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Byzantium and Islam Exhibition Blog

Art & Judaism in the Greco-Roman World: Toward a New Jewish Archaeology by Steven Fine

Yitzchak Schwartz, Intern, Department of Medieval Art and The Cloisters

Posted: Wednesday, April 25, 2012

In Art & Judaism in the Greco-Roman World: Toward a New Jewish Archaeology, Steven Fine tackles the question of what ancient Jewish art meant to the people who experienced and made it.

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Byzantium and Islam Exhibition Blog

Iconoclasm

Evan Freeman, Graduate Student, St. Vladimir's Orthodox Theological Seminary

Posted: Monday, April 23, 2012

Iconoclasm in eighth- and ninth-century Byzantium is often presented as a straightforward, universal policy that was widely enforced. Do the works in the exhibition support such a view?

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Byzantium and Islam Exhibition Blog

Saint Shenoute of Atripe

Alzahraa K. Ahmed, Intern, Department of Medieval Art and The Cloisters

Posted: Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Scholars have debated whether Saint Shenoute of Atripe lived from 332–451 or 350–466—an astonishing length of time in either case—but all agree that he was one of the most important monastic reformers the Coptic Church has ever known.

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Byzantium and Islam Exhibition Blog

The Formation of Islamic Art by Oleg Grabar

Betsy Williams, Jane and Morgan Whitney Fellow, Department of Islamic Art

Posted: Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Most surveys of Islamic art proceed chronologically or geographically to synthesize several centuries of material covering a region stretching from Spain to Afghanistan. Oleg Grabar's book, The Formation of Islamic Art, instead focuses thematically on the earliest centuries of Islam.

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Byzantium and Islam Exhibition Blog

Hajj: A Journey to Meet God

Alzahraa K. Ahmed, Intern, Department of Medieval Art and The Cloisters

Posted: Monday, April 16, 2012

The words "pilgrimage" and "sacred space," one evoking human movement and the other performative space, are inseparable from one another. Through pilgrimage, the pilgrim embarks on a spiritual path toward the full submission to God in an often-distant sacred space.

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Byzantium and Islam Exhibition Blog

Qusayr ‘Amra

Betsy Williams, Jane and Morgan Whitney Fellow, Department of Islamic Art

Posted: Thursday, April 12, 2012

Umayyad qusur, or desert "palaces," are known for their variety of architectural styles and decoration. One example, Qusayr 'Amra, is well known on both counts.

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Byzantium and Islam Exhibition Blog

Border Lines: The Partition of Judaeo-Christianity
by Daniel Boyarin

Yitzchak Schwartz, Intern, Department of Medieval Art and The Cloisters

Posted: Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Today we perceive Judaism and Christianity as totally separate religions, but in Border Lines: The Partition of Judaeo-Christianity, author Daniel Boyarin describes the process in which "borders" were created to divide what was once a unified "Judaeo-Christianity," and the rich cultural interactions that took place between Jews and Christians even as the divisions between them were erected.

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Byzantium and Islam Exhibition Blog

Letters and Letter Writing

Annie Labatt, 2012 Chester Dale Fellow, Department of Medieval Art and The Cloisters

Posted: Tuesday, April 10, 2012

The exhibition contains a number of letters that reveal the movement and flow of ideas throughout the territories of the Byzantine empire, including Egypt.

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Byzantium and Islam Exhibition Blog

Saint Catherine's Monastery, Sinai

Stephanie Georgiadis, Intern, Department of Medieval Art and The Cloisters

Posted: Monday, April 9, 2012

Saint Catherine's Monastery—officially "Sacred and Imperial Monastery of the God-Trodden Mount of Sinai"—located in the Sinai Peninsula, is one of the oldest functioning Christian monasteries. Constructed in the sixth century under the orders of Justinian I (r. 527–565), it was built in the spot where, according to Christian belief, the angels brought the body of Saint Catherine of Alexandria after her execution.

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Byzantium and Islam Exhibition Blog

The Third Caliph: Uthman ibn Affan

Betsy Williams, Jane and Morgan Whitney Fellow, Department of Islamic Art

Posted: Thursday, April 5, 2012

Struggles of succession plagued the community of Muslims in the decades after the Prophet Muhammed's death in 632 A.D. The first four Muslim leaders, known as the Rashidun, or "Rightly Guided" caliphs, did not succeed by birth, but rather were chosen by council or because of a personal relationship to the Prophet. The period was marked by strident disagreements about legitimacy of individual caliphs and about the proper practice of Islam.

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Byzantium and Islam Exhibition Blog

Islamic Metalwork

Betsy Williams, Jane and Morgan Whitney Fellow, Department of Islamic Art

Posted: Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Silver and gold vessels and architectural elements count among the most dazzling artifacts produced in late antiquity. While Christian, Jewish, and Muslim texts consistently denounce the accumulation of precious metals as reflecting a repellent concern with the trappings of worldly wealth, these traditions also associate gold and silver with heavenly adornment.

