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Relief, Virgin and Child (French or Netherlandish, c. 1300-1350). 146mm x 43mm x 20mm. Photo: The Courtauld Gallery.

LONDON.- When in 1924 the French scholar Raymond Koechlin published his three-volume study of French Gothic Ivories, his catalogue numbered 1,328 objects and was illustrated by some 500 images. Since then, many more ivories have surfaced in auction houses as well as private and public collections; valuable articles and catalogues have been written; scientific examination and increasing expertise have all shed more light on these exquisite objects.

On 15 December 2010 the Gothic Ivories Project, hosted by The Courtauld Institute of Art, goes online promising a “Koechlin for the twenty-first century”.

The Gothic Ivories Project website makes available the first 700 objects from a database that already numbers more than 3,000 ivories. A detailed entry has been written for each piece and the vast majority are illustrated by high resolution colour images, with multiple views. The final number of objects looks set to triple Koechlin’s figure.

“The project has been made possible by the collaboration of numerous institutions”, comments the Project’s director, Professor John Lowden, “but it is not only the major museums that will benefit from this resource. Many Gothic ivories are still in private collections, and the website will enable owners to identify what they have.” Project manager Dr Catherine Yvard adds: “The support we received from institutions around the world has been astonishing: all major collections have joined us and smaller collections have also been enthusiastic.

We are equally interested in including objects in private collections, so as to be as comprehensive as possible. The website will be accessible to all and is designed to welcome collectors and curators as well as students and scholars. As so many Gothic ivories were divided up for sale in the nineteenth century, there is a very real chance of being able to identify what have been thought to be missing parts of a whole. The website makes possible searches by many aspects of content, provenance, function and so on.”

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Panel, Virgin and Child with risen Christ (French or Italian, early 14th century). 101mm x 75mm x 11mm. Photo: The Courtauld Gallery.

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Diptych, 2 registers, 4 arches across (frise d'arcatures; colonnettes) (Front), Ivory; metal (hinges), 100mm x 70mm (each). MK 33. Schwerin, Staatliches Museum Schwerin © Staatliches Museum Schwerin. Photograph Gabriele Bröcker.

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Diptych, 2 registers, 4 arches across (frise d'arcatures; colonnettes) (Wing, right). Ivory; metal (hinges), 100mm x 70mm (each). MK 33. Schwerin, Staatliches Museum Schwerin © Staatliches Museum Schwerin. Photograph Gabriele Bröcker.

Register 1: Nativity and Annunciation to the Shepherds. Adoration of the Magi.
Register 2: Crucifixion with the Virgin and saint John the Evangelist. Noli me tangere (Christ appearing to saint Mary Magdalene).
Border of dentils.

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Diptych, 2 registers, 4 arches across (frise d'arcatures; colonnettes) (Wing, left). Ivory; metal (hinges), 100mm x 70mm (each). MK 33. Schwerin, Staatliches Museum Schwerin © Staatliches Museum Schwerin. Photograph Gabriele Bröcker

Register 1: Annunciation; vase of lilies; dove of the Holy Spirit. Visitation.
Register 2: Entry into Jerusalem. Last Supper with saint John the Evangelist leaning on Christ's breast; Christ feeding an apostle across the table (possibly Judas).

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Diptych, 2 registers, 4 arches across (frise d'arcatures; colonnettes) (Back). Ivory; metal (hinges), 100mm x 70mm (each). MK 33. Schwerin, Staatliches Museum Schwerin © Staatliches Museum Schwerin. Photograph Gabriele Bröcker.

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Diptych, 1 register, 1 arch across (plaquettes) (Front), French or German (?), 3rd quarter of the 14th century. Attributed to the Master of the Berlin Triptych (Berlin Master). Ivory; 142mm (left wing); 143mm (right wing) x 186mm; 92mm (left wing); 94mm (right wing) x 11mm. 71.214. Baltimore, Walters Art Museum © Walters Art Museum, Baltimore.

