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Pyxis Showing Scenes from the Martyrdom and Sanctuary of St Menas
Byzantine, 6th century. British Museum, 1879,1220.1
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Object type: pyxis
Museum number: 1879,1220.1
Description: Pyxis; ivory; oval, cut from the solid, with provision for a hinge and lock; sides carved in relief with scenes representing the martyrdom and sanctuary of St Menas; on one side a Roman official is seated as a judge upon a stool, his feet on a footstool; one hand raised, in the other a staff; behind him an armed guard, and beyond a basket; before him a table with inkpot, behind which a man holds a diptych; behind is a veiled doorway; before the table St Menas, with hands bound behind his back, has fallen on one knee; an executioner grasps him by the hair while brandishing a sword; behind him an angel flies; on the other side, St Menas stands beneath an arch, hands raised in the attitude of an orans, and with nimbus; on each side of the sanctuary is the head of a recumbent camel; from each direction approach two worshippers.
Culture/period: Early Byzantine
Date: 6th century
Production place: Made in: Alexandria (?), Egypt
Findspot: Found/Acquired: San Paolo fuori le Mura, church (?), Lazio, Italy
Materials: elephant ivory
Technique: relief, cut, carved
Dimensions: Height: 79 millimetres, Length: 122 millimetres (max), Weight: 209.32 grammes, Width: 113 millimetres
Acquisition notes: Letter from Credito Italiano dated 28.11.80. states this item was discovered in a chapel in Rome dedicated to St Menas located in the church of St Pauls-without-the-Walls.
British Museum, 1879,1220.1
Referenced as figure 20 in The military technology of classical Islam by D Nicolle
20. Ivory box, 6th century AD, Coptic, British Museum no. 267, London.
See also Romano-Byzantine Soldiers on the Sitten Pyxis, Ivory, 6th Century, Museum of Valere, Sitten
Romano-Byzantine Soldier on a Pyxis, Ivory, 6th Century, State Hermitage Museum, St. Petersburg, W-8
Other 6th Century Illustrations of Costume & Soldiers
Byzantine Illustrations of Costume & Soldiers