Harbaville Triptych

Harbaville Triptych

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The Harbaville Triptych is a Byzantine
Byzantine art
Byzantine art is the term commonly used to describe the artistic products of the Byzantine Empire from about the 5th century until the Fall of Constantinople in 1453....

Ivory is a term for dentine, which constitutes the bulk of the teeth and tusks of animals, when used as a material for art or manufacturing. Ivory has been important since ancient times for making a range of items, from ivory carvings to false teeth, fans, dominoes, joint tubes, piano keys and...

A triptych , from tri-= "three" + ptysso= "to fold") is a work of art which is divided into three sections, or three carved panels which are hinged together and can be folded shut or displayed open. It is therefore a type of polyptych, the term for all multi-panel works...

 of the middle of the 10th century AD with a Deesis
In Byzantine art, and later Eastern Orthodox art generally, the Deësis or Deisis , is a traditional iconic representation of Christ in Majesty or Christ Pantocrator: enthroned, carrying a book, and flanked by the Virgin Mary and St. John the Baptist, and sometimes other saints and angels...

 and other saints, now in the Louvre
The Musée du Louvre – in English, the Louvre Museum or simply the Louvre – is one of the world's largest museums, the most visited art museum in the world and a historic monument. A central landmark of Paris, it is located on the Right Bank of the Seine in the 1st arrondissement...

. Traces of colouring can still be seen on some figures. It is regarded as the finest, and best-preserved, of the "Romanos group" of ivories from a workshop in Constantinople
Constantinople was the capital of the Roman, Eastern Roman, Byzantine, Latin, and Ottoman Empires. Throughout most of the Middle Ages, Constantinople was Europe's largest and wealthiest city.-Names:...

, probably closely connected with the Imperial Court.

The group takes its name from another ivory in the Cabinet des Médailles of the Bibliothèque nationale de France
Bibliothèque nationale de France
The is the National Library of France, located in Paris. It is intended to be the repository of all that is published in France. The current president of the library is Bruno Racine.-History:...

, Paris showing Christ crowning an Emperor, named as Romanos, and his Empress. This is thought to be either Romanos II
Romanos II
Romanos  II was a Byzantine emperor. He succeeded his father Constantine VII in 959 at the age of twenty-one, and died suddenly in 963.-Life:...

 crowned in 959, or possibly Romanos IV
Romanos IV
Romanos  IV Diogenes was a member of the Byzantine military aristocracy who, after his marriage to the widowed empress Eudokia Makrembolitissa was crowned Byzantine emperor and reigned from 1068 to 1071...

, crowned in 1068. Other related works are in Rome, the Vatican, and Moscow, this last another coronation probably datable to 944.

The Harbaville Triptych is considered "by far the finest, for it shows an elegance and delicacy which are absent in the others. All are in the polished, elegant style typical of the Court school." Other groups have also been identified, presumably representing the output of different workshops, perhaps also employed by the Court, but generally of lower quality, or at least refinement. Since much greater numbers of ivories survive than panel paintings from the period, they are very important for the history of Macedonian art.

All sides of the triptych are fully carved, with more saints on the outsides of the side leaves, and an elaborate decorative scheme on the back of the central leaf.