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Diptych: Scenes from the Life of Christ and the Virgin

Artist: Unknown French Artist Primary
mid-14th century
Dimensions: 6.69 x 8.17 x 0.44 in. (16.99 x 20.74 x 1.11 cm)
Dimensions Extent: overall (opened)
Object Type: Relief Sculpture
Creation Place: Europe, France
Medium and Support: Ivory
Credit Line: Lent by the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Gift of J. Pierpont Morgan, 1917 (17.190.214)
Accession Number: L2010.01.09
On View: Bellarmine Hall Galleries

The hinged panels show scenes from the Life and Passion of Jesus Christ, and the Life of the Virgin Mary. Veneration of the Virgin Mary was especially strong in the Gothic era. The portable diptych would have been used as a private devotional tool in the home or while its owner traveled. In the 13th century, ivory and bone carving rose in popularity due to an increased availability of the material as an unusually large number of walruses, whose tusks were used, migrated south. Ivory carving was an important industry in Paris, and remained a sustainable economic source until the late 15th century. The curving figures and elegant style are typical of the period.


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Three-dimensional works of art in which images and forms are produced in relief, in intaglio, or in the round. The term refers particularly to art works created by carving or engraving a hard material, by molding or casting a malleable material (which usually then hardens), or by assembling parts to create a three-dimensional object. It is typically used to refer to large or medium-sized objects made of stone, wood, bronze, or another metal. Small objects are typically referred to as "carvings" or another appropriate term. "Sculpture" refers to works that represent tangible beings, objects, or groups of objects, or are abstract works that have defined edges and boundaries and can be measured. As three-dimensional works become more diffused in space or time, or less tangible, use appropriate specific terms, such as "mail art" or "environmental art."

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