photos and stories from the Powerhouse Museum
This photograph was taken in 1876 when this 5th or 6th century Italian ivory casket was in the Biblioteca Queriniana in Brescia. It has a large central plaque that is surrounded by narrower ones depicting scenes of biblical history, and is surmounted by a border containing five heads in sunken panels.
The central head is larger than the others and is intended to be Christ, depicted as quite young, without a nimbus, beardless and with his hair combed straight down with no part onto the forehead with ringlets at the sides of the head. The other heads are those of a young, a middle-aged, and two aged men; the one to the right of Christ is probably intended to be St Paul.
The central plaque shows, to the left, the Noli me Taangere, with the youthful Christ standing with his right arm extended over the head of Mary Magdalene, who is kneeling to the left. In the middle Christ is standing, holding a long wide scroll in both hands, surrounded by six seated apostles in a temple, which has a wide opening draped with curtains looped up at the sides and fixed to twisted columns with foliated capitals.
On the right is Christ and the Good Shepherd standing beneath a rounded arch supported by fluted columns with ornamental capitals, from the back of which extends a walled enclosure in which are four sheep. A rampant wolf is baying at Christ and behind it the hireling is running away. In the narrow upper border, to the left of the lock, is depicted Jonah being thrown out of a boat by three men and partly swallowed by a serpent-like whale, while to the right of the lock he is being thrown up by the whale onto the ground.
On the left of the narrow lower border is depicted Susanna standing in the pose of one of the Orantes, with open uplifted hands, with a tree on either side, from behind each of which an elder approaches. In the middle she is led by these two elders towards the judgement seat, on which Daniel is seated. To the right Daniel is standing naked with uplifted, outstretched hands between the two lions, who are seated quietly with their heads turned back looking towards him. In the left narrow upright border a large fish hangs by a string on a nail, and in the right border the cock of St Peter stands on top of a square pillar.
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