Medieval ivory works from the Hessisches Landesmuseum Darmstadt will be on show together with selected works from the Bayerisches Nationalmuseum
from March to October 2010. Two high-ranking collections with a long tradition will thus enter into dialogue with each other. The quality and range of the medieval ivory works will be impressively illustrated by approx. one hundred objects dating from the 5th to the 15th century. The works from Darmstadt are largely drawn from the collection of the Cologne Baron von Hüpsch (1730-1805); the major works from the Munich holdings are from the Wittelsbach stocks and from the Bamberg collection of Martin Joseph von Reider (1793-1862).
This confrontation of the Darmstadt and Munich collections provides a unique opportunity to reunite groups of works that once belonged together. The four small panels produced in the 10th century for the cathedral in Magdeburg are masterpieces of Ottonian ivory work that are now temporarily reunited here in Munich. Moreover, ivory works produced in 14th century France are displayed together with related items, as are works by the Italian Embriachi workshop or small boxes from Southern Italy that have been influenced by Arabian art.
The exhibition highlights the broad range of uses for the precious ivory. The main focus of the presentation are objects from the religious sphere, such as reliquiary shrines, portable altars or book covers. Ivory was also an indication of courtly prestige, following Islamic models. Boxes and chess figures as well as mirror cases on show testify to this. The extraordinary status attributed to ivory played a decisive role when selecting this rare material. In Ancient Greece ivory was used above all for images of gods. In the Middle Ages not only ivory from elephant tusks was used but also walrus bone, the narwhals tooth, supposedly from the unicorn, and even hippo ivory. These particular aspects are illustrated by objects selected from the holdings of the Zoologische Staatssammlung in Munich and the natural history collection of the Darmstadt museum. Historical tools introduce the visitor to the special techniques with which this valuable raw material was worked by highly specialised craftspeople and artists.