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Byzantium and Islam Exhibition Blog

A Final Note

Brandie Ratliff, Research Associate, Department of Medieval Art and The Cloisters

Posted: Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Over the past few weeks, Byzantium and Islam: Age of Transition was dismantled, and we've begun wrapping up work on the exhibition: thanking our generous sponsors, lenders, and catalogue authors, preparing reports on the exhibition, tidying files, and reinstalling Met objects in our permanent galleries. The exhibition was a tremendous success.

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Byzantium and Islam Exhibition Blog

Ivory Panels

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

Posted: Friday, July 6, 2012

In the interview with Pete Dandridge, we learned about the challenges involved in treating and displaying the delicate ivory panels from al-Humayma. The thoughtful and considerate conservation work on these pieces allows us to see amazing remnants of a large Abbasid residence located in the Hisma desert of southern Jordan. They also represent—through the figures' wardrobes and poses—a point of contact between multiple cultures.

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Byzantium and Islam Exhibition Blog

Interview with the Registrar

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

Posted: Thursday, July 5, 2012

As registrar, Aileen Chuk organizes the arrival, installation, and return of loaned works of art for exhibitions at the Museum. I recently spoke with her about the preparations for Byzantium and Islam.

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Byzantium and Islam Exhibition Blog

Figurines in the Mediterranean

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

Posted: Thursday, July 5, 2012

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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Byzantium and Islam Exhibition Blog

Mosaics as History: The Near East from Late Antiquity to Islam by G. W. Bowersock

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

Posted: Tuesday, July 3, 2012

The large Jordanian floor mosaics are some of the most provocative objects in the exhibition, a fact made evident in the lively talks at the recent symposium "Floor Mosaics in the Late Antique Mediterranean," which took place at the Met on May 11, 2012.

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Byzantium and Islam Exhibition Blog

The Message: The Story of Islam, Directed by
Mustapha al-'Aqqad

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

Posted: Tuesday, July 3, 2012

"In the name of God, the most gracious, the most merciful, from Muhammad the Messenger of God to Heraclius the Emperor of Byzantium, greetings to him who is the follower of righteous guidance. I bid you to hear the divine call. I am the Messenger of God to the people. Accept Islam for your salvation."

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Byzantium and Islam Exhibition Blog

Interview with the Objects Conservator

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

Posted: Tuesday, July 3, 2012

I recently had the opportunity to speak with Pete Dandridge, Conservator and Administrator, The Sherman Fairchild Center for Objects Conservation, about his work preparing for the exhibition.

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Byzantium and Islam Exhibition Blog

Byzantine, adj.: The Evolution of a Word

Grace Labatt, Editor, Voyageur Press

Posted: Monday, July 2, 2012

Perhaps because it's an election year, the word "byzantine" pops up quite a bit in the news these days, although it's not used to refer to an artistic style or a period of history.

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Byzantium and Islam Exhibition Blog

Early Islamic Textiles: Inscribed Garments

Nazanin Hedayat Munroe, Artist and Art Historian

Posted: Monday, July 2, 2012

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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Byzantium and Islam Exhibition Blog

Sacred Trash: The Lost and Found World of the Cairo Geniza by Adina Hoffman and Peter Cole

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

Posted: Monday, July 2, 2012

Reams of scholarship have been written on the contents of the Cairo Geniza, but in Sacred Trash: The Lost and Found World of the Cairo Geniza, authors Adina Hoffman and Peter Cole explore how the 1896 discovery itself changed the world of Jewish scholarship.

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Byzantium and Islam Exhibition Blog

Saint Bart's and Hildreth Meière

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

Posted: Friday, June 29, 2012

Like Saint Anselm's, which I discussed in an earlier post, Saint Bartholomew's Church in New York City (often known as "St. Bart's") offers an example of early twentieth-century appreciation of the Byzantine aesthetic.

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Byzantium and Islam Exhibition Blog

The Persian-Style Riding Coat

Nazanin Hedayat Munroe, Artist and Art Historian

Posted: Friday, June 29, 2012

While garment styles in the Late Antique world were simple in form—consisting of the T-shaped tunic for men and children, and loose, draped garments, such as the gunna and palla, for women—Persian garments of the late Sasanian period (220–650) reflect more complex tailoring and forms.

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Byzantium and Islam Exhibition Blog

Judaism During the Byzantine Period

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

Posted: Friday, June 29, 2012

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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Byzantium and Islam Exhibition Blog

Interview with the Research Associate

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

Posted: Thursday, June 28, 2012

Brandie Ratliff, the research associate for Byzantium and Islam, joined me recently for a chat about her participation in the show. She worked closely with the curator Dr. Helen Evans on many aspects of the exhibition and catalogue.

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Byzantium and Islam Exhibition Blog

The Sisters of Sinai: How Two Lady Adventurers Discovered the Hidden Gospels by Janet Martin Soskice

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

Posted: Thursday, June 28, 2012

In The Sisters of Sinai: How Two Lady Adventurers Discovered the Hidden Gospels, Janet Martin Soskice tells the story of twin sisters Agnes and Margaret Smith, born in Scotland in 1843, who made a discovery that would have implications for the future of biblical studies.

