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Sanctification cross with scenes from the life of Christ and the Virgin Mary and the Evangelists


Artwork Details

Sanctification cross with scenes from the life of Christ and the Virgin Mary and the Evangelists
boxwood with pearls and glass-paste stones
10 11/16 in. x 6 15/16 in. ( 27.1 cm x 17.7 cm )
Bequest of Baroness Matilda Ledyard von Ketteler


March 28, 2009
Greek artists created many small, exquisitely carved crosses between the sixteenth and eighteenth centuries for use by Orthodox priests. Portability was essential, since the crosses would have been placed on makeshift altars, often tables or other furniture, for the performance of various religious rites. Each side of this cross depicts three scenes from the Life of the Virgin or Christ along the vertical bar, and the larger central scenes place dramatic emphasis on representations of Christ’s Baptism and Crucifixion. The use of boxwood enabled the artist to render the scenes with extraordinary delicacy on a small scale, similar to ivory carving. While most woods must be carved in the direction of the grain, the fine, dense boxwood could be carved across the grain, which made it ideal for woodcarvers to exercise their art in miniature.

Subject Matter:

This small sanctification cross, which would have been used for holy water ceremonies in the Orthodox church, depicts six scenes drawn from the life of Christ and the Virgin Mary along with the four Evangelists writing the gospels. The Baptism of Christ appears in the center of one side of the cross with the Annunciation above and the Presentation of the Virgin in the Temple below, while two Evangelists are depicted in the horizontal arm. The Crucifixion serves as the central scene on the other side, with Doubting Thomas above, Christ's Descent into Hell below, and two more Evangelists on the horizontal arm of the cross.

Physical Description:

This small carved boxwood cross is divided on each face into five compartments containing Christian religious scenes. The cross is set in a stand decorated with mother-of-pearl and green glass-paste stones.

Usage Rights:

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