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Walrus ivory panel

Ivory Panel

“… this panel is a superb example of late Anglo-Saxon art of the Winchester School.

Anglo-Saxon triangular ivory panel from the second half of the 10th century AD found in the garden of a house in St Cross, Winchester, Hampshire.

Carved in high relief on walrus ivory, this panel is a superb example of late Anglo-Saxon art of the so-called ‘Winchester School’.

The panel depicts two angels with outspread wings flying downwards, their hands lifted in adoration. A piece of drapery flutters over their lower arms. Above them, at the apex of the triangle, a leaf sprig uncurls from a triple acanthus spray. The surface is highly polished.

The ivory was probably mounted on the roof gable of a small house-shaped shrine. In this context, the paired adoring angels most probably accompanied a scene of crucifixion, baptism or Christ in Majesty.

The angels are very similar to those found in two illuminated manuscripts produced in Winchester at this time; the Benedictional of St Ethelwold and the New Minster Charter.

The expressive large hands of the ivory's angels are a particularly Anglo-Saxon feature which can be seen in many ivories and manuscripts of the later 10th and early 11th centuries, as are the curling flutters of the drapery and the stiff acanthus spray.

Quick Facts

  • Date made second half of the 10th century AD
  • Dimensions Length 76mm, Width 48mm (max.), Thickness 7mm
  • Made of walrus ivory
  • Where found in the garden of a house in St Cross, Winchester
  • Accession number WINCM:ARCH 817

Facts

  • The ‘Winchester Art Style’ developed in the great religious houses of Winchester in the late Saxon period. It influenced the later, truly international, Romanesque style that became so dominant in the Norman period.
  • Which way up the ivory should be viewed has always been disputed. Some argue that the apex should be at the bottom, with the angels ascending to heaven. Other authorities believe the ivory was mounted on the roof gable of a small house-shaped shrine in which case the angels are coming down to earth.

Did you know?

The use of walrus ivory shows the links which the Anglo-Saxon kingdom had with the northern, Scandinavian world.

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