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Diptych reunited

14 July 2008 by Sam

Two ivory plaques side by side carved with meieval scenes

Spot the difference – the original right hand panel of the ivory diptych on the right shown with a 21st century replica of the other side on the left. Visitors can currently see both the original panels together in Cardiff.

Today two halves of a medieval ivory diptych will be reunited thanks to a special collaboration between the Walker Art Gallery and National Museums Wales.

The diptych, which was made in the 14th century, portrays the birth of Christ, with the Virgin and Child flanked by Saints Peter and Paul, on the left-hand panel, while the right-hand side shows Christ on the cross flanked by Mary and John. Originally the leaves would have been joined together – you can see the holes for the hinges in the image above. However, over time they were separated and now the left hand panel is in the collections of the Walker Art Gallery, while the right hand one belongs to National Museums Wales.

The Walker’s panel has been lent to National Museum Cardiff for a year-long display with the other half of the diptych, which starts today as part of National Archaeology Week.

When the original is returned to Liverpool visitors to Cardiff will still be able to see what the complete diptych would have looked thanks to a highly accurate copy of the left panel made by the Conservation Technologies team at the National Conservation Centre. Laser technology research scientist Annemarie La Pensee told me all about it:


“Last year Conservation Technologies was commissioned by Amgueddfa Cymru – National Museum Wales – to make a replica of the left-hand leaf of the diptych that we have here at National Museums Liverpool. Using 3D laser scanning and CNC machining we made an accurate replica from polyurethane resin that was patinated to make it look like the original.

Here in the laser technology team, we found the project really great to work on. The leaves are quite small, only 10cm in height. However, because of the highly carved surface we used our most accurate scanner to record the sub-millimetre details and the resulting dataset was as big as those we create for much larger objects. It is also interesting to see how different the two original leaves are in colour and texture because they have been apart and have been exposed to different environments.”

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