The Passion

420-430 AD
Panel from a small ivory box
7.5 x 9.8 cm.
British Museum, London

The plaque pictures three episodes in the Passion narratives in a single visual field. In the center Jesus carries his cross under the direction of a Roman soldier. On the left Pilate washes his hands to show that he is "innocent of this man's blood."

On the right is Peter's denial (Matthew 26:69-75, Mark 14:66-72, Luke 22:54-62, John 18:15-18;25-27). A woman points to Peter saying, "Thou also wast with Jesus the Galilean." Peter makes an open-arm gesture to deny her claim as a rooster crows in the background. The charcoal fire mentioned in John 18:18 is in the foreground. The convention of picturing Peter with a short, square beard is in effect even at this early date.

The scenes do not follow chronological order. Rather, Jesus with his cross is placed in the center as the most significant element in the story, flanked on left and right by the two denials.

This is one of four plaques in the museum which appear to have been affixed to the four sides of a small box.

Read more about images of Jesus' trial, the Carrying of the Cross, and St. Peter

Source: Dr. Rozmeri Basic, University of Oklahoma