Virgin and Child

Coptic7th-8th century (Early Medieval)

The Walters Art Museum

The Walters Art Museum
Baltimore, United States

This unusually large ivory carving, its shape corresponding to the shape of a tusk, shows the Christ Child embracing his mother in a pose of tender intimacy. It is one of the earliest examples of what in later Byzantine times was called Eleousa, or "Virgin of Tenderness." The relief was likely to have been used for private devotion, in either a monastic or domestic setting, as an icon (Greek for "image"). Especially striking and typical of the early medieval period in Christian Egypt are the Virgin's large head, fixed gaze, and angular drapery.


  • Title: Virgin and Child
  • Creator Nationality: Coptic
  • Date Created: 7th-8th century (Early Medieval)
  • Physical Dimensions: w12.4 x h26.1 x d5 cm
  • Type: relief
  • Rights: Acquired by Henry Walters, 1905, http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-sa/3.0/
  • External Link: The Walters Art Museum
  • Medium: ivory
  • Provenance: Cologne, 1870s; M.-B. Meyers, Strasbourg, 1877, by purchase; Sale, Hôtel Drouot, Paris, November 26, 1877; Michel Boy, Paris [date of acquisition unknown], by purchase; Sale, Hôtel Drouot, Paris, May 15, 1905, no. 240; Henry Walters, Baltimore, 1905, by purchase; Walters Art Museum, 1931, by bequest.
  • Place of Origin: Egypt
  • ExhibitionHistory: Early Christian and Byzantine Art. Baltimore Museum of Art, Baltimore. 1947; Ivory: The Sumptuous Art. The Walters Art Gallery, Baltimore. 1983-1984; Déjà Vu? Recurrence. The Walters Art Museum, Baltimore. 2007-2008
  • Artist: Coptic

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