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Stories in Topical Essays

Figurines in the Mediterranean

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

Posted: Thursday, July 5, 2012

Figurine

In many cases, burials have served as windows onto a past culture's daily life. Children's graves are no exception. Although attracting less archaeological attention than other finds, they provide abundant material that informs our understanding of the diverse activities and habits of people during the Greco-Roman, Byzantine, and Islamic eras.

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Early Islamic Textiles: Inscribed Garments

Nazanin Hedayat Munroe, Artist and Art Historian

Posted: Monday, July 2, 2012

Fragment of a Shawl

The tradition of inscribed textiles in the Islamic world dates to the passing of the Prophet Muhammad (632 A.D.), whose spiritual and political authority was transferred through the donning of his mantle. The newly formed Muslim state experienced a number of shifts in the political arena. New allegiances were often represented by epigraphic bands on textiles, particularly garments.

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Judaism During the Byzantine Period

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

Posted: Friday, June 29, 2012

Fragment of a Synaoguge Screen

The historical period explored in Byzantium and Islam was deeply transformative for Judaism. In this post, I'll give a brief summary of Judaism during this transitional time, focusing on some important trends showcased in the exhibition.

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Scripts in Development

Hannah Korn, Collections Management Assistant, Department of Drawings and Prints

Posted: Thursday, June 28, 2012

Folio from a Qur'an

The range of manuscripts included in Byzantium and Islam: Age of Transition suggests the importance of book production in the cultures found throughout the exhibition. Paleography (the study of handwriting) provides insight into the development of script and writing during this time.

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Fashion and Style in Byzantium

Nazanin Hedayat Munroe, Artist and Art Historian

Posted: Monday, June 25, 2012

Tunic

In a post last week, Annie discussed how certain forms of dress distinguished cultural groups during the Byzantine era, but what about fashion and style?

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Dress Styles in the Mosaics of San Vitale

Nazanin Hedayat Munroe, Artist and Art Historian

Posted: Monday, June 25, 2012

Court of Emperor Justinian

The pinnacle of early imperial Byzantine dress is best seen in the mosaics of Emperor Justinian and Empress Theodora at the Church of San Vitale in Ravenna, Italy (ca. 547 A.D.). Facing opposite one another in the apse of the church, each mosaic depicts the main figure bedecked in finery and accompanied by a retinue.

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Costume Styles

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

Posted: Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Fragment

Although this exhibition demonstrates how difficult it can be to draw definitive cultural distinctions during periods of transition, certain forms of dress from the period do indicate regional affiliations.

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The Sasanians

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

Posted: Thursday, May 17, 2012

Sasanian panel

Although the Sasanian (Sasanid) empire was centered in Mesopotamia, it played a major role in religious, political, and visual culture in the Byzantine and early Islamic eastern Mediterranean. The dynasty's founding can be traced to Ardashir I (r. 224–241), who established his authority following the defeat of the Parthians. The empire's early years were marked by the emergence of key institutions and cultural developments that would shape Sasanian culture for several centuries.

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Commerce

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

Posted: Thursday, May 10, 2012

Marwan Silk

One of the core themes of the exhibition Byzantium and Islam: Age of Transition and its catalogue is the close relationship between commercial activity and cultural exchange.1 The movement of goods and people along trade networks often superseded political impasses between dynasties and empires.

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Jewelry

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

Posted: Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Gold Necklace with Pendants

Few objects surviving from the Byzantine and early Islamic periods are as instantly relatable to modern sensibilities as examples of jewelry.1 They fascinate us not only for their beauty and preciousness, but also for the sense of immediacy they create as objects that were worn on medieval bodies.

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Iconoclasm

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

Posted: Monday, April 23, 2012

Friday Mosque, Damascus

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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Hajj: A Journey to Meet God

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

Posted: Monday, April 16, 2012

Folio from the Majma al-Tavarikh

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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Letters and Letter Writing

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

Posted: Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Ostrakon with Menander's "Sentences"

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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Family and Children

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

Posted: Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Child's Tunic

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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About this Blog

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

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