Newly acquired ivory carvings from the time of the gothic cathedrals

26 January 2024 – 7 July 2024

In recent years, the Museum Schnütgen’s collection of Gothic ivory carvings has been enriched with outstanding pieces. This has been made possible by the support of private and public foundations and a donation. All these new acquisitions were created during the heyday of the ivory trade around 1250–1350 and are on display in a small special exhibition within the permanent collection.

‘White gold’
Carved from elephant tusks, these works of art were extremely precious due to the rarity of the material. The raw material was traded from the east coast of Africa to Europe via the Red Sea and Egypt. Initially, France, with Paris at its centre, was the main producer of these magnificent objects. However, the influence of the Parisian workshops reached further afield, including Cologne. The close artistic links between Paris and Cologne in the Middle Ages are exemplified by a relief depicting the death of the Virgin Mary and by two diptych wings, which originally belonged to small travelling or domestic altarpieces and were used for personal devotion. One of the counterparts of the two-winged altarpieces is in the Musée du Louvre in Paris; the other is thought to be lost.

Expensive pocket mirrors
In addition to the many sacred objects made of ivory, there are also luxury items for secular use, such as combs, ceremonial horns, dagger handles, and mirror cases. Particularly superb examples, two exquisite everyday objects in the form of extremely finely crafted mirror cases have now been added to the museum’s collection, which was previously dominated by religious artefacts. The lavishly carved front sides  depict scenes of courtly love. The backs once held mirror discs of polished metal, similar to pocket mirrors. These must-have items, still found in many handbags today, were already highly prized by ladies in the Middle Ages.


Adult ticket incl. permanent collection: 6 €, concession: 3.50 €

Combo ticket Museum Schnütgen and Rautenstrauch-Joest-Museum: 10 €, concession: 7 €
Group rate permanent collection (from 10 persons): 3.50 € per person

Concession tickets: for students 

Free admission: for children under 6 years of age when accompanied by an adult, school students, apprentices, Cologne residents under 18 years of age, holders of the Köln-Pass and the ICOM-Card as well as for Friends of the Museum.


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