Elephant in the room: Ivory

Ivory has been a coveted material for use in luxury goods and art and religious objects for centuries. 

That’s because elephant tusk is especially malleable, allowing skilled carvers to produce expressive, detailed sculptures. However, due to the size and shape of the tusk, many of these creations are relatively small. This limitation kept many artists from signing their work; only in rare instances and on larger-scale objects do we see signatures. Although this sculpture of Christ on the Cross is unsigned, three other sculptures have been attributed to this anonymous artist throughout Italy and Spain. 

Gretchen Halverson, Media and Technology Assistant, January 18, 2017



Timed to coincide with the recent announcement by China to halt its commercial trade of ivory, “Elephant in the Room: Ivory” is a series that highlights the use of ivory across various cultures represented in Mia’s collection. As China’s largest consumer, for art and traditional medicine, the announced ban could protect the lives of thousands of elephants a year.