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Byzantine Art and Diplomacy in an Age of Decline


  • Date Published: February 2014
  • availability: Available
  • format: Hardback
  • isbn: 9781107033306

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About the Authors
  • The Late Byzantine period (1261–1453) is marked by a paradoxical discrepancy between economic weakness and cultural strength. The apparent enigma can be resolved by recognizing that later Byzantine diplomatic strategies, despite or because of diminishing political advantage, relied on an increasingly desirable cultural and artistic heritage. This book reassesses the role of the visual arts in this era by examining the imperial image and the gift as reconceived in the final two centuries of the Byzantine Empire. In particular it traces a series of luxury objects created specifically for diplomatic exchange with such courts as Genoa, Paris and Moscow alongside key examples of imperial imagery and ritual. By questioning how political decline refigured the visual culture of empire, Cecily J. Hilsdale offers a more nuanced and dynamic account of medieval cultural exchange that considers the temporal dimensions of power and the changing fates of empires.

    • Presents a critical analysis of the art of the later Byzantine period, which is often neglected in favour of the earlier Byzantine period
    • Offers methodological innovation by approaching later Byzantine art through the lens of the gift
    • Selects objects of analysis on a thematic rather than a material basis, thereby ranging from silk to manuscript to coins
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    Reviews & endorsements

    'Cecily J. Hilsdale's important volume … is a major contribution to the field. She asks essential questions and provides a rich and deep context for consideration of later Byzantine art … Her discussion of objects leads to questions not otherwise asked and thus to new insights about the function of images. Almost every scholar interested in this period of Mediterranean history will come away with something for his or her own work.' The Medieval Review

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    Product details

    • Date Published: February 2014
    • format: Hardback
    • isbn: 9781107033306
    • length: 412 pages
    • dimensions: 253 x 185 x 25 mm
    • weight: 0.99kg
    • contains: 99 b/w illus. 14 colour illus.
    • availability: Available
  • Table of Contents

    Introduction: the Imperial image as gift
    Part I. Adventus: the Emperor and the City:
    1. The imperial image and the end of exile
    2. Imperial thanksgiving: the commemoration of the Byzantine restoration of Constantinople
    3. Imperial instrumentality: the serially struck Palaiologan image
    Part II. 'Atoms of Epicurus': the Imperial Image as a Gift in an Age of Decline:
    4. Rhetoric as diplomacy: imperial word, image and presence
    5. Wearing allegiances and the construction of a visual oikoumene
    Conclusion: the ends of empire.

  • Author

    Cecily J. Hilsdale, McGill University, Montréal
    Cecily J. Hilsdale is Associate Professor in the Department of Art History and Communication Studies at McGill University, Montréal. Her research concerns cultural exchange in the medieval Mediterranean, in particular the circulation of Byzantine luxury objects as diplomatic gifts as well as the related dissemination of eastern styles, techniques, and iconographies and ideologies of imperium.

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