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Ivory plaque depicting Dionysus

Ivory plaque depicting Dionysus
© BA Antiquities Museum/C. Gerigk

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Registration Number(s)
BAAM Serial Bibliotheca Alexandrina Antiquities Museum Number 0368

Inv.Inventory
 (Greco-Roman Museum) 16620

where to find


showcase 24

Ivory plaque depicting Dionysus

Category:
Furniture and furnishing, furniture Inlays
Date:
Graeco-Roman Period, Roman Period (31 BCE-395 CE)
Provenance:
Lower Egypt, Alexandria, Moharam bek
Material(s):
Organic material, animal product, ivory
Length:
9.5 cm
Hall:
Byzantine Antiquities, showcase 24


Description

Ivory plaque depicting the god Dionysus, god of fertility and of wine, standing and leaning on a tree branch.

The mythical motifs represent the first stage in sculpting in ivory which extends from the third century to the fifth century CE when Graeco-Roman and classical style motifs were prevalent.

Ivory Uses

Ivory was used either for decorative or utilitarian purposes, such as in sculpting panels, in making round or rectangular jewellery boxes or as furniture inlays, particularly the thrones and seats of bishops. It was also used to engrave the names of important personages or family events or to commemorate people. It was also used as book covers for psalters.

Ivory during the sixth century CE became popular as an inlay to wooden furnishings, particularly church doors, the central panel (iconostasis) separating the body of the church (nave) from the sanctuary (altar) and icon holders or stands.

Historical phases of Ivory carving

According to some art historians of ivory sculpture, there are two phases of this art in Egypt. The first phase covers the third to the fifth century CE and is highly influenced by Graeco-Roman styles and subject matter. The second phase stretches from the sixth century CE, when Christian motifs and folk methods of working ivory took over. The use of ivory started to dwindle during that period, possibly due to the unavailability of that medium in Egypt.


The information given here is subject to modification/update as a result of ongoing research.

Bibliography
  • Dalton, O. M. East Christian Art: A Survey of the Monuments. Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1925.
  • Rice, D. Talbot. Byzantine Art. London: Penguin Books,1968.
  • Weitzmann, Kurt. Age of spirituality: Late Antique and Early Christian Art, Third to Seventh Century: Catalogue of the Exhibition at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Princeton University Press, 1978.
  • Beckwith, J. Early Christian and Byzantine Art. London: Penguin Group, 1979.
  • حكمت محمد بركات. جماليات الفنون القبطية. القاهرة: دار المصري، 1999.
  • عزت زكي حامد قادوس ومحمد عبد الفتاح السيد. الآثار والفنون القبطية. الإسكندرية: الحضري للطباعة، 2000.
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