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Panel from a book cover

Ivory carving was revived at the court of Charlemagne in Aachen in the late eighth century, and it remained an important medium for sculpture throughout the early Middle Ages. The narrow rectangular format of this tenth-century Lotharingian relief was derived from late Roman consular diptychs: hinged writing tablets showing the consul performing his duties, which he presented to his supporters and friends on entering office. The panel is exceptional as the earliest known representation of choral singing. It depicts a bishop or archbishop about to celebrate Mass, with five deacons behind him, and in front of him seven canons singing. On a desk to his left is an open book inscribed in Latin with the introit to the Roman Mass for the first Sunday in Advent, beginning 'Unto thee, I raise my soul', sung as the celebrant processed into the church. He raises his right hand to indicate that he is ready to begin the service. The panel probably adorned the cover of a liturgical book, such as a Gradual, a choir book used in Mass. Another panel showing the celebrant standing in front of the altar, probably carved in the same workshop, is in the Liebieghaus Museum, Frankfurt.