A Carved Ivory Head from San Vincenzo Al Volturno
Author: Mitchell, John
Source: Journal of the British Archaeological Association, Volume 145, Number 1, 1992 , pp. 66-76(11)
Publisher: Maney Publishing
Abstract:A small ivory head of a tonsured man, expertly carved in relief, was found in 1991 during excavations at the great eighth-eleventh century Lombard monastery at San Vincenzo al Volturno. The head was excavated with other fragments of carved ivory, antler and bone, in the vicinity of the collective workshop of the monastery, and was doubtless carved in this workshop. The head-type is a variant on an early Byzantine formula which was employed in Rome by the sixth century and subsequently, in the eighth century, was adopted by artists working for noble Lombard patrons in northern Italy. The painters responsible for decorating the churches and claustral buildings of San Vincenzo in the first half of the ninth century also used this type, and in details of its carving the new ivory head seems to show the direct influence of painted heads of early ninth-century date from the walls of the monastery. The relief was probably intended for the embellishment of a small casket or the cover of a book. The new head, besides being a significant addition to the tiny corpus of surviving carvings in ivory from early medieval Italy, shows the craftsmen in the monastery's workshop had at their disposal a material which was both rare and prestigious in the period.
Document Type: Research Article
Publication date: 1992-01-01