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Expressing Political Legitimacy and Cultural Identity Through the Use of Spolia On the Ambo of Henry II

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This paper will explore the significant role appropriated objects played in Ottonian artistic production through a close examination of the Ambo of Henry II. Created by the last Ottonian emperor for the Palace Chapel at Aachen between 1002 and 1014, the Ambo of Henry II abounds with spolia. I will argue that the spolia reused on the Ambo of Henry II presented an innovative statement of Henry II's political, economic, and cultural agenda. The spolia from ancient Rome and contemporary Byzantium portrayed Henry II as the political successor to an illustrious Roman past, and as an equal to the Byzantine emperors in the East. The luxury objects reused on the Ambo also served as commodities whose symbolic value increased dramatically when they were taken out of economic circulation and used on this precious artwork. Finally, the Islamic and Byzantine spolia on the Ambo allowed Henry II to define himself and his Western Roman Empire in terms of an Other, associating his rule with the power, prestige, and sophistication of contemporary and competitive foreign cultures.

Affiliations: 1: University of Colorado at Denver


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