A Thousand Words
The Throne of Maximianus
by Mary Elizabeth Podles
The sixth-century Throne of Maximianus stands close to five feet tall; its wooden armature is completely paneled in ivory, front, back, and sides. Since antiquity, ivory has been a luxury due to its rarity, difficulty of acquisition, and cost of transport, as well as its inherent qualities of fine grain, creamy color, and silky luster, all of which catch and hold the light. The panels of the throne are narrow, obviously limited by the width of the tusks; eight of them have vanished over the course of the centuries. Still, it remains the most impressive monument of Early Byzantine sculpture in the world.
We know or can deduce some of the . . .
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Mary Elizabeth Podles is the retired curator of Renaissance and Baroque art at the Walters Art Museum in Baltimore, Maryland. She and her husband Leon, a Touchstone senior editor, have six children and live in Baltimore, Maryland.
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