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Diptych, 1 register, 1 arch across (plaquettes), (Wing, right), Crucifixion; swooning Virgin supported by Holy Women; saint John the Evangelist and onlookers holding scrolls; Sun and Moon. Trefoils with protruding cones in the spandrels, French or German (?), 3rd quarter of the 14th century. Attributed to the Master of the Berlin Triptych (Berlin Master). Ivory; 142mm (left wing); 143mm (right wing) x 186mm; 92mm (left wing); 94mm (right wing) x 11mm. 71.214. Baltimore, Walters Art Museum © Walters Art Museum, Baltimore.

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Diptych, 1 register, 1 arch across (plaquettes) (Wing, left), Standing Virgin and Child (Vierge glorieuse); angel crowning the Virgin; two angels holding candlesticks; Virgin holding a flower in her right hand; Christ seated on left arm. French or German (?), 3rd quarter of the 14th century. Attributed to the Master of the Berlin Triptych (Berlin Master). Ivory; 142mm (left wing); 143mm (right wing) x 186mm; 92mm (left wing); 94mm (right wing) x 11mm. 71.214. Baltimore, Walters Art Museum © Walters Art Museum, Baltimore.

Provenance: Bought by Henry Walters before 1931; Walters Art Museum, 1931, by bequest.

Bibliography: R. H. Randall, Masterpieces of Ivory from the Walters Art Gallery (New York, 1985), no. 301.
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. 202-203, no. 43.

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Chess piece,Seated figure of the Church (Ecclesia), holding a sceptre and a chalice; kneeling figure; musician.Interlaced foliated ornament.Walrus ivory,80mm.North Germany or Scandinavian, 13th century.KH 1811.Schwerin, Staatliches Museum Schwerin © Staatliches Museum Schwerin. Photograph Gabriele Bröcker.

Provenance: Bought in 1856 from Bergmann, art dealer in Parchim.

Bibliography: F. Lisch, in Jahrbücher des Vereins für meklenburgische Geschichte und Alterthumskunde 22 (1857), pp. 296ff.
F. Schlie, Die Kunst- und Geschichtsdenkmäler des Großherzogthums Mecklenburg-Schwerin (Schwerin, 1901), IV, p. 460 (ill. on p. 458).
Kunsthistorische Ausstellung zu Düsseldorf, exhibition catalogue, Düsseldorf, 1902, no. 624.
F. Becker, Mittelalterliche Kunstwerke in der Sammlung der Deutschen Gesellschaft für Erforschung der vaterländischen Sprache und Altertümer in Leipzig 3 (1920), pp. 5ff.
A. Goldschmidt, Die Elfenbeinskulpturen aus der romanischen Zeit (Berlin, 1926), IV, no. 244, pl. LXX.
R. Behrends, Künstlerische Schachfiguren aus zehn Jahrhunderten (Leipzig, 1963), no. 7.
K. Hegner, Katalog Mittelalterliche Kunst II. Kleinkunst. Kunsthandwerk, Staatliches Museum Schwerin (Schwerin, 1983), no. 206, fig. 46.
1000 Jahre Mecklenburg. Geschichte und Kunst einer europäischen Region. Landesausstellung Mecklenburg-Vorpommern in Schloss Güstrow, ed. by J. Erichsen, exhibition catalogue, 1995, no. 2.28 (with ill.).
Schachpartie. Durch Zeiten und Welten, ed. by Hans and Barbara Holländer, exhibition catalogue, Hamburg, Museum für Kunst und Gewerbe, 2005, no. 33, p. 58 (fig. on p. 62).

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Diptych, 3 registers, 4 arches across (frise d'arcatures); known as the Vich Diptych (Diptyque de Vich) (Front),Ivory; metal (later hinges), 250mm x 232mm (open) x 10mm.France, 1350-1365. Attributed to the Passion Atelier. 71.179. Baltimore, Walters Art Museum © Walters Art Museum, Baltimore

Wing, left
Register 1: Entry into Jerusalem.
Register 2: Agony in the Garden (Christ at Gethsemane); Christ led away by soldiers (Arrest of Christ).
Register 3: Crucifixion with the Virgin and saint John the Evangelist; Deposition with the Virgin holding Christ's hand; Joseph of Arimathea holding Christ's body; saint John the Evangelist.
Wing, right
Register 1: Christ washing the feet of the apostles; Last Supper with saint John the Evangelist leaning on Christ's breast.
Register 2: Death of Judas (Judas hanging); Flagellation; Carrying of the Cross with the Virgin helping Christ.
Register 3: Entombment (Anointing of Christ's body); Noli me Tangere (Christ appearing to saint Mary Magdalene); Harrowing of Hell with Adam and Eve coming out of the Mouth of Hell.

