(French, 14th century)
Adoration and Crucifixion Diptych
ivory with polychrome
4.38 x 2.63 in, each panel
11.11 x 6.67 cm
Arthur and Margaret Glasgow Fund
As an aid to private devotion, this diptych portrays two common scenes from the life of Christ—the Adoration of the Magi and the Crucifixion. On the left panel, Melchior, the elderly magus, presents his gift to the Christ child, as Gaspar and Balthazar stand behind, each holding his own gift. The right panel depicts Christ crucified, with Longinus, the man who pierced Christ’s side with a spear, and Stephaton, who offers Christ a drink from a sponge soaked with vinegar. Behind them are the Virgin Mary and John the Evangelist, each mourning Christ’s death. The side-by-side presentation of the two scenes creates a powerful juxtaposition for the meditating worshiper. Small diptychs like this one, shaped much like small books, were indeed held and “read” like a printed volume. Although it is likely that this diptych was painted, the present polychrome was added at a later date.