As Koechlin noted in Les Ivoires Gothiques Françaises (Paris, 1924, vol. 2, pp. 124-125), the popularity of the ivory triptych with its central image of the Virgin and Child soon developed into a more sculptural form, with the central group carved almost fully in the round beneath a gothic architectural canopy supported by free-standing colonettes. This central portion was carved almost entirely from a single piece of ivory - the colonettes and pinnacles were usually carved separately - and was enclosed by hinged ivory panels with supplementary scenes carved on them in relief (for an example with its wings intact see Christie's, London, 10 Nov. 2005, lot 147).
The present example is related to other ivory groups of the Virgin and Child enthroned including a free-standing example in the Louvre dated to 1240-1250 (Gaborit-Chopin, loc. cit.). It displays the same frontal position of both the Virgin and Child, an almost identical crown and veil, and the same distinctive thick folds of drapery, particularly as they fall in 'v-shaped' folds between the knees of the Virgin. However, there are significant stylistic differences between the Louvre ivory and the present lot, not least in the fuller facial features of the Virgin offered here, and the more naturalistic depiction of the Christ Child. The architectural niche is also highly distinctive. What this may indicate is an artistic origin outside the mainstream of French ivory gothic carving, and it is worth noting that the present lot has an Italian provenance.