German / Gamepiece with Episode from the Life of Apollonius of Tyre / ca. 1170German
Gamepiece with Episode from the Life of Apollonius of Tyre
ca. 1170

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Creator Nationality: European; Northern European; German
Creator Name-CRT: German
Title: Gamepiece with Episode from the Life of Apollonius of Tyre
View: Full View
Creation Start Date: 1160
Creation End Date: 1180
Creation Date: ca. 1170
Object Type: Decorative Arts and Utilitarian Objects
Classification Term: Ivories
Materials and Techniques: walrus ivory
Dimensions: Diam. 2 3/16 in. (5.69 cm), Th. 5/8 in. (1.6 cm)
AMICA Contributor: The Metropolitan Museum of Art
Owner Location: New York, New York, USA
ID Number: 1996.224
Credit Line: Purchase, Stark and Michael Ward Gift, Joseph Pulitzer Bequest, and Pfeiffer and Dodge Funds, 1996

This piece, from the medieval game of tables (a precursor to backgammon), illustrates the Late Antique legend of Apollonius of Tyre, whose wife was miraculously resurrected after being buried at sea. Here two men lower her coffin while two others watch. The scene is conceived in spatial layers: coffin, figures lowering it, onlookers, and sail. The illusion of deep space is enhanced by almost three-dimensional carving, with some areas in the round, a rare feature in walrus-ivory reliefs. While the subject is unique in Romanesque art, the plastic style of figure carving and the fine detail have parallels in Cologne ivories of the second half of the twelfth century. The figures and acanthus border can be related to an ivory reliquary in Brussels and to a cupola reliquary in Berlin produced in Cologne between 1170 and 1190. The Brussels reliquary has nearly identical borders, indicating that a single workshop produced ecclesiastical and secular objects.

Another gamepiece, depicting the Entombment of Christ (Burrell Collection, Glasgow), is so similar that it may be from the same set, one divided thematically between the life of Christ and typological parallels based on classical literature. Frequently, pieces would depict feats of strength, such as those of Hercules (from mythology) pitted against those of Samson (from the Old Testament).

AMICA ID: MMA_.1996.224
AMICA Library Year: 2000
Media Metadata Rights: Copyright The Metropolitan Museum of Art

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