Joseph Salvatore Ackley

Lecturer and Mellon Postdoctoral Fellow

Western Medieval Art
Ph.D., Institute of Fine Arts, NYU, 2014

Contact Information

Phone: (212) 854-1938
Office: 653C Schermerhorn Extension
Office Hours: Mondays, 3-5


Joseph Salvatore Ackley is a Western medievalist specializing in Carolingian, Ottonian, and twelfth-century art and architecture. He received his doctorate in 2014 from the Institute of Fine Arts at New York University, where his dissertation focused on Ottonian gold repoussé and the Western medieval church treasury. His book project, Medieval Gold: Precious-Metal Treasury Objects, c. 750-1400, emphasizes the centrality of precious metalwork to medieval art. It addresses such fundamental questions as how metals were defined, understood, and allegorized by medieval audiences; how precious-metal objects were produced, used, stored, and occasionally liquidated; how other media, including painting and sculpture, purposefully imitated metalwork; and how the art historical narrative of medieval metalwork can be expanded to include issues of material, process, and object morphology. Dr. Ackley sees medieval metalwork as a rich intersection of competing interests, among them otherworldly, economic, liturgical, and political concerns.

Additional research interests include book painting, figural sculpture, liturgy, and the late medieval altarpiece. A forthcoming essay explores Gothic figural sculpture executed in silver and gold. More broadly, Dr. Ackley is interested in questions of matter, medium, material identity, object ontology, and what can be loosely termed "the problem of the substrate"—that is, the tension between what we see versus what we know.

Selected Publications

"Copper-alloy substrates in precious-metal treasury objects: Concealed and yet excessive." Different Visions: A Journal of New Perspectives on Medieval Art 4 (2014): 1-34.

"Re-approaching the Western medieval church treasury inventory, c. 800-1250." Journal of Art Historiography 11 (Dec. 2014): 1-37.