Craft industry and trades

Ivory : a traditionnal craft in the Mediterranean

Unlike England, the Mezzogiorno is thought not to have had any ivory work during the high Middle Ages. However, the recent discovery of a, possibly 9th century, cleric’s head unearthed in 1991 during excavations at San Vincenzo al Volturno leads one to think otherwise.

It was apparently in Amalfi, a wealthy and very busy trading centre, that the production of ivory pieces with decorative engravings developed sometime in the mid-11th century (owing to the scarcity of material, favourable economic conditions were crucial).
One particular piece must be mentioned, because it was produced to a Norman commission: it is a small, unadorned portable altar (Nuremberg, Germanisches Nationalmuseum) bearing the inscription "Gofredus comes Catacensis me sacrare fecit", linking it to Count Geoffrey of Catanzaro (1111-1144).

Very important, the largest set of pre-Gothic ivories in mediaeval Europe: the ivories of Salerno. Certainly originally intended for a liturgical object at St Matthew’s Cathedral (financed by Robert Guiscard), they form a set of small plates depicting Old and the New Testament scenes.

A fair number of caskets, ciboria and everyday items made by Islamic craftsmen have also been found in Sicily.
There are twenty ivory horns from southern Italy engraved with decorations; their design points to the artistic methods of Campania and Apulia, although they may have been commissioned by the court of Palermo, in particular by Roger II.


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