About this object

The panel is damaged top left and bottom right. the upper and lower borders have been cut down, and the right border may have been trimmed. The eyes of the three adult figures and the two animals are drilled and set with black glass. A later hole upper centre. The verso shows clearly the striation of a cross-section of walrus ivory. Ink note, 'The Nativity', probably by W.H. Rolfe.
The Virgin lies on a wooden bed, her turbanned head supported on a pillow held by the midwife. her right hand, on the edge of the bed, gestures down to the Child below. The finely-rendered folds of the sheet draw attention to the curious perspective of the bed itself, a problem which is not alleviated by the additional leg to the right of the animals. (The lower part of the leg at bottom right has been broken off.) Joseph sits on a stool with a cushion top rigth. The swaddled Child in the crib below, set in apparently rocky ground, is adored by ox (left) and ass (right).

Object specifics

  • Type
  • Culture
  • Artist/Maker
  • Place made
    Europe: Northern Europe: UK: England
  • Date made
    10th Century AD late
  • Materials
    Walrus Tooth Ivory; Glass
  • Location
    Item not currently on display
  • Acquisition
    Gift of Joseph Mayer
  • Collector
    Joseph Mayer
  • Place collected
    Europe: Northern Europe: UK: England: Kent: Sandwich
  • Date collected
  • Measurements
    78 mm x 62 mm
  • Related people
    Joseph Mayer ( Collector, previous owner); William Rolfe ( Collector, previous owner)

Explore related


  • A superb collection of ivories, homeless since the raids of 1941, now exhibited in London

    Publisher: The Illustrated London News
    Date: 1954-09-25
    Description: A review of the exhibition of ivory and bone objects from the Joseph Mayer collection, on exhibition for six months from 18th September 1954 at the British Museum, London.

  • Anglo-Saxon Art. A New History

    Webster, L

    Author: Webster, L
    Publisher: The British Museum Press
    Date: 2012

  • Ars Sacra: 800-1200

    Lasko, Peter

    Author: Lasko, Peter
    Publisher: Penguin Books
    Date: 1972
    Description: A review of reliquaries and shrines, book binding and ivory carvings, goldsmith's work and bronze casting from the Early Middle Ages

  • Catalogue of Mediaeval & Later Antiquities contained in the Mayer Museum including the Mather collection of miniatures and medals relating to the Bonaparte family

    Gatty, Charles T

    Author: Gatty, Charles T
    Date: 1883
    Description: Catalogue of most of Joseph Mayer's medieval and post-medieval collection, which was either gifted by Mayer in 1867 or purchased from the Mayer Museum Duplicate Fund. The catalogue also lists the Mather Collection, which was left to the city of Liverpool in 1872 by Mr. John Mather, who obtained it in the first instance by purchase from Mayer. The collection of French Revolution badges and medals was purchased in 1870.

  • Ivory Carvings in Early Medieval England

    Beckwith, J

    Author: Beckwith, J
    Publisher: Oxford University Press
    Date: 1990

  • L'Arte dell'anno mille in Europa, 950-1050

    Castelfranchi Vegas, L

    Author: Castelfranchi Vegas, L
    Publisher: Editoriale Jaca Book
    Date: 2000

  • Liverpool Ivories: Special Exhibition

    Publisher: The Trustees of the British Museum
    Date: 1954
    Description: Catalogue of an exhibiton of ivory carvings lent by the City of Liverpool Public Museums, mostly from the Mayer-Fejervary collection.

  • The Anglo-Saxons

    Campbell, J; John, E; Wormald, P

    Author: Campbell, J; John, E; Wormald, P
    Publisher: Penguin Books
    Date: 1982

  • The Liverpool Ivories: Late Antique and Medieval Ivory and Bone Carving in Liverpool Museum and the Walker Art Gallery

    Gibson, Margaret

    Author: Gibson, Margaret
    Publisher: HMSO; National Museums and Galleries on Merseyside
    Date: 1994
    Description: Catalogue of ivory and bone carvings from late antique and medieval held in collections of Liverpool Museum and the Walker Art Gallery.


  • Liverpool Ivories

    Start date: 1954-09-18
    End date: 1954-09-18
    Description: A temporary exhibition of 56 ivory carvings lent by the City of Liverpool Public Museums (now National Museums Liverpool) to the British Museum, London. The exhibition was organised by the department of Archaeology, Liverpool Museum (Elaine Tankard) and the department of British and Medieval Antiquities of the British Museum (P. Lasko). Some British Museum ivories which offer particularly close parallels with the Liverpool pieces were placed beside one another. The exhibition was held in the King Edward VII Gallery between 18 September 1954 and 3 September 1955 (extended from 5 March 1955) and an illustrated catalogue was published which cost 1s. 6d.


Previous owners

  • Joseph Mayer

    Owned from: 1858
    How acquired: Purchased
    Owned until: 1867
    Disposal method: Donation
  • William Rolfe

    Owned from: Unknown or unrecorded
    How acquired: Unknown or unrecorded
    Owned until: 1858
    Disposal method: Sold
Object view = Humanities
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