The Enduring Image

The Exhibition


This section presents European artefacts from the 4th-16th centuries AD. It is dominated by the development of Christianity as the European religion, starting with objects like the Projecta casket where there is a mixture of references, both Christian and classical. Also of early Christian date is the ivory icon of the Adoration of the Magi which displays a more medieval style of carving in extreme contrast to the late Roman Projecta Casket. Other medieval ivories include the walrus ivory plaque depicting the Baptism of Christ , the elephant ivory comb, and the bone Romance Casket carved with secular scenes.

Anglo-Saxons from Continental Europe took over southern England after the Roman period. Their jewellery remarkable for its barbaric splendour, has been recovered from elite burials; some of this was inlaid with garnet, a stone which comes from India. Other jewellery from Celtic Britain and from the Viking raiders of the 10th century provides further evidence of the way in which styles changed at the beginning of the medieval period. The effect of Christianity on medieval Europe is clear from the Sheffield cross shaft and the head reliquary of Saint Eustace - an instance of the way in which the Church connected bodily remains with spiritual power. Further examples of Christian imagery are the sequence of tiles from Tring which vividly illustrate scenes from an apocryphal infancy of Christ, and a group of expressive English alabaster panels.

Secular life is visible here in two scenes from the same two scenes from the same romance - that of Tristram and Isolde seen in a group of inlaid tiles and the romance casket, mentioned above . Of the two items from the table, one is of high, the other of low status - the aquamanile and the earthenware jug.

Lastly come exhibits from the Renaissance period, mostly from Italy. The array of painted tin-glazed earthenware, 'maiolica' provides a vivid glimpse of the painting skills of 16th century artists and suggests the brilliant colour which was a feature of Renaissance painting. One of the constants of the Renaissance period was the rediscovery of the classical past and this is seen in medals including portraits, images of the ruler and allegorical scenes.


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