Otto Imperator

Otto Imperator, ivory, 10th century AD (inv. avori 15)

Location: Rocchetta, 2nd floor, Room XXXII

The scene represents an emperor of the Ottonian Dynasty with his wife and already crowned infant son, kneeling before the enthroned Christ, in proskynesis, a gesture of homage paid to Byzantine emperors. Next to the Saviour, to whom the IHS XPS inscription refers, are Saint Maurice (on the left) and Mary (on the right), identified by lateral inscriptions, while above the scene are two angels in flight.  The platform on which the imperial family are kneeling  is inscribed with the words OTTO IMPERATOR. This inscription does not settle the question of whether the piece is celebrating Otto I or Otto II. However, the very young age of the prince, who bears the crown and is therefore already associated with the power of his father, argues in favour of a reference to Otto II, Theophanu and Otto III. If the deduction is correct, the plate may have been produced in Milan on the occasion of the visit of Otto II in 983, when Otto III was only three years of age.
The elegance of the composition and style, which resembles that of other Milanese works of the 10th century, such as the tabernacle of the Basilica of Sant'Ambrogio, confirms the role played by Milan and northern Italy in the creation of sophisticated Ottonian art.
The ivory belonged to the Trivulzio Collection and entered the Civic Collections in 1935.