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The Medieval Reuse of Ivory Consular Diptych

February 13 @ 3:30 pm - 5:00 pm

This is a headshot of a person with long brown hair standing in front of a museum display case. The display case contains two ivory panels of the consular diptych of Justinian (The Met, acc. nos. 17.190.52–.53).
Photograph courtesy of Nicole D. Pulichene.

Nicole Pulichene

Kingdon Fellow (2022-2023)

Andrew W. Mellon Curatorial Research/Collections Specialist Fellow, Department of Medieval Art and The Cloisters, The Metropolitan Museum of Art

A group of late antique Roman ivories known as consular diptychs exist today in some forty examples dated ca. 400-540 C.E. These pairs of hinged tablets commemorated Roman officials’ ascent to the consulship with distinctive double portraits of the new consul on their exterior surfaces. The images and documents committed by medieval Christians to the diptychs’ interior surfaces are, however, rarely studied. This presentation, and the related book project, investigates how the images, names, and litanies recorded in these diptychs forged relationships between the Roman imperial past and Christian communities, specifically in the context of the memorialization of the dead. By investigating the parallel function of the portrait and the personal name as signifiers of bodily presence, the list as a tool for visually articulating and imposing order on the natural and the supernatural, and the generative role of both inscription and erasure in the construction of imperial identity in Late Antiquity and the Early Middle Ages, this project argues that consular diptychs testify to broader concerns for establishing community, familial, and imperial legitimacy in a Christian empire reoriented toward Western Europe.


Nicole Pulichene is the Robert M. Kingdon Fellow at the Institute for Research in the Humanities. Prior to UW, she was Andrew W. Mellon Curatorial Research/Collections Specialist Fellow and a member of the Medieval Ivory Project in the Department of Medieval Art and The Cloisters at The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York. She is co-editor and contributing author to the monograph The Boethius Diptych: New Findings in Technical Art History, Iconography, and Paleography (2021). Her book project, entitled “‘One Whose Name was Writ in Wax’: The Medieval Reuse of Consular Diptychs,” focuses on the connection between early Christian liturgical rites and the reuse of late antique ivory diptychs during the Middle Ages. She completed her PhD at Harvard University in 2020 in the Department of the History of Art and Architecture. With the support of predoctoral fellowships from the Samuel H. Kress Foundation and the Deutscher Akademischer Austauschdienst, she was in residence at the Zentralinstitut für Kunstgeschichte in Munich from 2016–2020.

*Events currently open only to 2022-23 fellows due to space concerns; please contact IRH at info@irh.wisc.edu to be added to a cancellation list for in-person events.*


February 13
3:30 pm - 5:00 pm
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