Odds and quads

This impressive Orthodox cross, made from intricately carved cypress wood, was used for the benediction of the congregation during the Liturgy and was probably made in the monastic community of Mount Athos.

November 1, 2012

The main body is decorated with episodes from the Great Feasts Cycle (essentially events from the life of Christ and the Virgin Mary), while the foliate ornaments surrounding it show Old Testament narratives and images of prophets and saints.

The cross formed part of the collection of the Victorian church artist Thomas Gambier Parry (1816-88), who is thought to have kept it in prominent view at Highnam Court, his home near Gloucester.

It was bequeathed to the Courtauld Gallery by his grandson, Mark Gambier-Parry, in 1966. However, as it bears little relation to the works on permanent display at the gallery, it has seldom been seen in public.

The cross is now the focus of the first in the Courtauld's Illuminating Objects series of small exhibitions (running until 4 February 2013), which also provide an internship scheme for early career researchers in disciplines other than art history.

Each researcher is given training and then allowed to select a work, research and interpret the item, produce labels and copy for the Courtauld's website, and write a blog.

Send suggestions for this series on the treasures, oddities and curiosities owned by universities across the world to matthew.reisz @tsleducation.com.

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