Tuesday, August 26, 2008

More from the Met

Another interesting piece from the museum - this time, a "Plaque with Agnus Dei and Four Evangelists," from "Animals in Medieval Art":
The writers of the four Gospels, which relate the story of Christ's life, were often symbolized by animals. Winged creaturees stood for Matthew, a lion for Mark, an ox for Luke, and an eagle for John. These symbols were based upon the vision of Saint John in the Book of Revelation (4:6–7). On this ivory plaque, the animal symbols, holding their Gospels, are arranged around the cross. At the center appears the Lamb of God, a symbol of Christ. Originally, this plaque would have decorated the cover of an Evangiliary, a manuscript containing all four Gospels.

"Probably 9th century," and really beautiful, I think.

[EDIT: I just noticed this is ivory and not wood, as I'd thought. I think in medieval Europe, the tusks of walruses were used for ivory, since elephant ivory would not have been available generally. It is somewhat odd to be celebrating "Animals in the Middle Ages" by showing works of art made from ivory - but in those days, everything was made from animals. I suppose it's no stranger than Perdue commercials with singing chickens in them.

And I think in many cases, human societies depended on ivory; in the far north, for instance, where there aren't many trees or anything else to use for tools.

Anyway, don't try this at home; we don't need to use ivory any longer, and let's definitely let the living animals keep their own stuff.]

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