Extensive traces of polychromy and gilding: red and blue (arches), green (crockets and trefoils), green and gold (trees), brown and gold (hair), etc.

Provenance: Treasury of the Cathedral of Vic (or Vich), Catalonia, Spain (inventory of 1430); Museo Episcopal de Vic, until 1903. Bought before 1931 by Henry Walters; Walters Art Museum, 1931, by bequest.

Bibliography: Catalogue of Museum of Vich (Vich, 1893), p. 176.
E. Lefèvre-Pontalis, Deux monuments du Musée de Vich, Centenaire de la Société des antiquaires de France (Nogent-le-Rotrou, 1904), pl. XIV.
R. Koechlin, Les Ivoires gothiques français (Paris, 1924), II, no. 814; III, pl. CXLI.
The International Style: The Arts of Europe around 1400, ed. by P. Verdier, exhibition catalogue, Baltimore, Walters Art Gallery, 1962, no. 116.
P. Verdier, 'Les Ivoires de Walters Art Gallery', in Art International 7, no. 4 (1963), pp. 28-36 (p. 30, fig. 4).
R. H. Randall, Masterpieces of Ivory from the Walters Art Gallery (New York, 1985), no. 299.
M. Gibson, The Liverpool Ivories: late antique and medieval ivory and bone carving in Liverpool Museum and the Walker Art Gallery (London, 1994), p. 83, pl. XXXIIb.
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, no. 31, pp. 174-179.

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Mount, Kneeling knight; sword. Bone, 81.5mm x 26.5mm x 7mm. Inv. FER97[1392]<2964>. London, Museum of London © Museum of London.

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Wing, left, with 3 gables (part of a diptych), 3 registers, 3 arches across (frise d'arcatures) (Front). Ivory, 326-330mm x 130mm x 8mm, France, Paris or North France, 1250-1270. 71.157. Baltimore, Walters Art Museum © Walters Art Museum, Baltimore.

Register 1: Entombment (Anointing of Christ's body); Two Holy Women at the Tomb, with angel seated on the tomb and three soldiers asleep under a trefoil arch.
Register 2: Deposition with the Virgin holding Christ's hand; Joseph of Arimathea holding Christ's body. Crucifixion with thieves and the Virgin; Longinus standing in prayer; Stephaton giving Christ vinegar.
Register 3: Temptation of Judas; Judas receiving the reward (payment of silver); Betrayal (Taking of Christ; Kiss of Judas).
Tracery and buttress towers.

Comments: A fragment of the other wing survives in the Musée national du Moyen-Age, Thermes de Cluny (Cl. 417, Koechlin 42).

Provenance: Frédéric Spitzer collection, Paris (no. 43): sold, Paris, Paul Chevallier and Charles Mannheim, 17 April 1893, lot 78, pl. 3, bought in; Spitzer family, by inheritance: sold, New York, 9-12 January 1929, lot 544, to Henry Walters; Walters Art Museum, 1931, by bequest.

Bibliography: E. Molinier, La Collection Spitzer (Paris, 1890), I, no. 43.
R. Koechlin, Les Ivoires gothiques français (Paris, 1924), II, no. 40.
C. R. Morey, 'Italian Gothic Ivories', in Medieval Studies in Memory of A. Kingsley Porter (Cambridge, Mss., 1939), I, p. 184, n. 4.
P. Verdier, 'Les Ivoires de Walters Art Gallery', in Art International, 7 (1963), no. 3, p. 32. tbc
R. H. Randall, 'A Passion Diptych', in The Walters Art Bulletin, 21:7 (1969), pp. 1-2.
R. H. Randall, Masterpieces of Ivory from the Walters Art Gallery (New York, 1985), no. 266.
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, no. 10-11.
L'art au temps des rois maudits: Philippe le Bel et ses fils (1285-1328), exhibition catalogue, Paris, Grand Palais, 1998, p. 141