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Byzantium and Islam Exhibition Blog

Scripts in Development

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

Posted: Thursday, June 28, 2012

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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Byzantium and Islam Exhibition Blog

Christian Imagery on Silk Textiles: The Annunciation Silk

Nazanin Hedayat Munroe, Artist and Art Historian

Posted: Wednesday, June 27, 2012

The red Annunciation silk depicts the seated Virgin dressed in royal purple, receiving a message from the angel Gabriel, encircled by floral medallions referencing a jeweled garden. The fragment is believed to be part of the same textile as a Nativity scene that survives at the Vatican.

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Byzantium and Islam Exhibition Blog

Fashion and Style in Byzantium

Nazanin Hedayat Munroe, Artist and Art Historian

Posted: Monday, June 25, 2012

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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Byzantium and Islam Exhibition Blog

Dress Styles in the Mosaics of San Vitale

Nazanin Hedayat Munroe, Artist and Art Historian

Posted: Monday, June 25, 2012

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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Byzantium and Islam Exhibition Blog

Woven Silk

Nazanin Hedayat Munroe, Artist and Art Historian

Posted: Monday, June 25, 2012

Silk textiles were produced in Byzantium long before local weavers had figured out how to acquire and produce silk from silkworms. For centuries, the Chinese held a monopoly on the raw materials required to create these highly desired textiles.

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Byzantium and Islam Exhibition Blog

The Church in the Shadow of the Mosque: Christians and Muslims in the World of Islam by Sidney H. Griffith

Heather Badamo, Harper-Schmidt Postdoctoral Fellow, Department of Art History, University of Chicago

Posted: Friday, June 22, 2012

Walking through galleries that display Qur'ans and Muslim palatial sculpture, you may wonder what happened to the Christian communities who came to live under Islamic rule. In The Church in the Shadow of the Mosque, Sidney H. Griffith goes some way toward answering this question, showing how Christians made a place for themselves in the new Islamic caliphate.

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Byzantium and Islam Exhibition Blog

The Dome of the Rock

Ana Botchkareva, Jane and Morgan Whitney Fellow, Department of Islamic Art, The Metropolitan Museum of Art

Posted: Friday, June 22, 2012

Originally constructed between 688 and 692 under the rule of Abd al-Malik, whom Yitzchak introduced in the previous post, the Dome of the Rock is one of the most emblematic architectural landmarks in the history of Islamic culture. On the one hand, the monument carries a unique and unifying significance for Islamic religious communities over broad temporal and geographic scopes; on the other hand, it reflects the far-reaching extent of intercultural contacts and dialogues that have shaped such Islamic communities over time, on a local level.

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Byzantium and Islam Exhibition Blog

Abd al Malik ibn Marwan

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

Posted: Thursday, June 21, 2012

Born in Mecca and raised in Medina, the two most holy sites of Islam, the fifth caliph, Abd Al Malik Ibn Marwan, spearheaded the creation of many of the institutions that centralized the Islamic empire around his capital in Damascus and asserted its independence from Byzantine traditions.

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Byzantium and Islam Exhibition Blog

Costume Styles

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

Posted: Wednesday, June 20, 2012

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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Byzantium and Islam Exhibition Blog

Synagogue at Hammam Lif, Tunisia

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

Posted: Thursday, June 14, 2012

In the late nineteenth century, French soldiers stationed at the town of Hammam Lif—the ancient city of Naro in southern Tunisia—accidentally rediscovered an ancient structure. The building's layout and floor mosaics were so in line with regional conventions that it was at first thought to have been a church. However, the Latin inscription in the center of the mosaic floor, which identifies the building as "Sancta Sinagoga" and is flanked by menorahs on either side, revealed the site to be a synagogue.

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Byzantium and Islam Exhibition Blog

Walid II

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

Posted: Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Although al-Walid ibn Yazid, known as al-Walid II (r. 743–744), ruled for only a year, he is nonetheless one of the most colorful Umayyad caliphs. A grandson of Abd al-Malik, builder of the Dome of the Rock, he is recorded in historical sources as a proverbial man about town. His behavior was considered so profligate that he was passed over in succession to grandfather's throne. Instead, his uncle Hisham became caliph and al-Walid retired to his desert qasr to pass his time in song and pleasure among a retinue of his favorite drinking companions.

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Byzantium and Islam Exhibition Blog

Conservation of the Sixth-Century Mosaics at the Church of the Monastery of Saint Catherine at Mount Sinai

Stephanie Caruso, Graduate Student at the Institute of Fine Arts, New York University

Posted: Thursday, June 7, 2012

As discussed in an earlier post, Saint Catherine's Monastery in Sinai has been continuously inhabited since the fourth century A.D. Remarkably, a lavish figural mosaic program from the sixth century, occupying the conch of the church's apse and a surrounding triumphal arch, survives to this day.

