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A few comments regarding the way we are describing Gothic ivories...


This field will inform you on the type and function of the object, for instance:

  • Statuette
    Carved in the round.
  • Relief
    Reverse uncarved, not designed to be seen from the back.
  • Diptych, 1 register, 3 arches across; Triptych, 3 registers, bands of rosettes; etc.
  • Writing tablet, 1 register, 3 arches across
  • Mirror case
  • Casket; Box
    The term 'casket' has been used for 14th-century ivory pieces, as opposed to the term 'box' which has been employed for lower-relief artefacts in bone or ivory, usually dated to the 15th century and often associated with Flanders.
  • Hair parter
  • Rosary bead
  • Tabernacle
    This designates polyptychs where the centre part is three-dimensional, while the wings are flat and carved in lower relief.
  • etc...

French terms

You will note when looking at entries that some French terminology has been used.
This is our tribute to the pioneering work of Raymond Koechlin in this field of research. In his catalogue Les Ivoires gothiques français, published in 1924, he organised the objects according to a certain typology of which you will find echoes in the present catalogue.
You may thus wish to search for the following terms:

  • frise d'arcatures
  • décor de roses
  • colonnettes
  • plaquette (which corresponds to a panel with one register and one arch across)
  • appliqué
  • gravoir, etc.

This also applies to one case in the iconography where a standing Virgin and Child accompanied by two standing angels holding candlesticks is also designated as Vierge glorieuse.

Fragment or part?

  • 'Wing, left (fragment of a diptych)...': the other wing of this diptych has not been not located or does not survive.
  • 'Wing, left (part of a diptych)...': the other wing of this diptych exists, and you will find details about it in the entry.

Place of Origin and Date

Important: The mission of the Gothic Ivories Project is to compile published information and scholarly opinion on known objects, not to emit a judgement on them.

Public Collections

  • If the object has been published: the various dates and places of origin attributed by scholars to the object are listed in chronological order in the following form. Koechlin 1924: France, mid 14th century.
    Gaborit-Chopin 2003: Germany (Cologne), first quarter of the 15th century.
    One needs to refer to the Bibliography field to find the full bibliographical reference.
    The date bracket attributed to an object starts with the earliest date given to it and ends with the latest date, i.e. in this example: 1325 - 1425.
    The place of origin is also inclusive and thus features both 'French' and 'German (Cologne)'.
  • If the object is unpublished: place and date of origin are provided by the curator in charge.
  • If the object is unpublished and outside of the curator's field of expertise: 'Unpublished' appears in the 'place of origin' field, until further research can be carried out and/or the object is published.

Private Collections

  • If the object has been published: expert opinions are charted as for public collections (see above).
  • If the object is unpublished: 'Unpublished' appears in the 'place of origin' field until further research can be carried out and/or the object is published. All other available information about the object is provided.
Please note that sales catalogues are not considered as publications.


Each object, depending on its iconography, has been classified into broad thematic categories. The basic categories are Secular and Religious.
Lower level categories include, for instance Old Testament, Life of the Virgin, Infancy of Christ, Romance, Memento mori, Lives of saints, etc.
Subjects appear as hyperlinks on each entry, allowing you, with one click, to see all other objects containing, for instance, Courtly love iconography.

Please note that subjects such as Passion, Life of the Virgin, Infancy of Christ and Lives of saints have been attributed to objects when they contained more than one scene dedicated to the subject.
The subject of a diptych combining, for instance, a Virgin and Child and a Crucifixion will therefore not belong to the Passion category.


The term 'ivory' used on its own always designates elephant ivory.


In the Provenance field, a semi-colon implies a continuity between one owner and the next, while a full stop implies a potential hiatus in the provenance string. A full stop has also been used when continuity was uncertain.

Last updated: 22 June 2015.

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