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The Program of the Brescia Casket

Carolyn Joslin Watson
Gesta
Vol. 20, No. 2 (1981), pp. 283-298
DOI: 10.2307/766938
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/766938
Page Count: 16
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The Program of the Brescia Casket
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Abstract

The Brescia casket is generally agreed to be a product of late fourth-century north Italy. Until now, no attempt at a programmatic interpretation has done justice to the richness and diversity of the casket's imagery or to the complexities of its compositional format. This paper is an attempt to reconstruct a program for the casket, taking into consideration the internal evidence afforded by the imagery, the historical context of late fourth-century north Italy, and the writings of Bishop Ambrose, the most prominent figure of that time and place. The program that emerges is anti-Arian and has several levels or aspects of meaning -- pastoral, ecclesiological, theological, liturgical, allegorical, and moral. This paper contends that the casket was produced in the wake of a confrontation between the bishop and the Arian imperial court at Milan in Lent of 386; specific references to events of that period seem to explicate the imagery on the casket.

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