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Byzantium and Islam Exhibition Blog

Qasr al-Mshatta

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

Posted: Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Look closely at the carved stonework from the facade of Qasr al-Mshatta, and you will spot a world of griffins, peacocks, lions, and pheasants hiding in the shade of delicately rendered grape leafs. The refinement of the representations here has captivated scholars and public alike for a century, ever since it arrived in Berlin as a gift from the Ottoman Sultan Abdulhamid to Kaiser Wilhelm I shortly before World War I.

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Byzantium and Islam Exhibition Blog

Byzantium and . . . Hip-Hop?

Grace Labatt, Editor, Voyageur Press

Posted: Thursday, May 31, 2012

Fourteen centuries after the works on display in Byzantium and Islam were created, Byzantine art is flourishing where you might least expect it: the streets of New York. That's where artist Manny Vega displays his large-scale mosaics of saints, heroes, dancers, and conga-drumming angels, all made using true Byzantine techniques.

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Byzantium and Islam Exhibition Blog

Interview with the Textile Conservator

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

Posted: Wednesday, May 23, 2012

One of the most interesting things about working on an exhibition is getting to meet all the different people involved on the project. Each member of the team performs a crucial role in preparing for an exhibition. I recently interviewed Kathrin Colburn, a textile conservator here, to find out about her work.

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The Sasanians

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

Posted: Thursday, May 17, 2012

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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Byzantium and Islam Exhibition Blog

Heraclius

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

Posted: Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Emperor Heraclius (ca. 575–641) came to power in 610 after instigating an overthrow of the reputedly tyrannical Emperor Phokas. Entering Constantinople, so the story goes, Heraclius captured Phocas and demanded: "Is this how you have ruled, wretch?" The belittled emperor replied, "And will you rule better?"

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Loew's Wonder Theaters

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

Posted: Monday, May 14, 2012

For a while now I've been obsessed with a group of buildings in the New York City area known as "Wonder Theaters." Constructed in the waning years of the roaring 1920s, they embody the experience of the silver screen in their fantastical ornamental mash-ups, many of which incorporate Byzantine and Islamic motifs.

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Byzantium and Islam Exhibition Blog

Commerce

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

Posted: Thursday, May 10, 2012

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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Byzantium and Islam Exhibition Blog

Special Events

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

Posted: Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Join us for two special events planned in conjunction with the exhibition, Friday, May 11, and Friday, June 15.

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Byzantium and Islam Exhibition Blog

Great Mosque of Damascus

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

Posted: Wednesday, May 9, 2012

In an address to the citizens of Damascus, the Umayyad caliph al-Walid I (r. 705–715) proclaimed: "Inhabitants of Damascus, four things give you a marked superiority over the rest of the world: your climate, your water, your fruits, and your baths. To these I wanted to add a fifth: this mosque."

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Symeon Stylites the Younger (521–562)

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

Posted: Thursday, May 3, 2012

At the age of seven, Symeon Stylites the Younger expressed his religious fervor by ascending a pillar (stylos). In 541 he moved to a pillar located at a site called the Wondrous Mountain, eleven miles west of Antioch, Syria. Ascetic monks like Symeon, known as "stylites," resided on the top of tall pillars—where they were exposed to rain, snow, and wind—as a way to disengage from the sinful world.1 The men attracted a number of pilgrims, as evidenced by several tokens featuring images of stylites.

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Byzantium and Islam Exhibition Blog

Approaching the Qur’an by Michael Sells

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

Posted: Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Although the Qur’an shares much with the Judeo-Christian traditions of the Torah and the Old and New Testaments, it is often difficult for non-Muslim readers to understand the text's repeated formulations and unique approach to narrative. Michael Sells's book Approaching the Qur'an: The Early Revelations seeks to assist the unfamiliar by emphasizing the Qur’an's literary qualities.

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Jewelry

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

Posted: Tuesday, May 1, 2012

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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Byzantium and Islam Exhibition Blog

Khirbat al-Mafjar

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

Posted: Thursday, April 26, 2012

Few surviving Umayyad palaces present as much evidence for the types of decoration popular among the period's elite as does Khirbat al-Mafjar, a desert qusur, or fortified palace complex.

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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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Byzantium and Islam Exhibition Blog

Byzantine Art by Robin Cormack

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

Posted: Thursday, March 15, 2012

For anyone hoping for a solid introduction to the major monuments of early medieval Byzantine art, Robin Cormack's Byzantine Art is a perfect place to start.

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Sohag and Bawit

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

Posted: Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Travelers from Cairo to Upper Egypt inevitably pass through the cities Bawit and Sohag. These cities, which are not on most itineraries, do not house many pharaonic antiquities (aside from the great Temple of Siti I, in Sohag), but they do boast fascinating late antique monuments.

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Introduction

Helen C. Evans, Mary and Michael Jaharis Curator for Byzantine Art, Department of Medieval Art and The Cloisters

Posted: Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Byzantium and Islam: Age of Transition explores the wealthy southern provinces of the Byzantine Empire from Syria to Egypt and across North Africa as part of the empire and then as part of the emerging Islamic world. This blog joins the works in the exhibition galleries and the catalogue in seeking to understand this era of transition across a region that contains many of the lands of the "Arab Spring."

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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.