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An Archbishop among his Choir: M.12-1904

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Object information

Current Location: Gallery 32 (Rothschild)


An Archbishop among his Choir


Maker: Unknown (Probably)




Rectangular ivory panel. A large figure of a bishop or archbishop stands under a scalloped or shell niche facing the spectator with his right hand raised. On a desk to his left, held at the top in his left hand, is an open book inscribed in Latin 'Ad te levavi animam meam’ (‘Unto thee I have raised my soul’). Above, five deacons stand beneath a similar niche. Before him, three on his right and three on his left and one facing him, stand the canons, those at the sides with their mouths open about to chant. At the top and bottom is a crenalated wall and a pair of towers with round-headed windows. A finely carved border of acanthus frames the scene.


History note: Discovered by Frédéric Spitzer at Schaffausen; Frédéric Spitzer Collection, Paris; sold, Paris, Chevallier, 18th April 1893, Objets d'art et de haute curiosité, Antiques, du Moyen-age and de la Renaissance, Composant l'importante et precieuse Collection Spitzer, catalogue p. 10, lot 45.

Legal notes

Frank McClean Bequest

Measurements and weight

Depth: 1.2 cm
Depth: 1/2 in
Height: 33.7 cm
Height: 13 1/4 in
Width: 11.4 cm
Width: 4 1/2 in

Acquisition and important dates

Method of acquisition: Bequeathed (1904) by McClean, Frank


10th Century, Late
Circa 950 CE - Circa 1000 CE


The narrow rectangular format of this panel was derived from late Roman consular diptychs: hinged writing tablets showing the consul performing his duties which he presented to his supporters and friends on entering office. Its date and origin are uncertain, but recent scholarship indicates that it was probably made in the late tenth century, in Lotharingia, the area of modern Lorraine. The bishop or archbishop is about to celebrate Mass with five deacons behind him and in front of him, seven canons singing. The book on the desk is inscribed in Latin with the introit to the Roman Mass for the first Sunday in Advent, beginning 'Ad te levavi animam mean' (Unto thee, I raise my soul), sung as the celebrant processed into the church. His right hand is raised, not in blessing, but to indicate that he is ready to begin the service. The panel probably adorned the cover of a liturgical book such as a gradual, a choir book used in the Mass. Another ivory panel, probably carved in the same workshop, shows the celebrant standing in front of the altar at a later point in the service (Liebieghaus Museum, Frankfurt am Main). See the latest works in 'Documentation' for the most recent interpretations and dating of the panel.

People, subjects and objects depicted

Materials used in production


Techniques used in production

Carving : Ivory, carved

References and bibliographic entries

Related exhibitions

Identification numbers

Accession number: M.12-1904
Primary reference Number: 31579
Stable URI

Audit data

Created: Saturday 6 August 2011 Updated: Monday 18 December 2023 Last processed: Tuesday 21 May 2024

Associated departments & institutions

Owner or interested party: The Fitzwilliam Museum
Associated department: Applied Arts

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The Fitzwilliam Museum (2024) "An Archbishop among his Choir" Web page available at: Accessed: 2024-07-14 02:31:19

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