Medieval Binding Testimony of the work on ivory in Metz

  • Medieval Binding Testimony of the work on ivory in Metz
Ivory of Adalberon II, about 1000, ivory, inv. 3550. 
This ivory plaque adorned the binding of a work commissioned by Adalberon II, bishop of Metz between 984 and 1005. Surrounded by a rich decoration of acanthus leaves, a Crucifixion is carved in the center of the work. This theme was often taken up by the workshops of sculpture on active ivory in Lotharingia in the 11th and 10th centuries, to the point that art historians have spoken of "Group of the Crucifixions". 
The characters of the Crucifixion commonly present on the ivories of the Carolingian period, are included. Christ, with his face turned to the right and his arms slightly bent under the collapse of the body, has the backs covered with a simple cloth and his feet nailed to the suppedaneum , the pyramid shape of which is rather unusual. The cross contains a rectangular titulus on which is inscribed, according to St. John, "IHS NAZAREN - REX LUDEORU" ("Jesus Christ the Nazarene, King of the Jews") and is held by a Corinthian column whose shaft is decorated with scrolls, surmounted by the tree of Good and Evil, in which Eve, Adam and the Serpent of Temptation can be found. 

Above the cross, in the form of allegories, the Sun and the Moon; beneath, on either side of the cross, two women symbolizing the Church and the Synagogue, then the two soldiers carrying the lance and the sponge, instruments of the Passion of Christ; on the same register, the patriarchs getting out from their tombs, waiting for the Resurrection. On the two lower registers, the four evangelists with animal heads flank a column adorned with fine scrolls, above Ocean and Earth allegories.
The great finesse brought to the details of this rich work, the elegance of the characters carved deep into the plate attest the high level of the ivory man. This artist was inspired by monumental sculptures such as the Gero Crucifix at the Cologne Cathedral or the bronze column formerly surmounted by a cross made for the Bishop Bernward of Hildesheim shortly after the year 1000. 
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