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Diptych with gables, 3 registers, 3 arches across (frise d'arcatures); known as 'Soissons Diptych' (Front)

Diptych with gables, 3 registers, 3 arches across (frise d'arcatures); known as 'Soissons Diptych' (Front)
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Wing, left

Wing, right


Detail, front



Detail, front

Religious. Passion.

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London, Victoria and Albert Museum


Ivory;metal (hinges)

Height: 321 mm (left leaf)
Width: 118 mm (each; max)
Depth: 19mm
Weight: 1080g

Wing, left
Register 1: Three Holy Women at the Tomb, with angel seated on the tomb; Noli me Tangere (Christ appearing to Mary Magdalene); Christ appearing to the Holy Women.
Register 2: Harrowing of Hell with Adam and Eve coming out of the Mouth of Hell; Resurrection with two soldiers asleep; Entombment (Anointing of Christ's body).
Register 3: Judas receiving the reward; Betrayal (Taking of Christ; Kiss of Judas); Death of Judas (Judas hanging).
Wing, right
Register 1: Doubting Thomas (the incredulity of saint Thomas); Ascension; Pentecost; dove of the Holy Spirit.
Register 2: Deposition with the Virgin holding Christ's hand; Joseph of Arimathea holding Christ's body; Nicodemus with pincers removing the nail from Christ's feet; Crucifixion with thieves; Carrying of the Cross.
Register 3: Christ before Pilate; Pilate washing his hands; Flagellation.
Tracery. Vine leaf pattern. Towers. Rounded trefoils. Rose windows.

Koechlin Number: 0038

Griggs 1904-1907: France, early 14th century.
Koechlin 1924: France, end of the 13th century.
Longhurst 1929: France, end of the 13th century.
Natanson 1951: French, c. 1300.
Williamson 1986: French (Paris), end of 13th century.
Koekkoek 1987: 3rd quarter of the 13th century.
Paris 1998: Paris, c. 1280-1300.
Guérin 2009: Paris, c. 1260-1270.
Naumburg 2011: Paris, c. 1260-1270.
Williamson and Davies 2014: French (Paris), c. 1270.

Soissons group (Atelier du Diptyque de Soissons)

Two original hinges.

Polychromy - Gilding
Extensive traces of gilding and polychromy (probably modern): blue and red (background; architectural details), green (trees and crosses), gold (hair and beards). See detailed report by A. Cascio and J. Levy, 1988, V&A Sculpture Department Archive).

Flat and smooth.

Object Condition
The two pieces of ivory glued along the length of the panels are original and would have been intended to correct the natural curve of the panels.
Hole in each of the upper central gables for the attachment of separately-carved finials.
Outer turret on the left broke off and was reattached.

The diptych reads in boustrophedon manner, starting from the lower left corner to the upper right corner.
'The outer margins of the carved faces of both leaves bear a number of marks indicating where elements of the framing and architecture were to be placed.' (see Williamson and Davies 2014 for more details).

Said to have come from the abbey of Saint-Jean-des-Vignes at Soissons during the French Revolution (see Darcel 1861); also said to have come from the treasury of the Cathedral of Soissons (London 1862). In the possession of John Webb (b. 1799, d. 1880), London: purchased from him by the Museum in 1865.

