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Humanities LibreTexts

3.7: RARE MATERIALS AND PROHIBITED USES

  • Page ID
    26944
  • The economic and ecological factors involved in some materials have sometimes moved consideration of their use far beyond the discussion of artistic production. An example is work in ivory, especially that obtained from elephants, although it was also taken to use for sculpture from their kin, the extinct mammoth, as well as from walruses and other mammals. Its rarity and workability led to its valuation for finely carved works, often for aristocratic patrons and very special purposes, such as the devotional objects (The Virgin and Child, Unknown: http://collections.vam.ac.uk/ item/O166591/the-virgin-and-child-polyptych-unknown/) and personal toilet articles (Attack on the Castle of Love, Unknown: collections. vam.ac.uk/item/O88416/attack-on-the-castle-of-mirror-back-unknown/) that were popular among the court ladies of the late Middle Ages. Its exploitation has led to scarcity and, ultimately, now threatens the very existence of elephants, since they have been savagely hunted and their herds decimated in the interest of profit. Consequently, both the sale and purchase of ivory objects, even those considered antiques and historical treasures, are now widely boycotted in the interest of preservation of the species.