The present lot and the preceding one make a fascinating study in the phenomenon of the Portable Altar. In the Middle Ages many Priests were itinerant but nevertheless had to observe Communion wherever they were located. Portable Altars, which could be easily transported and stowed away during travel were an ideal solution. Many were beautifully crafted from valuable materials, see, for example, the 11th-century porphyry Portable Altar in the Cluny (inv. no. Cl. 13072). The present example is centered on a beautiful veined purple marble, offset with intarsia work reminiscent of the North Italian Embriachi workshop, but which may possibly be Spanish workmanship (see Williamson and Davies, op. cit.). The preceding Altar preserves paintwork which strongly recalls examples of Catalan Romanesque painting in the Museu Nacional d'Art de Catalunya, Barcelona.
Musée national du Moyen Age Thermes de Cluny, Paris, 1993, p. 76, nos. 79-80; M. Bagnoli and H. Klein, Treasures of Heaven: Saints, Relics, and Devotion in Medieval Europe, exh. cat. British Museum, 2011, p. 86; P. Williamson and G. Davies, Medieval Ivory Carvings 1200-1550, cat. Victoria and Albert Museum, London, 2014, pp. 749-861