Ivory Plaque with the Crucifixion and Burial of Adam

Circa 1100
Ivory plaque
Metropolitan Museum of Art, accession no. 17.190.43

The museum's label says that the body being laid to rest is that of Jesus. This is unlikely, because on the cross Jesus has a halo, close-cropped hair, and a short, curly beard while the person below has no halo, long hair parted in the middle, only a few wisps of beard, and a pug nose such as I have never seen on any image of Christ.

Most likely, the figure below is Adam. Some medieval images picture him in a sarcophagus in the ground beneath the base of the cross, following a tradition that he was buried on Calvary. The Gospel of Nicodemus tells of the solicitousness of Adam's son Seth when Adam lay sick, so Seth is probably one of the two men laying him to rest in this image. The other man could be any one of the unnamed sons that Adam had fathered (Genesis 5:7), or it could be Seth's son Enos.

The crucifixion scene itself closely follows the iconographic tradition, putting Mary and John on either side of the cross with two smaller figures, Longinus on the left with his spear and Stephaton on the right with his sponge and cup.

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Photographed at the site by Richard Stracke, shared under Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike license.