As ivory from African elephants became widely available through Mediterranean trade during the thirteenth century, it quickly surpassed the colorful enamel produced in Limoges as the dominant material for luxury liturgical products as well as for secular items. Diptychs for use in private devotion such as this example were carved in great numbers, often in professional workshops, especially during the fourteenth century. The narrative is read from left to right starting at the bottom: the Annunciation, Visitation, Annunciation to the Shepherds, Nativity, Adoration of Magi, Presentation in the Temple, Christ among the Doctors, Marriage at Cana, Last Supper, Crucifixion, Resurrection, Ascension, Pentecost, and Coronation of the Virgin.
Artist French
  • Diptych
Date 14th century
Medium elephant ivory, with traces of polychromy
Dimensions Overall: 9 13/16 × 10 3/8 × 5/16 inches (24.9 × 26.4 × 0.8 cm)
Overall (left panel): 9 13/16 × 5 1/8 × 5/16 inches (24.9 × 13 × 0.8 cm)
Overall (right panel): 9 13/16 × 5 3/16 × 5/16 inches (24.9 × 13.2 × 0.8 cm)
Credit Line Gift of Robert H. Tannahill
Accession Number 40.165
Department European Sculpture and Dec Arts
On View European: Medieval C263, Level 2 (see map)
possibly Laon Cathedral (Laon, France).
until 1922, Maurice Sulzbach (Paris, France);
by 1928, (Arnold Seligmann, Rey and Co., Inc., New York, New York, USA);
until 1940, Robert H. Tannahill [1893-1969] (Grosse Pointe, Michigan, USA);
1940-present, gift to the Detroit Institute of Arts (Detroit, Michigan, USA)
Robinson, F.W. "A French Gothic Ivory Diptych." Bulletin of the DIA 20, no. 8 (May 1941): pp. 74-77.

Robinson, F.W. "Recent Aquisitions: The Ivory Diptych at Detroit." The Art Quarterly IV, no. 2 (Spring 1941): pp.146-152 (ill.).

Calkins, R. A Medieval Treasury. Exh. cat., Cornell University Andrew Dickson White Museum of Art. Ithaca, 1968, no. 74, pp. 152-153 (ill.).

Walsh, D.A. "Notes on the Icongraphy of a Fourteenth-Century Ivory." Porticus 7 (1984), p. 5, fig. 5 (ill.).

Randall, Jr., R.H. The Golden Age of Ivory: Gothic Carvings in North American Collections. New York, 1993, p. 67.

Barnet, P., ed. Images in Ivory: Precious Objects of the Gothic Age. Exh. cat., Detroit Institute of Arts. Detroit, 1997, cat. no. 24, pp. 157-158 (ill.).

Stahl, H. "Narrative Structure and Content in Some Gothic Ivories of the Life of Christ." in Images in Ivory: Precious Objects of the Gothic Age, p. 107; p. 106, fig. VII-8 (ill.).