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Byzantium and Islam Exhibition Blog

Treasures from the Ben Ezra Synagogue

Yitzchak Schwartz, Intern, Department of Medieval Art and The Cloisters

Posted: Monday, April 2, 2012

Several of the Jewish manuscripts on view in Byzantium and Islam: Age of Transition, including the example shown above, are thought to have come from the Cairo Genizah, a repository of communal, religious, and business documents housed in the attic of the tenth-century Ben Ezra Synagogue in Cairo that was rediscovered in 1896 by Cambridge scholar Solomon Schechter.

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Byzantium and Islam Exhibition Blog

Islamic Art and Architecture

Betsy Williams, Jane and Morgan Whitney Fellow, Department of Islamic Art

Posted: Thursday, March 29, 2012

Introducing the arts of the Islamic world to a new audience is often a challenge for scholars, not only because the reader may be unfamiliar with the names or chronology, but also because the subject covers such a vast geographic area. Islamic Art and Architecture, 650–1250 by Richard Ettinghausen, Oleg Grabar, and Marilyn Jenkins-Madina provides a thorough overview to the arts and architecture of the Islamic world from North Africa to Central Asia beginning with the jahiliyya (pre-Islamic) period and ending with the Mongol siege of Baghdad in 1258. The book illustrates a wide array of objects both secular and sacred, luxurious and mundane.

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Byzantium and Islam Exhibition Blog

Saint Anselm

Annie Labatt, 2012 Chester Dale Fellow, Department of Medieval Art and The Cloisters

Posted: Wednesday, March 28, 2012

In the heart of the Bronx, just off the 6 train, is the bustling, welcoming, and "byzantine" church of Saint Anselm. The church was built in 1916 and finished just one year later under the supervision of Father Bernard Kevenhoerster, a prominent Benedictine prelate.1 Although the original design for the church called for a Gothic building, the structure and format intentionally emulates that of Hagia Sophia, the church built by Emperor Justinian in the sixth century.

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Byzantium and Islam Exhibition Blog

Hagia Sophia

Stephanie Georgiadis, Intern, Department of Medieval Art and The Cloisters

Posted: Friday, March 23, 2012

Hagia Sophia is the Orthodox Patriarchal church located in the former Byzantine capital, Constantinople (present-day Istanbul, Turkey). It was originally built in 360 a.d. during the reign of Constantius II, but was destroyed during a period of riots at he beginning of the fifth century. A second basilica with a wooden roof was constructed under the orders of Theodosius II to replace the destroyed structure, but it, too, was destroyed during the Nika Revolt in 532 a.d.

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Byzantium and Islam Exhibition Blog

John of Damascus (Yuhanna al-Dimashqi)

Betsy Williams, Jane and Morgan Whitney Fellow, Department of Islamic Art

Posted: Thursday, March 22, 2012

Few figures embody the transitional spirit of the seventh and eighth centuries A.D. as fully as does John of Damascus. His life gives a sense of the multicultural milieu of the early Islamic city and its diverse population of Christians and Muslims, Arabs and Greeks.

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Byzantium and Islam Exhibition Blog

Family and Children

Alzahraa K. Ahmed, Intern, Department of Medieval Art and The Cloisters

Posted: Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Scholars have produced ample studies on the imperial and aristocratic life of Byzantium, focusing on buildings, endowments, clothes, and other aspects. While these studies provide essential insights into the Byzantine world, the empire did not consist solely of emperors, their entourages, or wealthy families, the dynatoi. Another view is offered through the lens of the non-elite society, which existed somewhat independently and shaped the Byzantine community economically, culturally, and socially.

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Byzantium and Islam Exhibition Blog

Women's Letters from Ancient Egypt, 300 BC–AD 800

Betsy Williams, Jane and Morgan Whitney Fellow, Department of Islamic Art

Posted: Tuesday, March 20, 2012

While many studying the late antique period tend to focus on large-scale political shifts, change on the microlevel is often more difficult to track. Women's Letters from Ancient Egypt offers such a sense of everyday people's daily concerns by allowing us to peek at their correspondence.

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Byzantium and Islam Exhibition Blog

Gerasa

Annie Labatt, 2012 Chester Dale Fellow, Department of Medieval Art and The Cloisters

Posted: Tuesday, March 20, 2012

One of the mosaics on view in the exhibition comes from the city of Gerasa (present-day Jerash, Jordan). Gerasa was an architecturally dense city founded during the second century B.C. Under Roman rule it included two theaters, two bath houses, a nymphaeum (public fountain), and a macellum (meat market).1 Although its prosperity diminished over time, by the third century A.D. the city had regained some of its wealth and reinstituted massive building campaigns.

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Byzantium and Islam Exhibition Blog

Sounds of Byzantium and Islam

Betsy Williams, Jane and Morgan Whitney Fellow, Department of Islamic Art

Posted: Friday, March 16, 2012

New York offers a feast of sounds for early music enthusiasts who would like to immerse themselves in the aural landscape of the medieval and contemporary Middle East. The Met has scheduled a number of musical events in conjunction with the exhibition Byzantium and Islam: Age of Transition.

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About this Blog

This blog accompanied the special exhibition Byzantium and Islam: Age of Transition, on view March 14–July 8, 2012.