The Cloisters Cross12th Century
Information provided by the Metropolitan Museum, New York:
Walrus ivory; 22 5/8 x 14 1/4 in. (57.5 x 36.2 cm)
The Cloisters Collection, 1963 (63.12)
A masterpiece of Romanesque art, this altar cross with some ninety-two figures and ninety-eight inscriptions is the vehicle for a unique iconographical program.
The front displays typological scenes alluding to the Cross as the Tree of Life. The central medallions with Moses and the Brazen Serpent prefigure the Crucifixion. The terminals depict, the Deposition and Lamentation on the right, the Women at the Sepulcher and the Resurrection on the left, and the Ascension at the top. Below this last, Caiaphas and Pilate dispute the title to be assigned Christ in the inscription on the cross. Adam and Eve cling to the base of the cross, looking up at the figure of Christ, now missing.
The richness of subjects, complexity of forms, and intellectual character suggest that the cross originated in a major center of learning; the English abbey of Bury St. Edmunds has often been suggested.
Provenance/Ownership History: Abbot Samson de Tottington, Bury St. Edmunds, England
Photo: Metropolitan Museum