The elusive rationale for the Brescia Casket, an ivory reliquary carved in rthern Italy ca. 390, has long tantalized scholars. In The Key to the Brescia Casket, Dr. Catherine Brown Tkacz reveals that the secret to its meaning lies in exegetical typology-the interpretation of Old Testament people and events as prefiguring the Messiah. Typology, Tkacz argues, underlies the sophisticated program of the ivory box, which features an unusually full depiction of the Passion. Among the fifty-nine carvings on the Brescia Casket, most of them depicting biblical events, are five scenes of the Passion, more than any other monument prior to this time period. These are arranged in historical order, which is also rare in fourth-century Christian art. Tkacz contends that the Casket is in effect a visual sermon on the unity of the Bible's two testaments, an important theological issue of the time. This wonderfully illustrated and rigorously interdisciplinary volume, funded by a grant from the Samuel H. Kress Foundation, grounds the typological program of the Brescia Casket in fourth-century thought. In so doing, it suggests the real possibility that typology is more important for the understanding of Early Christian art than has previously been appreciated.
Catherine Brown Tkacz is an independent scholar living in Spokane, Washington. She previously served as Project Manager and Assistant Editor for the Oxford Dictionary of Byzantium Project at Dumbarton Oaks, has been published in numerous journals, and serves on the editorial board of Traditio.