An Imperial Byzantine Casket and Its Fate at a Humanist’s Hands

Anthony Cutler, Nicolas Oikonomides

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

24 Scopus citations


The ivory casket in the Palazzo Venezia, Rome, depicting an emperor and empress blessed by Christ and a selection of scenes from the life of David, is one of the few surviving major works from the period immediately after a centuries-long hiatus in Constantinopolitan ivory-carving. It has been given a wide variety of dates and places of origin, but it is identified here as a work made for the emperor Leo VI and assigned to 898 or 900, a little more than a decade after the “scepter tip” in Berlin, also supposedly made for the emperor. The circumstances under which the casket’s inscriptions and figures were partially recarved have contributed not a little to misunderstanding of the original state of the object. This reworking, it is suggested, was undertaken in Rome, in the circle of the Jesuit savant, Athanasius Kircher.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)77-87
Number of pages11
JournalThe Art Bulletin
Issue number1
StatePublished - Mar 1 1988

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Visual Arts and Performing Arts
  • History


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