The Tusk and the Book: The Salerno/Amalfi Ivories in their Mediterranean Contexts

International Conference

organized by Francesca Dell'Acqua, Herbert L. Kessler, Avinoam Shalem and Gerhard Wolf

Kunsthistorisches Institut in Florenz - Max-Planck-Institut and Centro di Cultura e Storia Amalfitana

The conference aims to assemble specialists in various fields who can contribute specifically to a better understanding of the most notable ivory ensemble of the Middle Ages, the so-called 'Salerno' ivories, dated between the late eleventh and mid-twelfth century and probably carved in the Norman kingdom of Southern Italy.

Following the exhibition of the ivories in Salerno (2007-08), and scholarly meetings on Late Antique and medieval ivories in Amalfi (2009) and Washington DC (2011), a number of scholars recognized how traditional approaches have been insufficient to account for the complexity of the issues involved in understanding the 'Salerno' ivories and others related to them (conventionally called the 'Grado' and the 'Amalfi' ivories).

The Florence meeting seeks not only radically to review the traditional questions of style, iconography, and program, and the much-discussed - although never fully investigated - function of the object, but also to scrutinize the information conveyed by peculiar carving techniques, to explore the African origin and points of exchange of the raw material, to discuss the possible political and theological impulses in the conception of the Salerno ensemble, to contextualize its deployment within ecclesiastical performance of the time, to frame the attraction it exerted within the long-attested appreciation of ivory throughout antiquity and the medieval period, and to ponder how the Salerno ivories reflect artistic exchange and cultural identity in the Mediterranean basin during the early Middle Ages.

Scientific committee: Beat Brenk, Gudrun Bühl, Anthony Cutler, Francesca Dell'Acqua, Herbert L. Kessler, Avinoam Shalem, Gerhard Wolf, Giuseppa Zanichelli

Kunsthistorisches Institut in Florenz - Max-Planck-Institut
Palazzo Grifoni
Via dei Servi 51
50122 Firenze
Dott.ssa Ester Fasino  
Telefon:+39 055 24911-49


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