History of Art in Ivory
As ivory has the potential to be bleached, inlaid and carved, it has always been a highly prized raw material since man populated the Earth. Humans took to expression in the form of paintings and carving, ivory has been the most preferred medium of expression. As far as archeological remains that have been studied can shed light on the age of the ivory carvings actually go back to the Paleolithic Age when the Cro-Magnon man carved mammoth tusks. Some figurines have been dated to be 20,000 years old which were found by Russian archeologists in 2005. They were identified as art objects which were carved on mammoth ivory plaques and featured large mammals, animals and women. Archeologists later identified the artifacts of religious significance. Even the pits were covered with mammoth ivory tusks which highlighted the importance of mammoth ivory in the life of Cro-Magnon men.
The famed ‘Venus of Lespugue’ was carved by a caveman in the region of France about 50,000 years ago. Minerals tinted her body blue-green but the simple carving and designs holds fascination even today. Even in the Greek and Roman civilizations utilized a huge amount of mammoth and elephant ivory to carve sculptures, precious religious objects and art pieces.
China was using ivory in huge qualities since 2500 BC and crafted both exquisite art pieces and utility goods. They also traded ivory with the western world even in the 1st. century A.D. The British used a lot of ivory during the Opium trade while the Buddhist cultures in South East Asia like Burma, Cambodia and Thailand domesticated elephants and used a considerable amount of ivory for crafting seals and art pieces of religious significance.
In ancient Philippines, ivory was also used to craft the facial features and hands of religious figures and Catholic icon. Knife handles, dagger and sword handles and a variety of inlay work was also done with ivory. The Vikings, Swedish and Russians have used ivory harpoons and knife handles, carved, inlaid and hollowed out to be lined with precious metals for greater strength and durability. Ivory was also known to be mixed in herbal medications as an antidote to poison.
With age, ivory darkens from milky white to yellow and then brown, it takes hundreds of years to get that that blue tinge much sought after by the artists. For preservation, the ivory should be kept a little damp but temperature change or drying gets it dried up and splintered very fast.
Every country and civilization has a huge collection of ivory artefacts belonging to different periods as it has been a useful and highly valuable commodity for eons. Today, Mammoth ivory and marine ivory are legal and fulfil the demands of curators and collectors all over the world.
Browse our Mammoth ivory collection – Mammoth ivory figurines, Mammoth ivory tusks, Mammoth Ivory Netsukes.