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Joy of Museums

Museums, Art Galleries and Historical Sites

Plaque with the Journey to Emmaus and Noli Me Tangere

Emmaus Noli Me Tangere Met 17.190.47
Plaque with the Journey to Emmaus and Noli Me Tangere

This ivory plaque shows the Journey to Emmaus and Jesus telling Mary Magdalene not to touch him or “Noli me tangere” which is Latin for “Don’t Touch Me”. According to the Gospels, Jesus appeared to his disciples several times after the Resurrection, including on the road from Jerusalem to Emmaus. The top of this plaque shows the disciples lament the Crucifixion, while Jesus explains the redemptive nature of his sacrifice. The bottom of this plaque shows the scene where Jesus appears to Mary Magdalene, who when she recognises him, he tells her not to touch him since the Ascension has not yet occurred.

The swirling drapery and emphatic gestures convey the drama of the events portrayed and reference the plaque to works produced in León, Spain which was an important royal city on the pilgrimage road. This ivory carving was part of a larger ensemble, decorated with other scenes from the life of Jesus.

Noli me tangere

“Noli me tangere” is the Latin version of a phrase spoken, according to the Gospel of John, by Jesus to Mary Magdalene when she recognized him after his resurrection. The biblical scene of Mary Magdalene’s recognising Jesus Christ after his resurrection became the subject of a long, widespread and continuous iconographic tradition in Christian art from Late Antiquity to the present. The expression has also found its way into culture and literature.

Reflections

  • How similar do the clothes in this ivory sculpture mirror the cloths in a medieval icon?
  • Why do the figures in this carving not wearing any shoes of foot covering?

Explore the Medieval Art Collection in the Metropolitan Museum of Art – MET

Plaque with the Journey to Emmaus and Noli Me Tangere

  • Title:             Plaque with the Journey to Emmaus and Noli Me Tangere
  • Date:            ca. 1115–20
  • Culture:         Spanish
  • Geography:   Made in León, Spain
  • Medium:       Ivory, traces of gilding
  • Dimensions: 10 5/8 x 5 1/4 x 3/4 in. (27 x 13.4 x 1.9 cm); Wt: 30.5oz. (866g)
  • Museum:      Metropolitan Museum of Art – MET

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“A wise son maketh a glad father: but a foolish son is the heaviness of his mother.”
– Proverbs of Solomon

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Photo Credit: 1) Metropolitan Museum of Art [CC BY 2.5 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.5)], via Wikimedia Commons

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