Diptych Wing with the Crucifixion

1300 - 1325

The Toledo Museum of Art

The Toledo Museum of Art

  • Title: Diptych Wing with the Crucifixion
  • Date Created: 1300 - 1325
  • Location Created: Europe
  • Physical Dimensions: w127 x h242 cm (Complete)
  • Catalogue entry: Masterfully carved, this ivory plaque was originally part of a diptych, a two-winged, hinged shrine used for private devotion. Its imagery perfectly exemplifies an important new direction in late medieval culture: the exploration and expression of human emotion. The left wing of the diptych, today in the Musée du Louvre, Paris, depicts four angels adoring a smiling Virgin Mary and jolly Christ child, the embodiment of cheerful delight. Very different in mood, the Toledo wing depicts Christ's crucifixion, using gesture, attitude, and expression to convey extreme pathos. At left, Mary's elegantly articulated drapery, down-turned face, and mournful expression speak of both her grace and her overwhelming sadness. Her hands point toward Christ's hanging, tortured head, pendant to her own. His elongated, awkwardly twisted, and emaciated body contrasts sharply with the Virgin's beauty, and vividly expresses the agony of his death on the cross. To the right, St. John, beloved of the apostles, is in complete despair, his drooping head forming a brilliant, poetic counterpoint to those of Christ and Mary. The sorrow of this earthly scene is countered by the optimistic forms that crown it. Derived from the emotionally charged style of Gothic architecture, a broad, refined arch and triangular gable frame the scene, creating a sacred setting that foreshadows Christ's resurrection and his ascension into heaven, the establishment of the church, and the salvation of mankind. The architectural elements point upward, embellished with foliage that also rises, flame-like, toward heaven. The order of the universe, restored by Christ's sacrifice, is indicated by the perfect geometry of quatrefoils—four-lobed motifs inscribed within circles that symbolize the harmony of heaven and earth.
  • Type: Sculpture
  • Rights: Purchased with funds from the Libbey Endowment, Gift of Edward Drummond Libbey
  • External Link: http://classes.toledomuseum.org:8080/emuseum/view/objects/asitem/96/26
  • Medium: Ivory with traces of gilding and paint