Joseph Salvatore Ackley

Term Assistant Professor, Barnard

Western Medieval Art
Ph.D., Institute of Fine Arts, New York University, 2014

Contact Information

Phone: (212) 854-5039
Office: 500J Diana Center
Office Hours: Thursdays, 11-1


Joseph Salvatore Ackley studies Western medieval art and architecture, with an emphasis on metalwork and the medieval church treasury. Additional research interests include figural sculpture, the late medieval altarpiece, preciousness, medieval theories of matter, and, more broadly, questions of medium, material identity, and what can be loosely termed “the problem of the substrate” – that is, the tension between what we see versus what we know.

Ackley’s current book project, Medieval Gold: Metal and Medium, c. 750-1400, emphasizes the centrality to medieval art of precious metalwork and the metallic aesthetic in general. In addition to the production, use, and occasional liquidation of medieval metalwork, the book addresses how the metal substances themselves were defined, understood, and allegorized by medieval audiences; how the art history of medieval metalwork can be re-narrated to include issues of material, process, and object morphology; and how and why select traditions of painting and sculpture throughout the Middle Ages purposefully sought to imitate and simulate precious metal. Recently published and forthcoming essays include studies of precious-metal figural sculpture in the Late Middle Ages; the c. 1420 Lüneburg Goldene Tafel and the phenomenon of the late medieval winged “treasury altarpiece”; and Late Carolingian precious metalwork in the orbit of the monk Tuotilo of St. Gall (d. c. 913).

Ackley received his Ph.D. from the Institute of Fine Arts at New York University in 2014 and his A.B. from Dartmouth College. He held a Mellon Postdoctoral Fellowship/Lectureship at Columbia from 2014 to 2016. His research has been supported by multiple grants and fellowships, including support from the Deutscher Akademischer Austausch Dienst (DAAD), the Kunstgewerbemuseum – Staatliche Museen zu Berlin, and the N.Y.U. Global Research Initiative. In addition to Barnard and Columbia, Ackley has taught at Colorado College, The Cooper Union, and N.Y.U.

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.

“Tuotilo caelator, early medieval monastic metalworking, and the precious-metal book-cover of the Evangelium longum,” in: Tuotilo. Archäologie eines frühmittelalterlichen Künstlers, ed. by Cornel Dora and David Ganz (Basel: Schwabe, 2017), 213-230.