. Before revealing himself, Christ impresses them with his knowledge of the prophets' teachings. The travelers are equipped with appropriate travel gear—staff, water gourd, and purse—and their spirited discussion is emphasized by their lively stride. In the lower register, Christ appears to Mary Magdalene, who stood weeping outside Jesus' empty tomb. When she recognizes him, Christ forbids her to touch him, but to report his resurrection to the disciples. The inscription, which refers to this dialogue, reads "the Lord speaks to Mary."

The drama of both these narratives is effectively conveyed through the threatrical and often exaggerated gestures and movements. The swirling drapery with pearled borders similarly emphasizes the action. The plaque was part of a larger composition representing scenes from the life of Christ, but its original context remains unknown.