photos and stories from the Powerhouse Museum
This photograph is of a leaf from a diptych carved from ivory in Italy between 400 and 600. Ivory diptychs consisted of two leaves joined by hinges and this leaf shows three scenes from the life of St Paul.
At the top he is shown as an older man with a long triangular beard. He is sitting of a curule chair and holding a roll in his left hand, with his right hand raised in benediction. In front of him stands a man holding a book, possibly indented to represent Pope Linus, and behind him, leaning on the chair, stands another middle-aged man also holding a roll, who is possibly intended to be St Peter.
Below this is St Paul at Melita. He is standing on the left side shaking the viper off his hand into the fire (Acts, xxviii. v. 5). To his right stands Publius, the ruler of the island (Acts xxviii. v. 7), with his right hand raised and wearing a large cloak with the large lozenge shaped lati-clavus, which is fastened on his right shoulder with a large Roman fiddle shaped fibula. Behind Publius stands a tall older man with a pointed beard, who is possibly intended to be his father, who was cured by St Paul (Acts xxviii. v. 8). He is holding a short sword and his right hand is raised and open in surprise.
At the bottom is the curing of the cripple of Lystra by St Paul (Acts xiv. v. 10). On the left an attendant supports the cripple, depicted as a small and thin man, and to their right stands Barnabas (Jupiter, v, 12) as a young and beardless man, and to his right is an St Paul (Mercurius), wearing a cloak and trousers and pointing upwards. The other half of this diptych shows what is thought to be the naming of the beasts by Adam in paradise.