A. Darcel, 'Trésor de Conques', in Annales Archéologiques 21 (1861), p. 193.
Catalogue of the Special Exhibition of Works of Art of the Mediaeval, Renaissance, and more recent periods on loan at the South Kensington Museum, June 1862..., revised edition, exhibition catalogue (London, 1863), no. 72.
Inventory of the Objects in the Art Division of the Museum at South Kensington, arranged according to the dates of their acquisition (London, 1868), I, p. 31.
W. Maskell, Ivories Ancient and Mediaeval in the South Kensington Museum (London, 1872), pp. 42-44.
W. Griggs, Portfolio of Ivories [London, 1904-1907], pt. XXXI.
A. Maskell, Ivories (Connoisseurs Library), (London, 1905), p. 163, pl. XXXII.
R. Koechlin, 'Quelques ateliers d'ivoiriers français aux XIII et XIVe siècles. I. L'atelier du diptyque du trésor de Soissons', in Gazette des Beaux-Arts, 34 (1905), pp. 362-379 (p. 371).
A. Michel, L'histoire de l'art depuis les premiers temps chrétiens jusqu'à nos jours, 8 vols, 17 parts (Paris, 1905-1929), II, p. 469.
O. Pelka, Elfenbein (Berlin, 1920), p. 182.
R. Koechlin, Les Ivoires gothiques français (Paris, 1924), I, pp. 75, 83, 215, 453; II, no. 38; III, pl. XV.
M. Longhurst, Catalogue of Carvings in Ivory, Victoria and Albert Museum, 2 vols (London, 1927 and 1929), II (1929), pp. 10-11.
C. R. Morey, 'Italian Gothic Ivories', in Medieval Studies in Memory of A. Kingsley Porter (Cambridge, Mss., 1939), I, pp. 184-186, fig. 2.
L. Grodecki, Ivoires français (Paris, 1947), pp. 88-90, 91, pl. 27.
J. Natanson, Gothic Ivories of the 13th and 14th Centuries (London, 1951), pp. 33-34, fig. 19.
R. H. Randall, 'A Passion Diptych', in The Walters Art Bulletin, 21:7 (1969), pp. 1-3.
D. Gaborit-Chopin, Ivoires du Moyen Age (Freiburg, 1978), pp. 143-145.
P. Williamson, An Introduction to Medieval Ivory Carvings (London, 1982), pp. 188-189.
The Medieval Treasury: the Art of the Middle Ages in the Victoria and Albert Museum, ed. by P. Williamson (London, 1986), pp. 188-189.
R. Koekkoek, Gotische ivoren in het Catharijneconvent (Utrecht, 1987), p. 31, fig. 11.
P. Williamson, Gothic Sculpture 1140-1300 (New Haven and London, 1995), p. 168, pl. 253.
European Sculpture at the Victoria and Albert Museum, ed. by P. Williamson (London, 1996), p. 78.
Images in Ivory. Precious Objects of the Gothic Age, ed. by Peter Barnet, exhibition catalogue, Detroit, The Detroit Institute of Arts, and Baltimore, The Walters Art Gallery, 1997, pp. 44-45, 95-114 (fig. VII-1).
L'art au temps des rois maudits: Philippe le Bel et ses fils (1285-1328), exhibition catalogue, Paris, Grand Palais, 1998, no. 82 (mirror image).
S. M. Guérin, 'Tears of Compunction': French Gothic Ivories in Devotional Practice (unpublished doctoral thesis, University of Toronto, 2009), pp. 154-179, 286-352, 367-368, pl. 21a and b.
Medieval and Renaissance treasures from the Victoria and Albert Museum, ed. by P. Williamson and P. Motture (London, 2010), no. 18.
Der Naumburger Meister - Bildhauer und Architekt im Europa der Kathedralen, exhibition catalogue, Naumburg, 2011, pp. XIX.10 (H. Krohm).
Glanz und Grösse des Mittelalters, Kölner Meisterwerk aus den grossen Sammlungen der Welt, ed. by D. Täube and M. Verena Fleck, exhibition catalogue, Cologne, Schnütgen Museum, 4 November 2011-26 February 2012, p. 88, fig. 7 (C. Little).
S. M. Guérin, 'Duplicitous Forms', in West 86th 18 (2011), pp. 196-207 (pp. 197-198).
J. Lowden, Medieval and Later Ivories in the Courtauld Gallery (London, 2013), p. 52, in relation to no. 4.
J. Warren, Medieval and Renaissance Sculpture in the Ashmolean Museum, 3 vols (Oxford, 2014), Vol. 2: Sculptures in Stone, Clay, Ivory, Bone and Wood, p. 555, in relation to no. 158.
P. Williamson and G. Davies, Medieval Ivory Carvings 1200-1550 (London, 2014), no. 68.


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