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Writing Tablet and Lid
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Writing Tablet and Lid

Description Conservation Exhibitions Provenance Credit
Description During the Middle Ages, paper and parchment were expensive, and many people took advantage of less permanent forms of written communication. One side of an ivory tablet was coated with wax; then a message was incised in the wax with a stylus (which looks like a large pin) and protected by an ivory lid. The little box would be sent to the recipient, who smoothed the wax and responded. The sliding cover depicts three ladies in the town, looking over its walls at two embracing couples seen to the left. The bottom of the box shows the same town at greater distance, a tent with two more lovers, a hawking expedition, and a hermit reading outside his rustic cell. Several writing boxes are known from the same, otherwise unidentified workshop.
Date Description Narrative
2/22/1977Examinationexamined for condition
2/28/1983Treatmentcleaned; examined for loan
  • The International Style: The Arts in Europe Around 1400. The Walters Art Gallery, Baltimore. 1962.
  • Images of Love and Death in Late Medieval and Renaissance Art. The University of Michigan Museum of Art, Ann Arbor. 1975-1976.
  • The Medieval Garden. Spencer Museum of Art, Lawrence; Dumbarton Oaks, Washington. 1983.
  • Images in Ivory: Precious Objects of the Gothic Age. The Detroit Institute of Arts, Detroit; The Walters Art Gallery, Baltimore. 1997.
Provenance Sale, Cologne, December 14, 1893, no. 92; Marcus Antocolsky, Paris [date and mode of acquisition unknown]; Marcus Antocolsky Sale, Hotel Drouot, Paris, June 10, 1901, no. 73; George Robinson Harding, London [date and mode of acquisition unknown]; Henry Walters, Baltimore, June 15, 1901, by purchase; Walters Art Museum, 1931, by bequest.
Credit Acquired by Henry Walters, 1901

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1340-1360 (Medieval)
(Ivory & Bone)
Accession Number
H: 3 11/16 x W: 2 1/8 x D of tablet and lid together: 7/16 in. (9.3 x 5.4 x 1.1 cm)


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