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AN AMBER, IVORY AND GLASS TABLE ALTARPIECE
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AN AMBER, IVORY AND GLASS TABLE ALTARPIECE

NORTH GERMAN, MID 17TH CENTURY

Details
AN AMBER, IVORY AND GLASS TABLE ALTARPIECE
NORTH GERMAN, MID 17TH CENTURY
Inlaid extensively with carved ivory panels depicting scenes from the Passion and saints; also with a glass panelled compartment containing a carved ivory figure of St. Francis kneeling before a bible and a crucifix; the reverse with three rectangular parcel-gilt glass panels decorated with symbols for Christ and a cypher incorporating the letters 'M A R'(?); with a paper label to the reverse insctibed in ink '384/1'; on four carved wood ball feet; general chips, cracks and repairs
24½ in. (62.3 cm.) high
Special Notice

No VAT will be charged on the hammer price, but VAT at 17.5% will be added to the buyer's premium, which is invoiced on a VAT inclusive basis.

Lot Essay

The altarpiece offered here is directly comparable to another example cited by Rohde as being in Schloss Weissenstein in Pommersfelden that is dated to the mid 17th century (A. Rohde, Bernstein ein Deutscher Werkstoff - Seine künstlerische Verarbeitung vom Mittelalter bis zum 18. Jahrhundert, Berlin, 1937, no. 214, plate 86). Of identical form and proportions to the Pommiersfelden altarpiece, the present lot only varies in the fact that the two figures of the Virgin and St. John are lacking from either side of the cross and in the arrangement of elaborately carved inlaid ivory panels.

Meticulously carved and from the rarest materials of the time, objects such as the present crucifix were typical elements of the Kunstkammer, literally translated as 'art room'. Popular from the 16th to the 18th centuries, kunstkammers often took the form of a cabinet of curiosities filled with extraordinary jewel-like artworks that were owned by aristocrats and wealthy burghers of the time. The pre-requisites of such Kunstkammer objects was that they were highly worked and made of 'mysterious' substances like ivory, horn, coconut shells, ostrich eggs and above all amber - which was thought to have the ability to indicate if a food or drink was contaminated by poison.
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