Unrecorded Spanish Artist (19th century)

Christ at the Column

Spain, 19th century

Elephant ivory

22.8 x 7 x 3cm

This sculpture was identified as a deliberately aged fake during the conservation of the ivories in the Barber’s collection in 2012. It may have been copied from 13th-century statues called ‘ivory corpora’ (sculptures of the crucified Christ). The suffering of Christ on the cross was so important in Gothic art that, in the mid-13th century, a guild was established in Paris dedicated to the carving of such images, including in ivory. They would have been executed in the round –  intricately carved in 3D and so they can be viewed from any angle. Ivory corpora were often intended to be hung from an altar cross and placed alone at the centre of the altar. Here, the twist of Christ’s torso, and the bent neck and distorted mouth, convey his agony and passion with great intensity.

Purchased 1950 (No. 50.12)