Wesleyan portrait of Joseph Salvatore Ackley

Joseph Salvatore Ackley

Assistant Professor of Art History

Boger Hall, 309

Assistant Professor, Medieval Studies


AB Dartmouth College
MA New York University
PHD New York University

Joseph Salvatore Ackley

Joseph Salvatore Ackley studies the art and architectural traditions of medieval Europe. His scholarship explores precious metalwork, such as chalices, reliquaries, figural statuettes, and jewelry, as well as what might be called the “radiant aesthetic” across a variety of media traditions, including panel painting, polychrome wood sculpture, manuscript illumination, and the late medieval altarpiece. Additional research interests include questions of medium, matter, and material identity; problems of figuration throughout medieval art; the historiography of the so-called “decorative arts”; and, more broadly, what can be loosely termed “the problem of the substrate,” that is, the visual tension between a surface and its underlying substance.

Ackley’s current book project, Medieval Gold: The Radiant Medium, ca. 800-1450, interrogates gold across medieval art, most especially in metalwork but also in painting and figural sculpture, and his scholarship in general argues for the centrality of metalwork, and the gloriously multimedia aesthetic overall, to medieval art. With Shannon L. Wearing he has co-edited Illuminating Metalwork: Metal, Object, and Image in Medieval Manuscripts (Berlin: De Gruyter, 2022), a volume of fifteen essays exploring the use of metallic media in manuscript decoration and the painted depiction therein of precious metalwork. Recently published and forthcoming essays include studies of precious-metal figuration in the Late Middle Ages; the ca. 1420 Lüneburg Goldene Tafel and late medieval winged “treasury altarpieces”; inventory practices of church treasuries; Late Carolingian precious metalwork in the orbit of the monk Tuotilo of St. Gall (d. c. 913); and the historiography of the medieval "decorative arts," especially in late nineteenth-century Austria and Germany.

Ackley’s research has received support from the International Center of Medieval Art (ICMA), the Kress Foundation, the Deutscher Akademischer Austausch Dienst (DAAD), the Stiftung Preußischer Kulturbesitz (Kunstgewerbemuseum), and the N.Y.U. Global Research Initiative, among other organizations. He held a Mellon Postdoctoral Fellowship at Columbia University from 2014 to 2016.  Before coming to Wesleyan Ackley taught at Barnard College, Columbia, Colorado College, and the University of Arkansas.

Academic Affiliations

Office Hours

Tuesday, 11.00am-1.00pm (please sign up in advance via the sign-up sheet on my door)


Spring 2024
ARHA 210 - 01
Romanesque and Gothic Art

ARHA 263C - 01
Northern Renaissance Print

Fall 2024
ARHA 213 - 01
Early Medieval Art

ARHA 312 - 01
Medieval Manuscripts