Feminae: Medieval Women and Gender Index


  • Record Number: 6830
  • Author(s)/Creator(s): Campbell , C. Jean.
  • Contributor(s):
  • Title: Courting, Harlotry, and the Art of Gothic Ivory Carving
  • Source URL: Gesta (Full Text via JSTOR) 34, 1 (1995): 11-19. Link Info target = '_blank'>Gesta (Full Text via JSTOR) 34, 1 (1995): 11-19. Link Info
  • Description:
  • Article Type: Journal Article
  • Subject (See Also): Art History- Decorative Arts Art History- Sculpture Courtly Love Iconography Ivories Prodigal Son (Biblical Figure)
  • Geographic Area: France
  • Century: 14
  • Related Resources:
  • Primary Evidence: Sculpture; New York. Metropolitan Museum. Casket with carved ivory scenes from the tale of the Prodigal Son. No. 41.100.159.
  • Illustrations: Six photographs of ivory carvings. Four of the Metropolitan Museum casket with scenes from the tale of the Prodigal Son. Two of carved ivory mirror cases with courtly scenes.
  • Table:
  • Abstract: The iconographer's search for significance in late medieval amatory imagery is often over before it begins. Faced with the knowledge that- from the theological standpoint of the Middle Ages- true Meaning transcended the sensory realm to which both earthly love and artistic representation belonged, the interpreter may be left wondering what, if anything meaningful, is to be gained by considering art. What may be gained from a consideration of the art of Gothic ivory carving is an appreciation of its lively discourse on the limits of art, related specifically to the imaginative products of courtly culture. This discourse is fully developed in the ivory carvers' interpretation of the parable of the Prodigal Son, one example of which may be found on a casket in the Metropolitan Museum. Here, in a delightful visual game, the ivory carvers portrayed themselves as courtly artists only to reveal their art as harlotry. Despite its ultimately negative verdict on art, the narrative they constructed depended upon their audience's willingness to recognize, at least temporarily, relative aesthetic value in their manipulations of visual language. In the case of Gothic ivories, the interpretation of art may succeed where the interpretation of meaning is doomed to failure, in transforming these delightful little objets d'art from essentially inadequate bearers of transcendent Meaning into culturally eloquent objects. [Reproduced by permission of the International Center of Medieval Art.]
  • Author's Affiliation: University of Alberta, Edmonton
  • Conference Info: - , -
  • Year of Publication: 1995.
  • Language: English
  • ISSN/ISBN: Not Available
  • Material/Technique :
  • Rights: