Re-Assessing the Global Turn in Medieval Art History 9781641892278

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Re-Assessing the Global Turn in Medieval Art History

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THE MEDIEVAL GLOBE The Medieval Globe provides an interdisciplinary forum for scholars of all world areas by focusing on convergence, movement, and interdependence. Contributions to a global understanding of the medieval period (broadly de ined) need not encompass the globe in any territorial sense. Rather, TMG advances a new theory and praxis of medieval studies by bringing into view phenomena that have been rendered practically or conceptually invisible by anachronistic boundaries, categories, and expectations. TMG also broadens discussion of the ways that medieval processes inform the global present and shape visions of the future.

Executive Editor Carol Symes, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

Editorial Board James Barrett, University of Cambridge Kathleen Davis, University of Rhode Island Felipe Fernández-Armesto, University of Notre Dame Elizabeth Lambourn, De Montfort University Yuen-Gen Liang, National Taiwan University Victor Lieberman, University of Michigan at Ann Arbor Carla Nappi, University of British Columbia Elizabeth Oyler, University of Pittsburgh Christian Raffensperger, Wittenberg University Rein Raud, Tallinn University & Freie Universität Berlin D. Fairchild Ruggles, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign Alicia Walker, Bryn Mawr College

Volume 3




Editorial Assistant Kelli McQueen Page design and typesetting OOH

British Library Cataloguing in Publication Data A catalogue record for this book is available from the British Library © 2018, Arc Humanities Press, Leeds

The authors assert their moral right to be identi ied as the authors of their part of this work. Permission to use brief excerpts from this work in scholarly and educational works is hereby granted provided that the source is acknowledged. Any use of material in this work that is an exception or limitation covered by Article 5 of the European Union’s Copyright Directive (2001/29/EC) or would be determined to be “fair use” under Section 107 of the U.S. Copyright Act September 2010 Page 2 or that satis ies the conditions speci ied in Section 108 of the U.S. Copyright Act (17 USC §108, as revised by P.L. 94-553) does not require the Publisher’s permission.

ISBN 9781641892261 eISBN 9781641892278



List of Illustrations. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . vii Editor’s Introduction: A World within Worlds? Reassessing the Global Turn in Medieval Art History CHRISTINA NORMORE . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 1 A Camel’s Pace: A Cautionary Global BONNIE CHENG . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 11 The Fatimid Holy City: Rebuilding Jerusalem in the Eleventh Century JENNIFER PRUITT. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 35 Worldliness in Byzantium and Beyond: Reassessing the Visual Networks of Barlaam and Ioasaph CECILY J. HILSDALE . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 57 Exchange of Sacri ices: West Africa in the Medieval World of Goods SARAH M. GUÉRIN . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 97 The Beryozovo Cup: A Byzantine Object at the Crossroads of Twelfth-Century Eurasia ALICIA WALKER. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 125 Mobile Meanings: A Global Approach to a Dagger from Greater Syria HEATHER BADAMO . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 149 Global Medieval at the “End of the Silk Road,” circa 756 CE: The Shōsō-in Collection in Japan JUN HU . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 177 Response: Medievalists and Early Modernists—A World Divided? JESSICA KEATING AND LIA MARKEY . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 203 Index . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .219




Figures Figure 2.1. Green-glazed female musician, one of over 350 igurines found in the tomb of Sima Jinlong (d. 484) at Datong, Shanxi (China). . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 18 Figure 2.2. Carved stone chamber found in the tomb of Song Shaozu (d. 477) at Datong, Shanxi (China). . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 19 Figure 2.3a. Silk fragment with pearl hexagon and honeysuckle designs, unearthed in Dunhuang, Gansu (China) and dated to 487 CE. . . . . . . . . . . . 28 Figure 2.3b. Gilt bronze saddle plate dated to the fourth century CE and found at Chaoyang, Liaoning (China). . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 29 Figure 4.1. Fourth Apologue (Man and Unicorn) from Barlaam and Ioasaph: Ioannina, Zosimaia Schole MS 1, fol. 54r. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 64 Figure 4.2. Fourth Apologue (Man and Unicorn) from Barlaam and Ioasaph: Jerusalem, Orthodox Patriarchate, Stavrou MS 42, 75r. . . . . . . . . . 65 Figure 4.3. Fourth Apologue (Man and Unicorn) from Barlaam and Ioasaph: Cambridge, King’s College MS Gr 45 (olim 338), fol. 41v. . . . . . . . . 66 Figure 4.4. Man Fleeing the Unicorn, from Barlaam and Ioasaph: Paris, Bibliothèque nationale de France, MS gr. 1128, fol. 68r. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 67 Figure 4.5. Virgin and Unicorn from the Smyrna Physiologos: Smyrna, Evangelical School B8, fol. 74. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 68 Figure 4.6. Saint John Chrysostom interprets the Unicorn (Psalm 91:11), from the Theodore Psalter: London, British Library, MS Add. 19352, fol. 124v. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 69 Figure 4.7. “Man in the Well”: relief from Site 9, Nāgārjunikonda Museum. . . . . . . 70 Figure 4.8. Scene from Barlaam and Ioasaph: Balamand, MS 147, fol. 129r. . . . . . 73 Figure 4.9. Scene from the Kalila wa Dimna: Paris, Bibliothèque nationale de France, MS ar. 3465, fol. 43v. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 74 Figure 4.10. Scene from the Kalila wa Dimna: Istanbul, Topkapi Saray Library, MS H. 363, fol. 35. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 75


viii Figure 4.11. Scene from Barlaam and Josaphat in the Psalter and Book of Hours of Yolande de Soissons: New York, The Pierpont Morgan Library, MS M.729, fol. 354v. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 77 Figure 4.12. Verse allegory of a man pursued by a unicorn from Barlaam and Josaphat incipit: London, British Library, MS Additional 37049, fol. 19v. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 78 Figure 4.13. Scene from Barlaam and Josaphat: relief in the tympanum of the cathedral at Parma. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 79 Figure 4.14. St. Ioasaph with the Virgin and Child: from Studenica, Church of the Virgin, southwest pilaster. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 84 Figure 4.15. St. Ioasaph (detail): from Studenica, Church of the Virgin, southwest pilaster. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 85 Figure 4.16. St. Barlaam (detail): from Studenica, Church of the Virgin, southwest pilaster. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 86 Figure 4.17. John VI Kantakouzenos as emperor and monk, from the Theological Works: Paris, Bibliothèque nationale de France, MS gr. 1242, fol. 123v. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 88 Figure 5.1a–b. Drawing of tumulus 5 at Durbi Takusheyi, Nigeria, ca. 1300; copper-alloy (brass) anklets from the tumulus. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 109 Figure 5.2. “Roped” pot on a stand, from Igbo-Ukwu, Nigeria: ninth or tenth century. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 111 Figure 7.1. A warrior-saint killing a dragon: detail of the Furusiyya dagger (Plate 7.1a–b). . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 150 Figure 7.2a–b. Wall paintings from the church of Mar Tadros, thirteenth century, showing Saints Theodore and Sergius: Qara, Syria. . . . . . . . . . . . 153 Figure 7.3a–b. Ivory horn, front and back, showing animals in vine scrolls, eleventh century. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 159 Figure 7.4. Manuel I Grand Komnenos: lithograph of a lost fresco from the church of Hagia Sophia, Trebizond. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 165 Figure 7.5. Gate from the entry of the caravansaray of Badr al-Din Lu’lu’ (detail), west of Mosul (Iraq). . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 168


ix Figure 7.6a–b. Entrance to the sanctuary of the Syrian Orthodox monastery of Mar Behnam/Deir al-Khidr, southeast of Mosul (Iraq), with detail showing a dragon-slaying warrior-saint. . . . . . . . . . . . . 170 Figure 8.1. “Sketch of a glass ewer … undoubtedly an early Arabian work.” . . . . 178 Figure 8.2. Shōsō-in repository building, Tōdai-ji Monastery, Nara (Japan): irst constructed ca. 756 CE. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .180 Figure 8.3. Detail of brocade with a hunting motif on blue ground silk, eighth century: Shōsō-in, Nara (Japan). . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 182 Figure 8.4. Detail of ceiling slope, Mogao Cave 249, ca. 500 CE: Dunhuang (China). . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 183 Figure 8.5. Sutra wrapper of woven silk backed with paper, originally from Mogao Cave 17, eighth century: Dunhuang (China). . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 184 Figure 8.6a–b. Two sides of a ive-string biwa made of chestnut wood with mother-of-pearl inlay, eighth century: Shōsō-in, Nara (Japan). . . . . 185 Figure 8.7. Bronze mirror with mother-of-pearl inlay, lacquer, and turquoise: from the tomb of Princess Li Chui (d. 736) near Xi’an, Shaanxi Province (China). . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 186 Figure 8.8. Glass bowl with wheel-cut facets, sixth century: Shōsō-in, Nara (Japan). . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 188 Figure 8.9. Glass bowl with wheel-cut facets, sixth or seventh century. . . . . . . . . 189 Figure 8.10. Last section of the inventory of the initial donation showing Kōmyō’s prayer: ink on paper, dated the 21st day of the 6th month, 756. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 192 Figure 9.1. Woodcut from an edition of Christopher Columbus’s Epistola de insulis nuper inventis: Basel, 1493. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 209

Maps Map 2.1. Map of China showing division into Northern and Southern Dynasties, with the (Southern) Six Dynasties capital at Jiankang (Nanjing), ca. 500 CE. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 20 Map 5.1. Trade routes and climatic zones in West Africa, ca. 1300. . . . . . . . . . . . . 101



Plates Plates follow page 148. Plate 2.1. Mural depicting Central Asian textiles and musical instruments: from the north wall of the tomb of Xu Xianxiu (d. 571) at Taiyuan, Shanxi (China). Plate 2.2a. Fragment of a ifth-century lacquer cof in found in Tomb M1 at Hudong, Datong, Shanxi (China). Plate 2.2b. Figures in nomadic dress in ilial piety episodes on the side of a ifthcentury painted lacquer cof in found at Guyuan, Ningxia. Plate 3.1. The Aqsa Mosque, Jerusalem, with a view toward al-Zahir’s maqṣūra (added ca. 1031). Plate 3.2. Al-Zahir’s maqṣūra, with inscriptions featuring Qur’an 17:1 at the top: Aqsa Mosque, Jerusalem. Plate 3.3. Al-Zahir’s maqṣūra, looking toward the central dome and mini dome: Aqsa Mosque, Jerusalem. Plate 3.4. Detail of the concentric circle mini domes in the Aqsa Mosque, ca. 1031. Plate 4.1. The Apostle Thomas preaches the Gospel in India, from Barlaam and Ioasaph: Mount Athos, Holy Monastery of Iviron, Codex 463, fol. 4r. Plate 4.2. Man and Death (Psalm 143:4), from the Theodore Psalter: London, British Library, MS Add. 19352, fol. 182v. Plate 5.1. Ivory Virgin and Child, said to be from the Abbey of Frigolet, France, ca. 1300. Plate 5.2. Seated copper igure from Tada, Nigeria, late thirteenth–early fourteenth century. Plate 6.1. Beryozovo Cup: Byzantine, twelfth century, gilded silver. Plate 6.2. Detail of Plate 6.1, showing lobes decorated with human and animal igures. Plate 6.3. Detail of Plate 6.1, showing female igure at a banquet. Plate 6.4. Detail of Plate 6.1, showing interior of the vessel displaying an image of Saint George. Plate 6.5. Cup: Byzantine, eleventh century, silver. Plate 6.6. Detail of Plate 6.5, showing interior of the vessel displaying an image of Saint Theodore.


xi Plate 6.7. Cup with heroic igures under arches: Byzantine, twelfth century, gilded silver. Plate 6.8. Comparison of decorative borders in the rims of Plates 6.1 and 6.7. Plate 6.9. Detail of Plate 6.7, showing interior of the vessel. Plate 6.10. Lid from a cup: Byzantine, twelfth century, silver. Plate 6.11. Comparison of motifs showing an acrobat standing on his hands and drinking from his cup: details of Plates 6.10 and 6.1. Plate 6.12. Plate: Byzantine, twelfth century, silver. Plate 6.13. Comparison of motifs showing rider igures: details of Plates 6.12 and 6.4. Plate 6.14. Brass candlestick: Ghurid or Ghaznavid, from eastern Iran or Afghanistan, ca. 1150–1200. Plate 6.15. Detail of Plate 6.14: lobes depicting plants and animals. Plate 6.16. Saint George and Saint Theodore attacking a snake: Byzantine, eleventh-century wall painting from Yılanlı Kilise (Snake Church), Göreme, Cappadocia (Turkey). Plate 6.17. Dirham of Nasir al-Din Muhammad from Danishmendid, Malatya (Turkey), 1162–78. Plate 6.18. Saint George on horseback, ca. 1060: wall painting from Deir Mar Musa al-Habashi, near Nebk, Syria. Plate 6.19. Copper coin featuring Saint George on the obverse: Antiochene Mint of Roger of Salerno, Crusader, 1112–19. Plate 7.1a–b. Furusiyya dagger, front and back: silver, niello, and steel, twelfth– thirteenth century. Plate 8.1. Detail of the back of a gilded bronze mirror with landscape, igures, and divinatory symbols, dating from the eighth century: Shōsō- in, Nara (Japan). Plate 8.2. Banner of a bodhisattva standing under a canopy on a lotus, ca. 850 CE: ink and colour on silk, originally from Cave 17, Dunhuang (China).




If you would search [this volume] diligently, you will discover within it whatsoever kinds and mixtures of diverse colors Greece has; whatsoever techniques in enamel or varieties of niello Rus’ knows; whatsoever work Arabia distinguishes by hammering, casting or intaglio; whatsoever of diverse vessels or gems or bones Italy adorns by sculpture with gold; whatsoever France loves in its precious variety of windows; whatsoever ine work ingenious Germany praises in gold, silver, copper, iron, woods and stones.1 within the monastic walls of a Benedictine monastery in the Rhineland, the early twelfth- century author who chose to be known by the Greek pseudonym Theophilus imagined a world of art that was simultaneously distant and close to hand.2 Geographically, he ranges from the Ukraine to Italy, France to the eastern Mediterranean; materially, he moves from wood to gold, bone to stained glass. Each region has its specialties, which differ from each other in kind, but not in quality. At the same time, Theophilus shows no interest in traversing the distances between these varied areas, understanding their differing ways or even collecting their signature products. Earlier in his prologue, he urges his reader to value things according to their merits rather than their pedigrees, and to prefer the local whenever possible: “If common vines were to produce myrrh, frankincense, and balsam for you … is it possible that you would despise them as cheap and homely, and travel lands and seas to procure foreign things that are not better but possibly worse? This you would judge to be great

1 Theophilus, De Diversis Artibus, 4 (my translation). “Quam si diligentius perscruteris, illic inuenies quicquid in diuersorum colorum generibus et mixturis habet Graecia, quicquid in electrorum operositate seu nigelli uarietate nouit Ruscia, quicquid ductili uel fusili seu interrasili opera distinguit Arabia, quicquid in uasorum diuersitate seu gemmarum ossiumue sculptura auro decorat Italia, quicquid in fenestrarum pretiosa uarietate diligit Francia, quicquid in auri, argenti, cupri et ferri lignorum lapidumque subtilitate sollers laudat Germania.” 2 On the identity of Theophilus (with reference to previous literature), see Gerhaert, Theophilus, 3–7.


2 stupidity.”3 Rather than indulge in such silliness, Theophilus suggests, the reader would be better off reading and implementing his own technical synthesis, conveniently located close to hand in the text that follows. His seemingly global interests are, ultimately, mustered in service of highly local claims to importance and expertise. The mixed messages within Theophilus’s prologue ind echoes in the ways that art historians account for his world and its arts today. As one of the few surviving twelfth-century treatises on art making, Theophilus’s text is a familiar source to most specialists in what is usually called, with any geographic quali iers, medieval art history: that is, scholarship focused on Europe in the years stretching from the collapse of the Roman Empire to the late ifteenth century. Artistic production from within the borders of the modern nations of England, France, and Germany have traditionally been heavily privileged in this ield; yet ever since the formation of the discipline in the late nineteenth century, a steady stream of scholars has drawn attention to wider artistic networks formed by pilgrimage, diplomacy, and conquest. Indeed, for some, such networks were fundamental to forming medieval art, its various styles, and iconographic forms.4 Similar, although not identical, patterns can be seen in the historiography of other sub ields, such as Byzantine art history and African archaeology, which engage with the same temporal span and some of the same geographical areas.5 As was the case for Theophilus, the intent of early art historical studies was less to break down divisions, or treat all comers on equal terms, than to assert the importance of the scholar’s own region of specialization. Like modern economic systems that assign greater value to sites of manufacture than to sources of raw materials, the teleology of these accounts often resulted in ascribing the most compelling invention, novelty, or synthetic skill to a single culture. True competency in multiple art historical sub ields remains a rarity to this day, and conversations among practitioners are hampered by both the depth of knowledge required

3 Theophilus, De Diversis Artibus, 3. “Quod si tibi arbusta uilia myrram, thus et balsama producerent … numquid his contemptis tanquam uilibus et domesticis ad extranea nec meliora sed fortassis uiliora comparanda circuires terras et maria? Et hoc te iudice grandis foret stultia.” 4 For early examples, see Strzygowski, Orient oder Rom; Porter, Romanesque Sculpture. 5 For a historiographic review of the role of intercultural exchange in studies of Byzantine art, see Walker, Emperor and the World, 14–19. On the shifting debates surrounding cultural in luence in sub-Saharan archaeology and their political implications, see Stahl, “Africa in the World.”


3 to demonstrate ield expertise and the different methodological approaches and assumptions that shape these subdisciplinary boundaries.6 This collection in The Medieval Globe grew out of an initial attempt to begin to consider the challenges of true cross-sub ield research amongst art historians, as well as the potential gains of making such connections. Ironically, given its collaborative goals, it had its origins in a moment of division. In the spring of 2014, several of its contributors and I participated in “an interdisciplinary conference of new work in the ields of Byzantine, Islamic, and European medieval art history” whose stated aim was to “explore the disciplinary and interdisciplinary situation and stakes of the ield.”7 In keeping with this ecumenical intent, the thematically organized panels were carefully structured to include work from multiple specializations. Yet it soon became clear that this seemingly united spirit of inquiry was at best an uneasy one. A real tension was already implicit in the language of the abstract, with its slippage between the avowedly separate “ ields of Byzantine, Islamic, and European medieval” and the “stakes of the ield.” After I had made a comment in a group discussion about the role of art historians teaching in smaller schools in which they are often the only medievalist, I was gently taken to task by colleagues in Byzantine and Islamic art history, who reminded me that their specialties are even less commonly represented—even in major research institutions. My weak defence—that I had been counting all the specialties represented at the conference as “medieval”—only increased their dissatisfaction: each insisted that her ield was emphatically not “medieval.” Further discussions with others in all three of these sub ields quickly revealed a wide range of views on our shared but divisive predicament, ranging from fears about the loss of area expertise (as specialists in one ield began to teach and publish on others) to vociferous insistence that medieval art history had an obligation to broaden its purview. Is there a ield of medieval art history beyond (Christian) Europe? Should there be? The external pressure to produce such a ield is clear, as job postings and funding agencies insistently declare their desire for global or cross-cultural research. But what is the place of the global in a time before sustained trans-Paci ic

6 This has particularly hampered attempts to describe connections between regions with differing types and quantities of textual documentation. For a useful discussion of the problem in history more generally, see Feierman, “African Histories.” 7 “Medieval Art History after the Interdisciplinary Turn,” organized by Danielle Joyner and Aden Kumler at the University of Notre Dame, 27–29 March 2014: http://artdept. news- and- events/ events/ 2014/ 03/ 27/ 17078- medieval- art- history- after- theinterdisciplinary-turn/ [accessed 20 July 2017].


4 or trans-Atlantic interaction? What constitutes a “culture” and how exactly should we go about crossing it? And whose categories should be used to frame such investigations? The papers gathered here stem from a two-day conference directed towards considering such problems, held at Northwestern University in June of 2015. It was made possible by Mellon Foundation funds awarded to my colleague Barbara Newman, who generously donated them to the larger medieval community at Northwestern. At her request the conference was explicitly framed as an attempt to foster dialogue among early career scholars, de ined as those at the postdoctoral, assistant professor, or recently tenured level. The participants were trained in a range of art historical sub ields but shared a sustained research interest in borders, exchanges, and con licts between and within communities in the eastern hemisphere of the globe. The selection of scholars with this variety of expertise was deliberate, but hardly exhaustive of the possibilities: the absence of specialists in Indian Ocean and Baltic studies are only the most obvious of the many lacunae.8 While not defensible or desirable, such gaps reveal larger structural problems that hobble collaborative projects such as this one. Some of these have to do with training and funding. For example, the comparatively higher representation of scholars specializing in contacts within the Mediterranean basin and along the Silk Roads is re lective of the current priorities of academic art history in North America, which favours these two exchange routes as synecdoches for the larger problem of crosscultural interaction.9 Other problems stem from the lack of sustained communication among art historians working in different sub ields, which results in divisions that are importantly personal as well as informational. Groups of collaborators are inevitably limited by the organizer’s own networks: who is asked and who is willing to respond are twin factors that shape research in ways that have more to do with individual relationships than is usually acknowledged. Forging these contacts and bonds across current institutional divides is an integral part of the ongoing affective as well as intellectual work that collaboration requires; if we are to engage in truly honest exchanges, these must go beyond the super icial rhetoric of professional networking in order to forge the sustainable communities of mutual respect and understanding that will be vital to the future of this type of inquiry.

8 An article by another important contributor to this conference, Eric Ramírez-Weaver, will appear in a future issue of The Medieval Globe. 9 For example, the Getty Foundation Connecting Art Histories initiative will only award funding to research in three areas: Asia, the “Greater Mediterranean,” and Latin America. See grantsawarded.html [accessed 31 August 2017].


5 Conference participants were given a deliberately vague brief: to engage, however they wished, with the idea of “reassessing the global turn in medieval art history.” Despite the pleas of many, no further direction was provided. Rather than dictate a program of research, my goal was to elicit a range of current approaches, aspirations, and concerns. It was in part for this reason that I chose to use the laden terms medieval and global in the formulation of the prompt. Periodization always entails an assertion that certain criteria are more decisive than others, whether these are political, religious, or environmental.10 However, the persistent (and justi iably resented) privileging of Western materials in art history make the use of categories like medieval and modern particularly fraught in the context of collaborative work across sub ields today. The term medieval is further complicated by the troubled relationship between colonial power and the construction of the medieval as a historiographic category.11 While simply supplying a date range, such as 300–1450 CE, might seem more innocuous, I felt it was important to confront the logic that would govern those dates head on. Though they might constitute a coherent epoch for western European and even Byzantine studies, these dates make little sense to scholars in other sub ields. The fourth century has no special signi icance for Islamicists, who follow earlier Islamic chroniclers by marking a fundamental societal change at the time of Quranic revelation in the mid-seventh century;12 nor is it particularly useful for the art histories of Asia or sub-Saharan Africa. End points erect similar barriers to cross-subdisciplinary cooperation. Scholars of Islamic and Byzantine history traditionally place great emphasis on the mid-thirteenth century as a moment of cultural rupture, just at the time when the conventional narratives of Western art history chart a smoothly continuous development of High Gothic style. Chinese specialists often place the break even earlier, noting that the advanced societal structure of the Song dynasty more closely resembles early modern than medieval Europe. Medieval, then, must remain a term to be interrogated. In using global rather than the seemingly more generic cross-cultural I had three goals. First, following the lead of Alicia Walker, I wanted to foreground the issues raised by actual connections among geographically diverse groups, issues implied by the term globalism.13 Second, I wanted to provoke contributors to consider how the connections they had uncovered might compare to interactions deemed more characteristic of the years after 1492, since post-Columbian

10 Bentley, “Cross-Cultural Interaction,” 749–51. 11 Davis, Periodization and Sovereignty. 12 Donner, “Periodization as a Tool of the Historian,” 29. My thanks to Bilha Moor for alerting me to this article. 13 Walker, “Globalism.”


6 exchanges are regularly claimed to be not only more extensive but also fundamentally different in kind from those of the ancient or medieval worlds. Third, I remain uneasy about the terms culture and cultural as they are currently used in relation to this period; all too often, both are con lated with confessional af iliations (“cross-cultural” is often used interchangeably with “interfaith”) or anachronistically ixed national identities. While there are textual precedents for the assertion of such identities in the period—notably in the treatise of Theophilus with which I began—the material evidence of most concern to art historians regularly transgresses these supposed national and confessional divides.14 The contributors’ replies to these challenges, gathered here, offer a set of overlapping and (at times) competing approaches and visions that range from case studies to historiographic re lections. Each author sees value in viewing their materials in a global context, albeit to varying degrees. Despite their differences, the authors are united in their interest in global as a body of theoretical concepts and questions and their shared insistence on the necessity of retaining a sense of the local within the global. Indeed, most prioritize the local as the place where meanings and things are made, remade, and even refused. As such, they broadly share an approach that resonates with the work of scholars such as James Clifford and Arjun Appadurai, who have stressed the productive imbrication of multiple places and identities in any single site or community’s unending work of cultural formation.15 In addition to these theoretical challenges, practical needs have also shaped the following discussions. In order to include as many perspectives as possible in the space available, these essays are shorter than is typical of most specialized journals devoted to the sub ields represented here. Moreover, in keeping with The Medieval Globe’s interdisciplinary scope, the authors have been asked to limit discussion of internal art historical debates within these sub ields. These compromises are intended to make these essays broadly accessible, not only to art historians unfamiliar with the complex historiography of a given sub ield, but also to any interested reader. There will never be a substitute for deeply informed scholarship, but there is an equal need for collaboration and mutual intelligibility. In “A Camel’s Pace” Bonnie Cheng re lects on the global turn from her vantage point as a scholar of ifth- and sixth-century tomb art in what is now China. While critical of the ways in which Western art historians have deployed a stereotyped 14 The well-known similarities among objects produced in multiple locales along trade routes and at courts have led to theories of regional visual languages and elite cultures: see, for example, Hoffman, “Pathways of Portability.” 15 For example, Appadurai, “Production of Locality”; Clifford, “Traveling Cultures.”


7 China in their efforts to construct a world art history, she nevertheless sees the global turn as a useful occasion for reconsidering the ways in which nationalist discourses continue to reshape Chinese art history to distorting effect. A similarly uneasy relationship to global discourses and approaches animates the essay that follows. Jennifer Pruitt’s “The Fatimid Holy City” nuances the traditional view of Jerusalem as a world city, largely shaped by global concerns, by drawing attention to the importance of the Fatimid Empire’s internal politics, as well as relations between local communities, in shaping imperial patronage within the city. The following pair of essays trace networks of exchange rather than focusing on a single site or artifact. Cecily Hilsdale’s “Worldliness in Byzantium and Beyond” considers how the concept of “worlding” might help to explicate the ways in which different societies translated the story of Barlaam and Ioasaph while constructing their own moral and material worlds with reference to that ubiquitous tale. Sarah Guérin tackles the dif icult challenge of reconstructing the local desires that fuelled the interlocking trade routes from the forest regions of West Africa to northern Europe. In “Exchange of Sacri ices,” she synthesizes the evidence of recent archaeological discoveries, revealing the diverse systems of value that rendered exchanges of ivory, gold, and copper mutually bene icial. Renewed attention to the portable, precious objects once marginalized as the “decorative arts” has been a notable feature of the global turn, and it informs the remaining contributions to this collection. Alicia Walker’s study of “The Beryozovo Cup” considers how the mixture of formal and iconographic elements usually associated with separate courtly traditions combine within a single drinking vessel, and how it might have been viewed and used by the varied audiences that mingled at Byzantine diplomatic dinners. In “Mobile Meanings,” Heather Badamo examines the shared culture of violence and display evoked by the similarly mixed artistic forms of a ceremonial sword and sheath, whose meanings would have been equally intelligible to both Christian and Muslim elites. In “Global Medieval at the ‘End of the Silk Road’,” Jun Hu considers a collection of many such precious objects, drawn from throughout Eurasia and housed in the Shōsō-in collection at the Tōdai-ji Monastery in Nara, Japan. While modern interpretations of the collection are dominated by nationalist and internationalist ideologies, Hu argues that its eighth-century formation and dedication must be understood as resulting from the entanglement of global networks (of faith, trade, and diplomacy) with local, even individual, soteriological and emotional concerns. In a inal response, the early modern European specialists Jessica Keating and Lia Markey reconsider the validity of the division between the medieval and the early modern—frequently dated to 1492 and the emergence of the trans-Atlantic world—and the relationship between scholarship on the medieval and early modern eras today.


8 Considered together, these essays do not (and cannot) present a uni ied account of the thousand years they span, nor do they offer a set of universally applicable methods of the kind sought by many theorists of a world (art) history.16 To date, no such theory or narrative has gained signi icant traction, and perhaps for good reason. One of the great strengths of art history as a discipline is the sustained attention that it gives to individual objects and buildings as independent statements of human creativity and contemplation that are made and received within speci ic political, economic, and social contexts, but never wholly reducible to outside determinants. This care for speci ic cases alongside general trends opens up space to consider not only dominant narratives but also roads not taken, and to acknowledge shifting meanings as messages are encoded and decoded by individuals with varied life experiences. Rather than hunger for the sense of closure that an imagined, uni ied world might provide, all scholars of the medieval globe must think seriously about how our changing ields can embrace contingency and contestation, as much as intentions and traditions, as we continue to explore that world and the evidence that remains to us.

16 Recent considerations of this problem include Summers, Real Spaces; Onians, The Atlas; Elkins, Is Art History Global?; Carrier, A World Art History.



Bibliography Appadurai, Arjun. “The Production of Locality.” In Counterworks: Managing the Diversity of Knowledge, edited by Richard Fardon, 208–29. London: Routledge, 1995. Bentley, Jerry. “Cross-Cultural Interaction and Periodization in World History.” American Historical Review 101 (1996): 749–70. Carrier, David. A World Art History and Its Objects. University Park, PA: The Pennsylvania State University Press, 2008. Clifford, James. “Traveling Cultures.” In Routes: Travel and Translation in the Late Twentieth Century, 17–41. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1997. Davis, Kathleen. Periodization and Sovereignty: How Ideas of Feudalism and Secularization Govern the Politics of Time. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2008. Donner, Fred. “Periodization as a Tool of the Historian with Special Reference to Islamic History.” Der Islam 91 (2014): 20–36. Elkins, James. Is Art History Global? New York: Routledge, 2007. Feierman, Steven. “African Histories and the Dissolution of World History.” In Africa and the Disciplines: The Contributions of Research in Africa to the Social Sciences and Humanities, edited by Robert H. Bates, V. Y. Mudimbe, and Jean O’Barr, 167–212. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1993. Gerhaert, Heidi. Theophilus and the Theory and Practice of Medieval Art. University Park, PA: Pennsylvania State University Press, 2017. Hoffman, Eva. “Pathways of Portability: Islamic and Christian Interchange from the Tenth to the Twelfth Century.” Art History 24 (2001): 17–50. Onians, John. The Atlas of World Art. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2004. Porter, Arthur Kingsley. Romanesque Sculpture of the Pilgrimage Roads. Boston: Marshall Jones, 1923. Stahl, Ann. “Africa in the World: (Re)centering African History through Archaeology.” Journal of Anthropological Research 70 (2014): 5–33. Strzygowski, Josef. Orient oder Rom: Beiträge zur Geschichte der spatäntiken und frühchristlichen Kunst. Leipzig: J. C. Hinrichs Buchhandlung, 1901. Summers, David. Real Spaces: World Art History and the Rise of Western Modernism. London: Phaidon Press, 2003. Theophilus, De Diversis Artibus. Edited and translated by C. R. Dodwell. London: Thomas Nelson, 1987. Walker, Alicia. The Emperor and the World. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2012. ——. “Globalism.” Studies in Iconography 33 (2012): 183–96.


10 Christina Normore ([email protected]) is an associate professor of medieval art history at Northwestern University. Her research centres on fourteenth- and ifteenth-century northwestern Europe, particularly the Valois Burgundian court. Her work is united by a concern with how medieval objects and aesthetic practices challenge current methodologies and reshape our understanding of period and geographical divisions. Abstract This collection in The Medieval Globe aims to reassess the so-called global turn in medieval art history. Study of the migration of motifs, materials, personnel, and inished objects has a long pedigree within medieval art history, while the broadening attention to material culture has likewise been an integral factor in reshaping the current conception of a more interconnected medieval world. Yet despite these developments, numerous important problems remain to be addressed. In addition to debates concerning the concept of “the global,” these include the challenges to traditional art historical narratives, specializations, and scholarly training posed by the much more complex picture of Eurasian and African cross-cultural connections which has begun to emerge. Moreover, while these challenges affect Byzantine, Islamic, western European, and East Asian art histories alike, there has as yet been little sustained conversation among those working in these ields. Drawing together articles by specialists actively engaged in the reassessment of medieval art and material culture in a global context, this thematic issue features examples of cutting-edge scholarship and offers a starting point for future dialogues and cross-cultural research projects. This introduction describes the stakes and circumstances of Reassessing the Global Turn in Medieval Art History and offers a brief summary of its contents. Keywords global turn, medieval art, periodization, historiography, interdisciplinary collaboration


A CAMEL’S PACE: A CAUTIONARY GLOBAL BONNIE CHENG to disentangle various interpretations of “the global” and to consider this trend’s risks and rewards for the study of art in “medieval” China. Speci ically, I want to sound a note of caution concerning the use of global as an analytical frame for premodern eras, particularly as the term has been variously de ined in current art historical writing dominated by scholars of modern and contemporary Euro-American art.1 At the same time, I want to distinguish productive epistemic shifts that stem from the global turn within art history for the study of Chinese art. While some dominant models of the global have resulted in problematic essentialism and misreadings, others offer a useful lens through which to reconsider both China’s nationalist historiography and the complex material record of past civilizations. My concerns echo those of a recent discussion of the rise of “world art history” among scholars of ancient art, moderated by Jeremy Tanner.2 Tanner asked these scholars whether they saw the rise of global art as representing epistemic or organizational changes in the disciplines of art history and archaeology. Two issues, lamented and praised, emerged in their responses: the death of history, or the potential loss of any “deep historical grasp of how objects may develop within speci ic cultural constraints,” and comparative art history, a practice that would engender dialogue across regions.3 While accepting that comparative art history is essential, Jas Elsner remarked that “before we can even attempt some kind of comparative model of approach, we have to recognize the totally uneven basis of

I thank Viren Murthy, Christina Normore, Julia Orell, and Ellen Wurtzel for their careful reading and comments on drafts of this essay. I am also grateful to an anonymous reader for insightful comments and suggestions on debates in archaeology of the ancient world, and to Amy Margaris for chatting with me about archaeology. 1 I use “China” in this essay to designate the contemporary geographic terrain, recognizing that boundaries have shifted over its lengthy history. I refer to speci ic centuries when possible but use the term “premodern” for expedience, knowing that it asserts a problematic binary with modern. I acknowledge that the use of the term “medieval” with reference to China may evoke an imperfect temporal frame, but do so in the spirit of the stated aims of The Medieval Globe. 2 Tanner et al., “Questions.” “World art” is sometimes synonymous with global art, but sometimes includes visual studies outside of art history. 3 Tanner et al., “Questions,” 216.


12 our scholarly starting points in relation to the cultures and arts we want to compare.”4 Elsner refers not only to the Eurocentric roots of art history, but also cautions about formidable impediments for making productive comparisons across regions. In particular, he notes the relative lack of emic intellectual perspectives on non-European arts and the differences between regions with and those without a comprehensive corpus of edited and translated texts that may facilitate art historical interpretation. Meaningful comparisons between regions requires roughly balanced sets of sources; and despite the vast material, textual, and oral traditions in Africa, China, India, or the Islamic world, these regions have not yet attracted generations of scholars to the study of their art forms in a way parallel to classic traditions in Europe. I want to begin to rectify this imbalance, what Elsner and Parul Dave-Mukherji have described as an “asymmetry of knowledge,” by exploring the relevance of the global turn for the study of art in premodern China from two vantage points: historic and epistemic.5 I distinguish between a historical mode, by which I mean a grounding in speci ic socio-cultural contexts, and other epistemic impacts brought about by studies of globalization, particularly the attention they draw to the misalignments between artistic practices and political shifts in order to demonstrate that we can acknowledge a global orientation without sacri icing historical commitments. In this regard, my essay shifts the conversation away from Tanner’s question about epistemic or organizational changes to focus on Elsner’s concerns about the death of history and the problems of comparison. While comparative art history need not be ahistorical, premodern historical perspectives on the global past have been challenged by scholars such as James Elkins, who see globalization as a distinctly modern phenomenon.6 Like Tanner, however, I argue that this assumption tends to obscure the diversity of premodern artistic practices and the complex histories of local adaptation. At the same time, I want to assess how current discussions of globalization help to break down other formidable historical narratives and paradigms that hinder comparative analysis across regions, especially in China. Doing so draws attention to the global turn’s paradoxical impact on premodern non-Western art histories. On the one hand, despite the commitment to a “global” perspective, the largely modern focus in recent art historical discussions has reinforced a binary of West/non-West, sometimes resulting in simpli ied narratives that latten out the history of earlier eras. On the other hand, the global

4 Tanner et al., “Questions,” 218. 5 Dave-Mukherji, “Discontents,” 92. 6 Elkins, Is Art History Global?; and Elkins et al., eds., Art and Globalization.


13 turn has exposed the continued reliance on anachronistic narratives of nationalism and, in particular, a ixation on the supposedly bounded and monolithic categories of art and ethnicity prevalent in China Studies. These critical reformulations are productive for analyzing the ifth and sixth centuries, part of the Northern and Southern Dynasties period, because many art forms produced during this time of lux are not easily analyzed according to modern political boundaries or current periodization schema. 7 For example, scholars familiar with the Silk Road/s may know about the networks of trade and cultural exchange associated with the Tang dynasty, yet be unaware of how these networks developed in the preceding centuries, when numerous short-lived groups ruled the region from multiple seats of power. I focus on archaeologically excavated material because tombs in China have yielded objects from distant lands that raise important issues about the dimensions and frequency of early exchange. Thus the speci ic historical conditions of this time and place, coupled with funerary art’s position outside of canonical art historiography (usually focused on painting), combine to counter narrowly modern de initions of globalism and reveal the endurance and multiplicities of forms of interaction. The challenge of adopting a global view of this material is not to rectify how non-Western nations have been “deprived of history” in dominant art historical narratives but to reconcile the gulf between the limited knowledge of these regions in the West and the fervent nationalist narratives and paradigms that structure Chinese historiography. This is especially true for art historians who work with archaeological material, much of which has been unearthed in the last half century under the aegis of nationalist agencies. Indeed, the call for a global art history largely overlooks the challenges faced by scholars working with the less familiar materials of smaller sub ields, who are pressed to grapple with broadly comparative questions even as they write the initial histories of long-ignored or recently excavated objects. It further ignores the legacy of traditionalist nationalist historiography in China, with its strong textual bias, in shaping scholarship in related disciplines, particularly archaeology and history. 8

Global Views of Art History Despite the sense of urgency surrounding the promotion of global art history in the past decade, there remains little consensus on how scholars understand the

7 Davis and Puett, “Periodization,” 10. 8 On the uneven archaeological work in China in the twentieth century and its intersection with art history, see Cheng, “Functional and Non-Functional,” 73–74.


14 term. At least three meanings of global or “world” art history appear to be in current usage. For some, “the global” expands the geographic parameters of the discipline beyond Europe and North America and sometimes includes art history as it is studied in discrete parts of the world. For others, “the global” draws attention to contemporary conditions brought about by late capitalism, digital technology, and the impact of global imaginaries, networks, and lows on art markets, as well as on conditions of artistic practice and production.9 Though this latter group of theorists are predominantly interested in exploring contemporary art and its contexts, some argue that aspects of these globalizing conditions appear in earlier eras—but how far back, and in what ways, is debated.10 Still others deploy “the global” to denote multiple paths of engagement in an expanded geographic sphere, for example across the Atlantic or between other regions. This latter de inition, championed by Monica Juneja, outlines a broader approach to the study of art that takes the notion of transcultural (comparison) as its basis.11 Together, but to different degrees, these three meanings of globalism re lect different positions on, and reactions to, the conditions of contemporary globalization; and they also critique disciplinary conventions tied to art history’s origins in eighteenth-century Europe: approaches that continue to inform contemporary scholarship and structure the discipline. The irst two meanings, however, pose some practical problems. The irst interprets globalism literally and encourages an expansion of studies to cover a broader geography. This expansion may take place in scholarly writing, but may also occur in introductory courses or survey books, or on an institutional level through the creation of new tenure track lines. This goal might at irst seem laudably straightforward, but the depth of response at a pedagogical and institutional level remains limited.12 More importantly, inclusion of overlooked geographic regions alone does not guarantee a reorientation of methodological perspective.13 Meanwhile, the second de inition of “the global” emphasizes interconnectedness between regions, which is held to be a precondition for any claims to a global system. Advocates of this global frame attempt to keep pace with theoretical shifts of the past decades in other ields. However, in

9 See, for example, Appadurai, Modernity at Large. 10 See the discussion in Joselit and Wood et al., “Roundtable.” 11 Juneja, “Global Art History.” 12 Chiem and Colburn, “Global Foundations.” See also Casid and D’Souza, Wake of the Global. 13 For example, David Summers’s Real Spaces, which attempted to offer an analytical model for world art history based on formal criteria, was critiqued for his choice of conceptual frames—perspective, facture, planarity, etc.—because his terms derive from European notions of space and form. Elkins, “David Summers.”


15 practice, scholars inconsistently adopt or incorporate themes and perspectives developed within disciplines such as anthropology, economics, social history, and sociology. Recent volumes edited by Hans Belting and Elkins demonstrate the range of these largely contemporary perspectives.14 Because of the connections they draw between globalization and late or new global capitalism, scholars working within this de inition of globalism problematically presume the validity of narratives of modernity and the nation, even when their core aim is to draw attention to the dissolution of political boundaries through the study of the art market or multinational conglomerates.15 As Elkins writes, “Literature on the worldwide dissemination of art assumes nationalism and ethnic identity, but rarely analyzes it.”16 Such narratives remain de ined by binaries (of west/non-West) that reinforce the categories they seek to unframe.17 Globalism, as conceived in the third de inition, responds to and builds on earlier de initions but rejects not only nineteenth-century assumptions and narratives of progress but also the political logic of the modern nation-state. Advocates for this third de inition propose a transcultural focus on processes and changes that occur through relationships. This allows for paradigmatic shifts away from older categories and challenges incommensurable units of comparison by approaching time and space as non-linear and non-homogenous. It resonates with the term mondialisation, which encompasses “a larger, multidirectional phenomenon of diffusion of ideas, things, and people” and “leaves open a network of reactions.”18 What is attractive about mondialisation and the transcultural approach is that by underscoring process they do not presume any dominant unit of comparison or rely on either essentialized or ixed categories and understandings about non-Western regions or about the past. This approach accommodates local responses and allows for a more nuanced historical view.

Risks of Ahistorical Engagements One cannot deny the appeal of expanding the material and conceptual scope of art history to highlight less commonly studied regions or to learn new analytical

14 See note 6. 15 Appadurai, Modernity at Large. 16 Elkins et al., Art and Globalization, x. 17 Dave-Mukherji, “Discontents,” 91–95. 18 Gruzinski, Les Quatre parties du monde, as cited by Alessandra Russo, in Joselit and Wood, “Roundtable,” 4–5. As they note, English does not offer this nuance of meaning, translating both globalization and mondialisation as “globalization.”


16 methods for productive comparison through dialogues with scholars of disparate regions. But scholars who specialize in art produced outside Europe and North America remain reluctant to accept the manner in which these discussions have been framed.19 Ladislav Kesner, for example, enumerates what he sees as more pressing questions: the purpose of the discipline and the erosion of tradition. He also observes how institutional obstacles, of local contexts or language, assert a distinction between art historians with an international audience versus those with a local one.20 Kesner argues that the lack of a global view does not stand in the way of enjoying or understanding Chinese art, but wonders whether the absence of non-Western critical concepts and terms in art historical discourse is a signal of their limited applicability to art history or a sign of ignorance, as such emic concepts have been deployed by historians of Chinese art.21 Kesner also laments the lingering myth of “national qualities” that only cultural insiders can “get” and explain. This myth evokes an old, lengthy debate familiar in Area Studies, to the effect that language mastery can unlock native knowledge.22 Similarly, in an attempt to “unframe” the extant orientation of discourse on Ming art and culture, which overemphasizes wen (literati) culture, Craig Clunas critiques both the broader impact of the “ irst in the West and then the rest” paradigm and the textual bias of Chinese historiography. 23 These criticisms demonstrate that scholars of diverse periods of Chinese art face other pressing, but no less relevant, issues and obstacles than those outlined by scholars of the West. One reason to remain committed to a rigorous historical praxis is to rectify historically inaccurate information perpetuated for the sake of asserting a global dimension for one’s object of study. Within some discussions of contemporary global art history, for example, categories of non-Western objects have ostensibly been “recovered” by scholars who then make broad generalizations in order to put forth arguments which may be innovative within a comparative global discourse but which reveal severely limited engagement with both the past and with distant

19 See Kesner in Elkins, Is Art History Global?, 81–111; his contributions to the discussion in Chapter 3, 113–75; and the brief assessment by Clunas, 279–85. Other contributors offer similar skepticism. 20 Kesner in Elkins, Is Art History Global?, 84–85, 88, 94. 21 Ibid., 86–90. Kesner responds to questions Elkins proposed to the seminar (3–23) and beliefs he espouses throughout the book: see Elkins, “David Summers,” 377–78. 22 Gordon, “Rethinking Area Studies.” 23 Clunas, “Unframing Chinese Art.”


17 lands: an “instrumentalist notion of non-Western knowledge systems.”24 For example, to contrast the global contemporary art network with trade in the past, Noel Carroll describes “master” ceramic artisans at Jingdezhen and “Masters of the Ukiyo-e School” working in eighteenth-century East Asia, in order to establish a false equivalency with European artists.25 In actuality, Ukiyo-e designers and painters in Edo-period Japan produced works for vastly different classes. Artists of the Kano or Tosa schools typically painted for the ruling Tokugawa shogunate or the imperial court in Kyoto, while printmakers mass-produced Ukiyo-e for commoners. We can certainly celebrate the shedding of unexamined taxonomies which reductively dismissed ritual bronzes, ceramics, lacquer, and metalwork as “decorative arts.” However, elevating the skills and status of craftsmen who designed mass-produced prints, or who worked in large-scale (albeit complex) ceramic workshops, to those who painted for the court or shogun collapses vastly different modes of production and obscures the historic conditions that shaped their development. Attention to a historically informed global past also requires a more nuanced approach to non-Western textual traditions in regions such as China and India, which have igured prominently in some accounts of global art. For example, Elkins’s Stories of Art and other writings frequently reference Zhang Yanyuan, an author from Tang China whose ninth-century Record of Famous Painters in Successive Dynasties bears similarities to Vasari’s Lives of the Artists. (Zhang ranks artists and their paintings in part according to their achievement of verisimilitude, making his comparison to Vasari reasonably apt.) Though this renewed attention may yet be productive, ahistorical approaches tend to oversimplify these texts and overlook scholarship and material outside narrow knowledge of these regions and ields, while unwittingly reinforcing the preexisting textual bias in Chinese historiography. For just as Vasari’s text shaped the later artistic canon through its inclusions and exclusions, Zhang’s record and subsequent texts that follow its structure have similarly excluded the majority of objects crafted by artisans in a range of media, which we now come to know through archaeological discovery. Entire millennia of objects—ancient bronzes, early ceramics and glass, sculpted igurines, tomb murals of no small size and consequence (see Figures 2.1–2, Plate 2.1)— are largely absent from descriptions in early Chinese painting texts. To Zhang and many others in the centuries since, items made by artisans, and especially those for the tomb, fall beyond their de initions of painting or even art. Yet some of these small, portable objects were important items of early exchange and offer material evidence of many different kinds of interactions than those recorded by

24 Dave-Mukherji, “Discontents,” 93. 25 Carroll, “Art and Globalization,” 137.



Figure 2.1. Green-glazed female musician, one of over 350 igurines found in the tomb of Sima Jinlong (d. 484) at Datong, Shanxi (China); height: 21 cm. After James C.Y. Watt et al., eds., China: Dawn of a Golden Age (New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 2004), No. 70. Original archaeological report published in Wenwu 3 (1972).

elite authors. Fragmentary textual references to images and objects, which indicate how they may have functioned or been perceived, have still not fully been explored, and scholars with diverse methodological leanings disagree on the applicability of these sources because they address the material or social, rather than merely formal, aspects of these objects.26 Furthermore, like much of the Chinese textual tradition, these genres have their own complex genealogies which demand much more than a cursory view. While it may be too much to call Elkins’s use of non-Western texts “epistemological violence,” the questions he poses do not advance our knowledge of Chinese art or its historiography. Elkins’s attention to these select non-Western texts further marginalizes signi icant material evidence by reasserting preexisting biases in Chinese historiography. 26 For example, Yang Xuanzhi’s Luoyang qielan ji and Duan Chengshi’s Sita ji. Duan’s text is a form of travel writing but includes descriptions of murals, while Yang’s text laments the glory of Luoyang prior to its destruction in the early sixth century, recalling vivid Buddhist temples and other art forms.



Figure 2.2. Carved stone chamber found in the tomb of Song Shaozu (d. 477) at Datong, Shanxi (China); height: 2.28 m. After Datong shi kaogu yanjiusuo and Liu Junxi, eds., Datong Yanbei shiyuan Bei Wei mu qun (Beijing: Wenwu chubanshe, 2008), plate 51.

In his response to Tanner’s question on the impact of the global, as noted above, Elsner encapsulated the tension between the historical mode of scholarship and the presentist, even futurist, orientation of much scholarship on the global: “The fundamental epistemic change in the shift to world art is the death of history. I mean by this the move towards easy postmodernism and surface semiotics, from a close-focused, culturally and socially integrated approach to the causes and effects of the making and experience of works of art in their time of creation and their later reception.”27 Advocates of Elsner’s view may be accused of methodological fogeyism, but such a critique misses the key point about the asymmetrical knowledge base of non-Western art, from which contemporary scholars may productively make comparisons. Though I share Elsner’s fear of historically groundless approaches and the embrace of an uncritical global focus, I also see rewards stemming from a shift to a global view because this shift is accompanied by the dissolution of problematic paradigms. These are not the Eurocentric narratives with which art historians are already familiar, but other no less ideologically loaded historical paradigms generated by Sinology and modern archaeology in China, to which I now turn.

27 Tanner, “Questions,” 218.



Map 2.1. Map of China showing Northern and Southern Dynasties, with the (Southern) Six Dynasties capital at Jiankang (Nanjing), ca. 500 CE. From Fairbank, Reischauer, and Craig, East Asia, 2nd ed. © 1989 South-Western, a part of Cengage, Inc. Reproduced by permission.

Traditional Narratives—Central Kingdom (中國) and Ethnic Assimilation (民族融合) An unexpected consequence of the turn toward the global is the way that scholars like Elkins reinforce preexisting mythic traditions of Chinese civilization which have been driven by nationalist ideologies with roots as deep as Hegelian narratives of progress. These narratives reshape history to glorify the achievements of the past as exemplary cultural heritage. Framed by notions of “Han Chinese” identity or ethnicity and signaled by such phrases as “5000 years of Chinese history,” these paradigms collapse the diverse groups that inhabited the vast geographic region of China, and that interacted in complex ways, into a linear and conceptual continuum perceived as discretely “Chinese” (see Map 2.1). While the West may have a ixed idea of “China” that some theorists of global art history adopt uncritically, scholars in China perpetuate equally formidable paradigms based on similarly


21 reductive categories and traditionalist historiographies. One concept, the notion of the Central Kingdom, has a long history that reverses the Eurocentric rhetoric of centre and margin. The other, a problematic narrative of ethnic “Chinese” identity, was forged in the late Qing period but has since taken on fervent nationalist tone. Unsurprisingly, this latter narrative developed during decades in which China vied unsuccessfully for authority on the global scene. Few groups who ruled China ever considered themselves marginal, as indicated by the term deployed to refer to their realm: Zhongguo (“Central Kingdom”). Though the term can also specify smaller regions, such as the Central Plains, its appearance in early Zhou texts reveals that elite inhabitants of the region conceived of themselves as the political and cultural centre of the world.28 Terms such as Han or Tang could delimit individual courts and their political parameters, but Zhongguo was used by many dynasties to de ine their region as central, as much as it was used to de ine others who lived in the four surrounding directions (sifang) as peripheral. Those who lived outside the Central Kingdom were not only marginal; many of them were regarded disdainfully as inferior. Terms that denoted speci ic groups varied historically (e.g., Hu could designate groups to the north or west, Yue a group to the south, and Yi a group in the east) but some terms (hu) assumed more general meanings over time. Nonetheless, the notion that China was the centre of the world continued for centuries, long after contact was made with people in other lands, and as the network of passages across Central Asia opened up exchange to Sassanid Persia and the West.29 Textual evidence from histories since the Han af irms knowledge of regions, peoples, and customs of vast distances. Accounts of distant regions typically appear in the inal chapter of dynastic histories, their position in the historical annals revealing that they were relegated, almost to an afterthought, to the margins of the past. Entries typically begin by situating a place topographically, in relation to the presumed centre of the author’s world. Thus, the Wei shu speci ies Sute’s distance from Dai, a designation for the Northern Wei dynasty: “The kingdom of Sute is situated to the west of the Pamirs. It is what was Yancai in ancient times and is also called Wennasha. It lies on an extensive swamp and to the northwest of Kangju. It is 16,000 li distant from Dai.”30 This literal localization of the foreign polity on the margins of the Central

28 Zhongguo is sometimes translated as “Middle Kingdom,” but its positional primacy remains the same. 29 Knowledge of these territories is associated with Zhang Qian’s expedition in the Han, recorded in Sima Qian’s Shi ji (second century BCE). 30 Wei Shou (506–572), Wei shu (History of the Wei) 102.2270.


22 Kingdom is followed by notable historic events or characteristics that distinguish the realm and its traditions from the vantage point of the author. Though the rulers and borders of the Central Kingdom changed many times over centuries, Zhongguo as a concept persisted and its usage has facilitated conlations of the Han and Tang empires with the Yuan and Qing, even though the latter were ruled by what have been called “conquest dynasties” during eras when parts or even all of China were conquered by the Mongols or Manchus who ruled over an ethnically diverse populous. Indeed, China’s borders were stretched to their greatest extent under the Manchus and the Mongol Khaganate, farther west beyond the boundaries of the modern Chinese state. It is not only the geographical scale that makes the homogenization of these diverse regions anachronistic, but also the diversity of peoples within these territories. The authority associated with the Central Kingdom suffered a tremendous blow during the nineteenth century, as the Qing dynasty crumbled under repeated domestic and foreign incursions. Of icials such as the imperially appointed Lin Zexu clashed with local merchants to halt the trade of opium; active blockades and seizure of imports led to volatile skirmishes with British steamships in the so-called Opium Wars. Defeated, the Qing conceded to treaties that granted the British, and others after them, control over commerce and foreigners, legalized opium, opened up ports to foreign trade, granted indemnities, and fostered the establishment of diplomatic legations. Domestically, followers of Hong Xiuquan decimated central China and killed millions during the Taiping Rebellion, leaving some regions to suffer for decades. Further con licts plagued the Qing in the inal decades of the century, and they never regained the political or cultural authority that they held in the eighteenth century. It was in response to this history and in the formulation of a modern China that nationalist intellectuals of the May Fourth movement constructed the historical framework that still dominates studies of premodern Chinese art. This “shared narrative of national becoming” takes acculturation as an inevitable process.31 Its central concept, minzu ronghe (“ethnic assimilation”), asserts that when groups not ethnically “Han Chinese” come into contact with characteristically “Chinese” culture, they inevitably adopt its ideas and practices, and so eventually “become Chinese,” Hanhua (or Huahua).32 According to this model, ethnically non-Han groups who dwelled in the northern and western frontier regions, and who conquered and ruled regions of China—Mongols, Manchus, and even the nomadic

31 Leibold, “Searching for Han,” 210. 32 Minzu has no equivalent in English and can be translated as nation, ethnic/ity, and peoples.


23 proto-Turkic and Sarbi groups of the ifth and sixth centuries—all assimilated to the superior civilization of the Han.33 Historians outside China have argued convincingly that “Han,” as an ethnic category, is a modern invention; but the analogy of a giant snowball absorbing and fusing together other minzu still informs the work of scholars who identify the Han as simultaneously ancient and fundamentally impervious to change or contamination by other cultures. 34 Ideas central to this assimilation narrative have their origins in early twentiethcentury discussions by elites under Sun Yat-sen and developed in tandem with the nationalist rhetoric of the 1930s. Intellectuals such as Liang Qichao sought to extract information from traditional histories that would unify diverse populations in post-Qing territories. Though early twentieth-century scholars held diverse opinions on the roots of Chinese identity, anti-Manchu nationalists established rigid binaries to distinguish Han in opposition to Hu (understood, in a general sense, as “other”), in order to distinguish themselves from their “alien” Manchu counterparts.35 The model of assimilation was then taken up readily by Sinologists who spread this narrative to the West, even uncritically subsuming the obvious markers of ethnic difference into this narrative, thereby occluding the signi icance of languages, surnames, institutions, nomadic practices such as animal sacri ice, and sometimes artistic motifs. This narrative, and the rhetoric of Han superiority, have been consistently reaf irmed and calci ied since the Communists took power. Historians have recently argued that this framework of Sinicization has been displaced, and this may be true for strands of scholarship developing in the West, such as the New Qing History of the 1990s. New Qing History scholars began to challenge the use of the Han/Hu binary and sought to revise the assimilation narrative, approaching the study of the Qing from the perspective of its so-called minority rulers by incorporating Manchu sources, rather than solely through histories written in Chinese. Yet these revisionist approaches continue to be resisted within China, as seen in the politically charged critique by the retired historian Li Zhiting, who accused advocates of New Qing History of fabricating a “history of China from an imperialist standpoint.”36 More subtly, vestiges of the assimilation narrative 33 See Mullaney et al., eds., Critical Han Studies. 34 For the snowball theory, see Xu in Mullaney et al., eds., Critical Han Studies; for critiques of Han as an ethnic category, see Elliott and Leibold’s essays in the same volume. 35 The intersection of these debates with Social Darwinism complicates terminology that emerged in this period. Terms such as “races” (minzu, zhongzu, renzhong) and classi icatory schemes were popular neologisms. See Mullaney et al., Critical Han Studies. 36 Li, “Scholars evaluate,” at 1592234.html and University of Hong Kong’s China Media Project 04/22/38664/.


24 continue to structure our knowledge and to privilege certain artistic practices in signi icant ways. For example, the term Six Dynasties refers to those courts whose capital was located at Nanjing (Wu, Jin, Song, Qi, Liang, Chen) between the third and sixth centuries CE, but excludes the nomadic groups who ruled territory in the north. While the alternative term Northern and Southern Dynasties (Map 2.1) avoids this error, it excludes the third and early fourth centuries entirely. And since specialists are accustomed to using both of these terms interchangeably, privileging the courts at Nanjing reinforces the claims of legitimacy made by dynastic histories and reasserts a binary of “Han” rule in the south and non-Han/Hu rule in the north, even though populations intermingled both freely and forcibly during these centuries. A recent history of this period, the culmination of decades of work by the eminent historian Albert Dien, perpetuates this framework even as it incorporates material from the north.37 Both terms, moreover, exclude the Sixteen Kingdoms, a series of short-lived “states” which occupied regions in the northwest until the Northern Wei uni ied the region in the ifth century. Archaeological evidence, as a result, has been classi ied according to these modern political and geographic categories, with studies focused on the prehistory of China, and even archaeological reports, sometimes re lecting entrenched assumptions about ethnically “Han” objects, iconography, and practices.38 As James Leibold and others have demonstrated, Chinese intellectuals in the early twentieth century sought to use the emerging discipline of archaeology to refute diffusionist theories of a common Western origin of man. Prominent historians such as Guo Moruo and Li Ji, responding to threats of foreign imperialism, also sought to bolster claims to the indigenous origins of Han through the use of scienti ic evidence. Archaeologists have questioned and even rejected the very possibility of scienti ic objectivity since the mid-1980s, but the impact of these re lections within China has been inconsistent, owing to language barriers, among other obstacles. The eminent archaeologist K. C. Chang described the early to mid-twentieth-century phase of modern scienti ic archaeology as a tool of Chinese historiography, but concluded that post-1949 archaeology, despite a “persistent re lection of political trends,” had not been substantially affected by them.39 Lothar von Falkenhausen offered a more critical view, describing the ebb and low of state sponsorship for ieldwork and showing how ideology and patriotism have shaped the direction of archaeological research, which is geared towards such goals as unearthing

37 Dien, Six Dynasties. 38 See Kohl and Fawcett, eds. Nationalism, esp. 205–11. 39 Chang, “Archaeology,” 167.


25 evidence of the Xia, traditionally regarded as the irst Chinese dynasty (ca. 2000 BCE).40 Though uncritical perspectives are fading, vestiges of the assimilation narrative persist. The catalogue for the blockbuster exhibition The Golden Age of Archaeology showcases this narrative in its title and content, which maps out a continuous arch of Chinese culture from the Three Dynasties to the Qin-Han and then to the Tang and Song.41 Classifying these dynasties as “golden ages” privileges times of political coherence but conceals eras of transformation, including signi icant developments and interactions under non-Han rule. As these trends suggest, the global turn of art history is moving in tandem with debates in Area Studies and critiques of ideologically driven nationalist narratives emerging from scholarship undertaken within China. The problem of the asymmetrical knowledge base, raised by Elsner and others, cuts many ways, and includes access to methodological practices as well as historical materials. Although the broad implications of the global turn are tantalizing, we must recognize how the generalizing tendencies of a global view can back ire, by reinforcing myths of native knowledge and obscuring localized historiographies.

Dissolution of Paradigms: Stories of Interaction at a Camel’s Pace Among the rewards of the global turn in other ields are new modes of framing or unframing which offer ways to move beyond nationalistic discourses. Appadurai’s concept of “deterritorialization,” which describes the current conditions brought about by late capitalism and the transnational migrations of peoples, offers an instructive model for considering how similar conditions in the past challenge bounded notions of cultures and polities. It allows us to focus on the displacement of populations and draws attention to the exchange of commodities and cultural products on a broad scale. We may extend Appadurai’s idea further by tracing how earlier processes of globalism and deterritorialization break down such dichotomies as east and west, China and other. Such an approach allows us to reconsider the misalignments between artistic practices and political shifts.42 Even when it is possible to demarcate moments of imperial coherence or empire building as important shapers of artistic culture, political boundaries inadequately frame 40 von Falkenhausen, “On the Historiographical Orientation.” 41 See Yang, The Golden Age, 25–45, the afterword by Su, and Xu’s “Han and Tang Dynasties,” whose overarching framework is indicative of the tendency to seek continuity of culture. 42 Jonathan Hay, for example, has questioned our reliance on the political frame of dynastic time, and even the temporal unit of the century, as problematic markers for artistic practices that may not align with political or temporal shifts: Hay, “Suspension of Dynastic Time.”


26 the more luid artistic and cultural practices that crossed time and space. While premodern exchanges may have been slow, like a camel’s pace, their complexity makes them fully compatible with Appadurai’s notion of deterritorialization, both because of the diversity of groups moving between and within porous territorial boundaries and because of the multiple modes of appropriation and exchange that transpired in these spaces. In this respect, the broader implication of global art history is not merely the decentring of geographical focus from the West to elsewhere, where it has always been for some of us; rather, it is the simultaneous decentring of dominant narratives and categories of Western scholarship and (in many cases) the dissolution of the Sinocentric traditionalist paradigms that have distorted Chinese historiography and art history. This dissolution of paradigms is especially productive for eras that defy ixed political and cultural boundaries, or for art forms that resist easy categorizations inherited from European academic practices. Approaches that underscore transcultural processes offer useful opportunities for premodern art historians to work outside deeply rooted paradigms or geopolitical frames. This is particularly relevant for material produced during times of lux. Just as the antiquated term “Dark Ages” erroneously denigrates early medieval Europe, the fourth to sixth centuries are often portrayed as “dim” ones in the Chinese context, despite being the centuries during which landscape painting developed and Buddhism took hold. The very fact that Buddhism was introduced from India and adopted by the Sarbi rulers of northern China, and that Buddhist patronage of art surged during these centuries, means that exchange was inherently characteristic of this time. Yet common knowledge of artistic practices pioneered in this era remains limited to a few monumental Buddhist constructions, calligraphy, and early paintings, or a vague sense of the Silk Road’s importance. Even though this trade included startling items of textiles and fashion—seen in the hairstyles, headdresses, and musical instruments depicted in a late sixth-century tomb mural (Plate 2.1)—few recognize that East–West exchange was not the sole mode of interaction occurring at this time. Rulers of North China were engaged in exchange and military conquest across regions of the Silk Road but also with territories in other directions. Interaction was motivated by diplomacy, which involved the gifting and trade of material goods, the development of commercial networks, and the large-scale movement of conquered peoples, all of which sparked novel exchanges of manufactured goods and artistic technologies. Rulers of northern regions were also engaged in another form of exchange that was not spatial but temporal: adapting mural iconography for tombs from past inhabitants of the region they conquered in the fourth century, or transforming older, imported, artistic technologies that were nonetheless novel to the region.


27 Signi icant artistic achievements thus occurred largely because of the dynamic conditions of the time rather than because of centralized political and cultural coherence. In an earlier study, I explored exchange in these centuries by examining stone tomb furniture—cof ins, couches, and larger house-shaped structures—bearing a range of pictorial scenes, such as hunting and banqueting, likely belonging to Sogdians, itinerant merchants of Transoxiana, who resided in Chang’an and maintained Zoroastrian beliefs.43 Epitaphs record that some of these individuals were born in distant regions of Central Asia but were buried in tombs that included ceramic furnishings of the kind found in graves of wealthy contemporaries in northwest China. Indeed, Zoroastrians tended to eschew lavish tombs for sky-burials and ossuaries for the bones of the corpse. The large stone surfaces popular in ifth- and sixth-century China were adapted to include Zoroastrian imagery, such as a ire altar tended by a half-bird, half-man igure. Though evidence of ritual burning was found in some tombs, historians and archaeologists have reduced the complex processes of artistic and cultural exchange, and have concluded that these Sogdians assimilated Chinese funerary practices. Archaeological categories used in excavation reports reinforce notions of “ ixed” cultures, even though proponents of New Archaeology have critiqued this method of “culture history” since the 1960s; but it remains a common practice in China, even as new modes of historical archaeology have emerged alongside it. I have argued against analyzing the motifs inscribed on these pieces as markers of discrete “cultures” (Chinese, Sogdian) or religious traditions (Zoroastrian). Instead, I advocate for seeing the amalgam of cultural and religious references as choices that transcend af iliation with ixed traditions or categories. Rather than tracing the origin of individual motifs or practices as tied to one culture or another, I approach the assemblage of artistic and cultural components on these objects as a complex process of self-fashioning that demonstrated tomb occupants’ varied relationships with Central Asian regions and the local communities they inhabited. This approach resonates with James Clifford’s insistence on examining “routes, not roots” and acknowledges that artistic practices in northern China and Sogdiana were themselves subject to adaptation.44 By highlighting exchange across linear time and space, I reject the assumption of ixity implied by assimilation narratives and argue against the practice of tracing artistic or cultural “origins,” particularly with respect to items and motifs which we know to have circulated along complex pathways.

43 Cheng, “Space Between.” 44 Clifford, Routes.



Figure 2.3a. Silk fragment with pearl hexagon and honeysuckle designs, unearthed in Dunhuang, Gansu (China) and dated to 487 CE; 75 × 51 cm. After James C.Y. Watt et al., eds., China: Dawn of a Golden Age (New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 2004), No. 79.

Likewise, in an exploration of intermedial exchange during the ifth century, I argued that our tendency to examine objects as ixed within discreet categories of media or religious contexts can mask the contemporary conditions that gave rise to these objects. Framing my analysis through categories that transcend media— ornament, surface, and lustre—allowed me to examine interactions between painted lacquer and textiles, for example, and between Buddhist caves and tombs.45 Rather than looking back in time or across geographies for comparative models or roots, I explored engagements within the locality of Pingcheng, the Northern Wei capital. Motifs and patterns on painted cof ins (Plate 2.2a–b), for instance, demonstrate af inities with diverse artistic sources, from ornament in Buddhist caves at Yungang to textiles and contemporary metalwork (Figures 2.3a–b). Here, trade with distant lands certainly played a role in introducing new technologies and geometric forms, but relocated populations also contributed to this exchange. The Wei shu records that populations were transferred from conquered northeast regions, and metal objects from these regions have been unearthed in the capital.46 Likewise, the account records that artisan families were forcibly relocated from northwest regions to populate Pingcheng after the Northern Wei conquered the Hexi corridor in 439.47 Though stone was long used as a medium for tomb furniture, I have demonstrated how, after artisan families were transferred and monumental carved Buddhist caves were constructed near the capital, stone items in tombs were transformed from what had been largely a two-dimensional surface to one with greater three-dimensional character. As noted above, the term mondialisation more accurately encompasses this non-linear/spatial analysis of artistic forms and better accounts for local responses to change. Even more, it allows for the recognition of the many pathways and paces 45 Cheng, “Exchange across Media.” 46 Wei shu 4. 47 Wei shu 4.100.



Figure 2.3b. Gilt bronze saddle plate with hexagonal design, dated to the fourth century CE and found at Chaoyang, Liaoning (China); maximum width: 45 cm. After James C.Y. Watt et al., eds., China: Dawn of a Golden Age (New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 2004), No. 25.

of artistic exchange. And it should remind us that attention to a global expanse need not distract us from local conditions and particular contexts. As tempting as it may be to ill gaps in our knowledge with generalizations, we must not resort to uncritical monolithic understandings of “premodern Chinese civilization,” but rather look to models that can reveal the complexity of the materials we study.

A Cautionary Global I want to end with observations about structural asymmetries distinct to premodern materials and the written record in China, and a comment about the expanding discipline. Scholars interested in comparative studies, as I observed earlier, need to begin by recognizing the crucial imbalances that condition the possibility of such studies. First, the premodern textual corpus surviving from China is massive, with many texts now lost but referenced or quoted as fragments in later texts. The vast majority of these sources remain untranslated, and as classical texts they pose a formidable barrier even for native speakers of modern Chinese. These texts can be accompanied by centuries of commentary and criticism, a lineage with its own intertextuality. However, the corpus of extant early painting, the subject of most early texts devoted to art, is tiny. Many paintings are lost or known only through much later copies; if they were housed in temples, they have been destroyed. Thus, many art historians of Chinese painting are drawn to later periods. While their


30 research on understudied works and artists is steadily expanding our knowledge, more foundational work remains to be done, and collaboration among scholars should be encouraged. Indeed, scholars of Qing art are producing innovative research with attention to a “global” view.48 Second, and in stark contrast to the ield of painting, the material evidence of early funerary art far outweighs extant textual records, which tend to avoid the taboo topic of death. While some texts discuss the preparations for burials of rulers or describe appropriate rituals, descriptions of the speci ic contents of tombs are rare. The recovery of this material record is thus dependent on the work of archaeologists, and the body of evidence grows with each new excavation. It should be clear that tomb art (and Buddhist art) is critical to the study of preSong art history, occupying two millennia of history. This vast corpus of material evidence requires not only descriptive reconstruction but also clearer articulation of how art historical questions are distinct from those posed by scholars in related disciplines. There is a heightened awareness of the need for new and more nuanced methodologies for analyzing archaeological inds, and scholars have begun to consider new modes of analysis that move beyond reconciling texts with extant paintings or to seeking material af irmation of a predetermined history transmitted through texts. Although art historical methodologies have expanded to consider other types of issues (e.g. function, performance, materiality, space), “non-canonical” texts and objects are only beginning to be explored. Third, there is a problem of the overwhelming quantity of evidence. There are simply too few art historians to do the work of recovering China’s lengthy history and too much material coming out of the ground to justify a primary focus on comparative study or on a theoretical but ahistorical globalism. The structure of graduate programs up until the late twentieth century has driven scholars of Chinese art to specialize more narrowly in the sub ields of painting, architecture, Buddhist art, or funerary art—though this trend has shifted dramatically with the current generation of scholars. Yet, outside of a few research universities fortunate to have two or three specialists in Asian art, individual scholars are unrealistically expected to be masters, not only of their own sub ield, but of the entirety of China’s lengthy traditions, along with those of Japan, Korea, and even India. Though the discipline of art history has grown in China since it irst developed in the 1980s, scholars there frequently work from a range of methodologies particular to and contingent upon a given medium or time period, with variation from school to school. Archaeological material is housed in institutes outside of

48 Wang, “A Global Perspective.”


31 these departments and schools, and its scholars trained predominantly in scienti ic methods and committed to “culture history.” This recent growth of art history cannot yet compare to the generations of proli ic scholarship on the artistic traditions of Europe. We would also be remiss to assume that scholars within Chinese art departments are being trained in similar modes of analysis or that the shape of the discipline has the same trajectory. Further still, art history as practised in Taiwan or Japan emerged earlier, out of American and European institutions, and developed along a separate course, and so remains separate from the newer discipline in China. To claim that art history in other regions lags behind because scholars are still reading Gombrich or Wölf lin not only falsely assumes a shared historiographic corpus (or the universal relevance of that historiography), but also overlooks the status that may be attained by citing European language sources. If we are to incorporate multiple geographic areas into a global worldview, we must grapple with entire academic traditions that bear the weight and assumptions of their historical developments and practice. Finally, and more optimistically, Appadurai’s theory of global low, or accelerated media connectivity (mediascapes), suggests that digital capabilities open up possibilities for projects on a global scale. Online searchability of the textual corpus is now available, and greater availability of archaeological reports and images is facilitating collaborations among institutions and scholars. Other forms of digital media are also accelerating the dissemination of scholarship and collaboration. Meanwhile, the many understandings of “the global” signal how art history has been moving in multiple directions for decades. This resonates with key points raised at a 2011 workshop at the Clark Institute: art history itself is multifaceted, with some scholars claiming closer ties to anthropology, others moving towards visual culture or engaging in art criticism, so working globally does not have to incorporate a single method and may be best perceived as an “arena of productive dissonance.”49 This relinquishes the need to ind consensus, acknowledges the diversity of material and methodological approaches, and allows for different priorities to coexist. To change the structure of the discipline, we should reject the illusory unity of a singular global, acknowledge the disparities of our relative knowledge and the particular contours of our shared and distinct ields, and begin to engage in more productive dialogue.

49 Nelson, “Conversation without Borders,” 86.



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33 ——. ed. Is Art History Global? New York: Routledge, 2007. ——. Zhivka Valiavicharska, and Alice Kim, eds. Art and Globalization. University Park, PA: The Pennsylvania State University Press, 2010. Elliott, Mark. “Hushuo: The Northern Other and the Naming of the Han Chinese.” In Critical Han Studies, edited by Thomas S. Mullaney et al., 173–90. Berkeley: University of California Press, 2012. Fairbanks, John, Edwin Reischauer, and Albert Craig. East Asia: Tradition and Transformation. Revised edition. Belmont: Wadsworth Publishing, 1989. Gordon, Andrew. “Rethinking Area Studies, Once More.” Journal of Japanese Studies 30.2 (2004): 417–29. Hay, Jonathan. “Suspension of Dynastic Time.” In Boundaries in China, edited by John Hay, 171–97. London: Reaktion Books, 1994. Hodder, Ian, ed. The Meanings of Things: Material Culture and Symbolic Expression. London: Unwin Hyman, 1989. Joselit , David and Christopher Wood et al., “Roundtable: The Global before Globalization.” October 133 (2010): 3–19. Juneja, Monica. “Global Art History and the ‘Burden of Representation’.” In Global Studies: Mapping Contemporary Art and Culture, edited by Hans Belting et al., 274–97. Karlsruhe: Hatje Cantz, 2011. Kohl, Philip and Clare Fawcett, eds. Nationalism, Politics, and the Practice of Archaeology. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1995. Leibold, James. “Searching for Han.” In Critical Han Studies, edited by Thomas S. Mullaney et al., 210–33. Berkeley: University of California Press, 2012. Mullaney, Thomas S. et al., eds., Critical Han Studies: The History, Representation, and Identity of China’s Majority. Berkeley: University of California Press, 2012. Nelson, Steven. “Conversations without Borders.” In Art History in the Wake of the Global Turn, edited by Jill H. Casid and Aruna D’Souza, 79–87. Williamstown, MA: Clark Institute, 2014. Summers, David. Real Spaces: World Art History and the Rise of Western Modernism. New York: Phaidon, 2003. Tanner, Jeremy, et al. “Questions on ‘World Art History’.” Perspective 2 (2014): 211–24. von Falkenhausen, Lothar. “On the Historiographical Orientation of Chinese Archaeology.” Antiquity 67 (1993): 839–49. Wang, Cheng-hua. “A Global Perspective on Eighteenth-Century Chinese Art and Visual Culture.” Art Bulletin 96.4 (2014): 379–94. Watt, James, C. Y. et al. eds., China: Dawn of a Golden Age. New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 2004. Yang, Xiaoneng, ed. The Golden Age of Chinese Archaeology: Celebrated Discoveries from the People’s Republic of China. Washington, DC: National Gallery of Art, 1999.


34 Bonnie Cheng ([email protected]) is an associate professor at Oberlin College, where she holds a joint appointment in the Department of Art and the Department of East Asian Studies. She received her PhD in Art History from the University of Chicago. She is a specialist in funerary art from the Han through Tang; her research explores innovative technologies, artistic appropriation and exchange, and the nature of tomb space. Her work on murals, igurines, and stone funerary furniture has appeared in Archives of Asian Art, Ars Orientalis, and the Blackwell A Companion to Asian Art and Architecture (Wiley-Blackwell). Abstract This essay interrogates the recent trend toward global art history and cautions against the uncritical embrace of “the global” as an analytical frame for premodern eras at the expense of historical depth. From the vantage point of artistic practices in ifth- and sixth-century China, it argues that this is not always a productive analytic framework for describing the historical conditions of artistic and cultural exchange. However, it acknowledges that recent critical reformulations do productively challenge longstanding categories, binaries, and nationalist paradigms that are useful for the arts of an era that de ies ixed political and cultural boundaries. The conditions of this era, and funerary art’s position outside of canonical art historiography, combine to counter narrow (modern) de initions and reveal the endurance and multiplicities of interactive forms and practices. Keywords archaeology, artistic exchange, comparative art history, China, global art history, nationalism, transcultural exchange


THE FATIMID HOLY CITY: REBUILDING JERUSALEM IN THE ELEVENTH CENTURY JENNIFER PRUITT a city of contact, con lict, and change. Its globalism was characterized by a con luence of Christian, Muslim, and Jewish populations within the city and in the movement of people from the eastern Roman Empire (Byzantium), the Islamic world, and Latin Christendom. Architecturally, the monuments of the Haram al-Sharif stand as some of the most iconic structures in the history of Islamic art. Scholarly analysis of Islamic Jerusalem often focuses on the monuments of the Haram al- Sharif (known as the Temple Mount to Jews and Christians) at the time of its foundation, under the Umayyad caliphate (661– 750 CE). However, the Umayyads only controlled the city for a little more than ifty years after their construction of the Dome of the Rock (completed in 691/ 2).1 In contrast, many of the pre-Crusader monuments on the Haram al-Sharif were renovated and rebuilt under the patronage of the Ismaili Fatimid dynasty (909–1171). This essay explores the architectural history of Jerusalem in the period after the Umayyads and before the Crusades. With a focus on the interrelationship among confessional groups in Jerusalem and their identi ication with sacred space, it examines the transformation of the city in the Abbasid and Fatimid eras. In particular, the renovations to the Haram al-Sharif under the Fatimid caliph al-Zahir (r. 1021–1036) brought increased prominence and renewed building projects on the Haram al-Sharif, in marked contrast to the treatment of the city by the Abbasid rulers. This analysis of changes to and con licts surrounding sacred, confessional space illuminates global and local dynamics in architectural patronage patterns. Compared to the time of the Umayyads, Abbasid-era Jerusalem was characterized by a caliphal disinterest in the monuments of the holy city. However, it also saw growth in the identi ication between local populations and their respective religious monuments. This contest over sacred space culminated under the Fatimid dynasty, in the cataclysmic reign of al-Hakim bi-Amr Allah (r. 985–1021), who is infamous today because he called for the destruction of the Holy Sepulchre. Indeed, al-Hakim’s incursion into the city was predominantly destructive.

1 While the monuments at the time of foundation are most widely considered in scholarship, Grabar and Necipoğlu have both tackled the subject of Umayyad Jerusalem’s changing meaning: Necipoğlu, “Dome of the Rock”; Grabar’s Shape of the Holy and Dome of the Rock remain the most useful and thorough exploration of its changing forms and meaning.


36 Nevertheless, his attention to the city would have productive results for eleventhcentury Jerusalem. His successor, al-Zahir, was deeply invested in renovating the structures of the Haram al-Sharif, ushering in a chapter of architectural patronage and a resurgence of imperial interest in the structure. This essay argues that this patronage was carried out with the goal of undoing the excesses of al-Hakim’s reign. In al-Zahir’s reimagining of the sacred space, the platform’s architecture emphasized the orthodox Islamic tales of the Prophet’s night journey (isrāʾ) and ascension to heaven (miʿrāj), in direct contrast to the perceived heresies of the later years of al-Hakim’s reign.

After the Umayyads: Islamic Jerusalem in the Eighth to Tenth Centuries Sources for Jerusalem in the Abbasid period offer a hazy account of imperial interest in the city. However, an analysis of recorded events suggests a distant imperial concern with patronizing Jerusalem’s architecture. Sources record that both al-Mansur (r. 754–775) and al-Mahdi (r. 775–785) visited the city; however, there is no mention of any of the subsequent Abbasid caliphs visiting Jerusalem.2 The increased physical distance and decreased imperial interest in the city were exacerbated by a number of serious earthquakes, which led to major structural damage of the monuments on the Haram al-Sharif. However, Muslim residents of the city often rallied in support of the Islamic monuments in the face of the caliph’s opposition or inaction. This dynamic is in contrast to the model of top-down patronage that is often assumed for medieval architecture. For example, records of al-Mansur’s irst visit to the city in 758 indicate that he found the monuments on the Haram al-Sharif and the former Umayyad palace in ruins, following earthquake damage in 746. The caliph’s presence in the city suggests that it maintained a religious function. However, an account of the ruler’s encounter with the city’s Islamic monuments illustrates its more peripheral status for this dynasty. Muslim inhabitants of the city approached the caliph, requesting that he inance the restoration of the damaged mosque. The caliph replied:

2 In fact, al-Mansur visited Jerusalem twice: once after his hajj in 140/758 and a second time in 154/771, to put down a revolt. For a summary of caliphal visits, see Goitein and Grabar, “Al-Kuds.” Grabar (Dome of the Rock, 127) has suggested that these early visits may have been due to the temporary re-routing of the hajj route: during al-Mansur and al-Mahdi’s reigns, the route passed through Jerusalem. However, by the reign of al-Maʾmun, the route bypassed the city.


37 “I have no money.” Then he ordered that the plates of gold and silver that covered the doors be removed. It was so done and they converted them into dinars and dirhams which would serve to pay for the reconstruction.3 Thus, within a span of ifty years, the city’s Islamic buildings had lost the premier status they held at the time of their foundation. Rather than the ruler, it was the Muslim population who acted in support of the monument, asking the reluctant caliph for the funds to restore it. The central mosque had become such a low priority to the Abbasid ruler that he was willing to pluck off the rich decor of the iconic structure in order to inance its rebuilding. A similar example of Abbasid disinterest in Jerusalem’s monuments can be seen under al-Mansur’s successor, al-Mahdi (r. 775–785), who repaired the mosque again, following earthquake damage in 771. In this case, the tenth-century geographer al-Muqaddasi reports that the entire Aqsa mosque was destroyed, except a small portion near the mihrab.4 Like his father had done, al-Mahdi insisted that the Abbasid treasury had no money to renovate the mosque. Instead: He wrote to the governors of the provinces and to other commanders, that each should undertake the building of a colonnade. The order was carried out and the edi ice rose irmer and more substantial than it had ever been in former times.5 Once again, the reigning caliph refused to inance the renovation, instead marshalling his courtiers to repair the building.6 Al-Mahdi also determined that alMansur’s mosque was too narrow and not in much use, so that the builders should increase the width of the mosque, while shortening its length.7 It was this mosque that was seen by al-Muqaddasi during his visit in 985. In his excavations during the 1930s, Robert Hamilton found al-Muqaddasi’s description to be consistent with

3 Mujir al-Din, Histoire, 41–42; cited in Peters, Jerusalem, 215–16. 4 Al-Muqaddasi, Description of Syria, 41–42. 5 Ibid., 41. 6 Al-Muqaddasi couches the restoration in the context of religious competition in Jerusalem. Prior to discussing the restorations under al-Mahdi, he argues that the mosque’s proximity to the Holy Sepulchre made it even more beautiful than the mosque in Damascus. Ibid., 41. His account of the mosque’s response to the beauty of the Holy Sepulchre echoes his famous statement that the Dome of the Rock was constructed so that the Holy Sepulchre would not “dazzle the minds” of resident Muslims. 7 This account is recorded by al-Gharam, as quoted in LeStrange, Palestine, 92–93.


38 the archaeological record,8 noting that the mosque was made up of a wide central nave, a dome, and with parts of the older mosque incorporated into the structure.9 The next major event in the Abbasid patronage of Jerusalem’s structures was under the reign of al-Maʾmun (r. 813–833), who sponsored the building of eastern and northern gates on the Haram al-Sharif and the refurbishment of the Dome of the Rock. Like his predecessors, al-Maʾmun refused to invest his own funds in the project, although the rebuilding nevertheless asserted his presence in the city. Al-Maʾmun’s refurbishment also maintained the aesthetic style and architectural framework of the Umayyad originals so consistently that he simply replaced ʿAbd al-Malik’s name with his own in the Dome’s inscriptional band—even mimicking the gold ku ic lettering of the Umayyad original. The name of the Abbasid caliph thus looks like it could have been a part of the Umayyad original. Moreover, although the Umayyad caliph’s name was replaced, the foundational date was unaltered.10 Changing the name not only proclaimed the Abbasid ruler as the renovator of the site, but erased its Umayyad history, associating the very foundation of the Dome with Abbasid patronage. Al-Maʾmun’s investment in Jerusalem was also visible in the Aqsa mosque, in a similar manner. The eleventh-century chronicler Nasir-i Khusraw described a bronze portal with his name on it within the con ines of the mosque, said to have been sent from Baghdad. In the tenth century, Abbasid control of Jerusalem waned, as the new Tulunid and Ikhshidid dynasties took over control of the city from their base in Egypt.11 The details of this period are particularly murky, but it seems that the city gained greater signi icance in the Islamic imagination. Su is (Islamic mystics) increasingly travelled to the city, focusing their practices around the Haram al-Sharif, which witnessed a proliferation of commemorative structures, marking sacred spots on the platform, most likely built sometime in the eighth and ninth centuries. While the rulers’ role in patronizing these monuments is unclear, the rising status of the city can be seen by the fact that the Ikhshidid rulers’ bodies were transferred for burial to Jerusalem, to be interred within the con ines of the holy city.12 But given

8 Hamilton, Structural History, 72. 9 For reconstructions of the Aqsa mosque, see Grabar, Shape of the Holy; Creswell, Early Muslim Architecture; and Hamilton, Structural History. Al-Mahdi’s visit took place during a time of intense wars with Byzantium: Gil, History of Palestine, 298. 10 This inscription is published in Grabar, Dome of the Rock, 60. 11 The Tulunid and Ikhshidid rulers did not seem to have made visits to Jerusalem. Grabar, Shape of the Holy, 136. For a discussion of these groups, see Bianquis, “Autonomous Egypt from Ibn Ṭūlūn to Kāfūr, 868–969.” 12 Grabar also notes that there are a series of inscriptions from 913–14 from the beams of the ceiling, most likely recording repairs or restorations executed under the mother of the


39 the lack of written documentation of imperial patronage in this period, it is likely that the new structures represented a grassroots effort by the local population, suggesting an intimate connection between the populace and the city’s sites.

Religious Competition in Eighth- and Ninth-Century Jerusalem The eighth century witnessed a new shift in the physical makeup and population of Jerusalem, particularly under the reign of the Abbasid caliph Harun al-Rashid (r. 786–809) and the Carolingian ruler Charlemagne (r. 742–814). In this period, Latin Christianity began to alter the urban landscape. As Abbasid investment in the city waned, the Carolingian Empire’s involvement increased substantially.13 Charlemagne sponsored signi icant Christian structures within Jerusalem while recreating his own city of Aachen as a new Jerusalem in the West. In particular, a complex for the housing of Latin pilgrims was constructed near the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, bolstering the presence of a Christian confessional identity in the city. Sources from the period suggest that many Christian monuments were in full operation, with generous funding for their upkeep and with treasuries supplied by foreign Christian powers.14 Al-Maʾmun’s renovation of the Haram al-Sharif was likely carried out in reaction to Christian renovation projects in Jerusalem, in particular the renovations to the Holy Sepulchre. Indeed, records of Abbasid-era events suggest lare-ups of religious tension and competition among different religious groups in the city. Prior to al-Maʾmun’s restoration of the Haram al-Sharif, Jerusalem had suffered through several famines, including a plague of locusts, which resulted in a drastic decrease in its Muslim population.15 Taking advantage of this turmoil,

caliph al-Muqtadir, under the oversight of Labid. See Grabar, Dome of the Rock, 127. This is also mentioned in al-Muqaddasi, Description of Syria, 45. 13 Much has been written about the relationship between the Abbasids and the Franks during the reigns of Charlemagne and Harun al-Rashid. Arabic sources do not discuss this relationship; but according to an anonymous Benedictine monk, writing just after the First Crusade (1095–1099), Charlemagne visited the Holy Sepulchre with Harun al-Rashid and then covered the monument in gold and inscribed his name on it: Gil, History of Palestine, 285–87. Although the source is apocryphal, it points to the centrality of architecture in constructing religious and political claims of legitimacy in the holy city. For a discussion of Charlemagne’s imperial vision, see Latowsky, Emperor, chapter 6; Nees, “Charlemagne’s Elephant.” 14 See Peters, Jerusalem, 217–20. For a discussion of Charlemagne in Jerusalem, see Gabriele, Empire of Memory. 15 Saʿid al-Bitriq noted that “only a few of them [Muslims] remained”: see Gil, History of Palestine, 295.


40 the patriarch Thomas instituted large-scale repairs on the Holy Sepulchre.16 It was soon after this renovation that al-Maʾmun ordered reconstruction on the Haram al-Sharif, asserting the importance of Muslim presence in the city. The competition between Muslim and Christian populations became particularly tense in the tenth century, when inter-confessional strife broke out on both imperial and local levels. Mob violence against Christians occurred on a large enough scale to be recorded in medieval sources. Al-Muqaddasi’s description of the city notes that, everywhere, Christians and Jews “have the upper hand.” In particular, tales of the wealth concentrated in church treasuries aggravated local confessional con lict, centring much of the urban upheaval around these Christian spaces, particularly the Church of the Holy Sepulchre. In 937, Christians were attacked by a mob during a Palm Sunday procession and the Holy Sepulchre was set on ire, damaging its gates, the Anastasis Rotunda, and Golgotha chapel.17 In 966, mob violence damaged the Holy Sepulchre and other Christian buildings in the city, including the church of St. Constantine. Rioters set the doors and woodwork of the Holy Sepulchre on ire, destroying the roof of the basilica and the Anastasis Rotunda.18 The rioting began in the architectural space but ended with the execution of the Christian patriarch. At the same time, inter-confessional strife intensi ied between Byzantium and Islam. Byzantium embarked on a series of raids against Muslim powers, couched increasingly in terms of a holy war between Christianity and Islam.19 In 964, the Byzantine emperor proclaimed that he would retake Jerusalem from the Muslims and, in 975, the emperor John Tzimiskes sent a letter to the king of Armenia, noting his military endeavours to secure the city and situating the Holy Sepulchre at the heart of this struggle. Offering the details of his campaign, he wrote that one of his goals was “the delivery of the Holy Sepulchre of Christ our God from the bondage of the Muslims.”20 The mob attacks against the Holy Sepulchre and the emperor’s focus on the role of the monument both suggest that architectural space acted as a stage for inter-confessional rivalries.21 As tensions between Christian

16 For a list of sources, see Pringle, The Churches, vol. 3, 10. 17 This occurred when the city was under Berber control; the Ikhshidid ruler Kafur sent support: Goitein and Grabar, “Al-Kuds.” 18 Ousterhout, “Rebuilding,” 69. It took ten years to reconstruct the Anastasis and twenty to reroof the basilica. 19 Gil, History of Palestine, 344–48. 20 For a translation of the full text, see Peters, Jerusalem, 243. For a discussion of John Tzimiskes, see Walker, “The ‘Crusade’.” 21 The jockeying for confessional control may have been made visually manifest in the midtenth century. Some sources suggest that a mosque was constructed on top of a section of the


41 and Muslim populations in Jerusalem increased, both locally and on an imperial level, the Church of the Holy Sepulchre often acted as a proxy for these disputes. In summary, Jerusalem’s Islamic monuments played a signi icantly diminished role for the distant Islamic rulers in the post-Umayyad period. In the accounts of al-Mansur’s and al-Mahdi’s visits, we see that the rulers refused to fund the restoration of the central Islamic monuments, resorting to dismantling, in the case of the former, and marshalling support from provincial administrators, in the case of the latter. However, while the rulers may have withheld their support, the multi-confessional communities of Jerusalem rallied around their respective monuments. At times, the local identi ication with architectural space resulted in attacks, as in the tenth-century targeting of the Church of the Holy Sepulchre. The rising tension around sectarian space would reach its culmination in the eleventh century, with the reign of al-Hakim bi-Amr Allah.

A Turning Point: Destruction in the Reign of the “Mad Caliph” In the summer of 970, the Ismaili Shiʿi Fatimid dynasty conquered Palestine, including Jerusalem, from their new capital in Cairo. The Fatimids believed that the rightful caliph of all Muslims must be descended from the Prophet Muhammad, through the line of his daughter, Fatima, and his cousin/son-in-law ʿAli. They also considered the ruler of the empire as the “imam of the age,” the holder of all esoteric (bāṭin) and exoteric (ẓāhir) knowledge. Their religious and political ideology thus distinguished the Fatimids from the previous Muslim rulers of the city and from the majority Sunni population of Jerusalem. Sixty years prior to their conquest of Egypt and Palestine, the Fatimids had declared themselves the rightful caliphs of all of Islam. This declaration would usher in a new era in Islamic history, in which the uni ied caliphate of the Umayyads and early Abbasids would be fragmented into three rival groups—the Abbasids in Baghdad; the Umayyads of al-Andalus (Spain); and the Fatimids. Following their conquest of Palestine, however, the Fatimids would fail to exert strong control in the region and their reign would be plagued by local, tribal uprisings and Byzantine incursions, generally making the Fatimid period a time of turmoil for Palestine.22 Holy Sepulchre. However, the details of this—if it occurred—are lacking: see Grabar, Shape of the Holy, 142. Van Berchem (Matériaux, 52–67) connected an inscriptional fragment with this mosque. 22 For a summary of events, see Gil, History of Palestine, 336–37. In addition to the Byzantines, various tribes rose up against the Fatimids during this period, including the group of Palestinian Bedouin called the Banu Tayy, led by the Jarrahids, the Qarmaṭis, and other Arab tribes in Syria.


42 Particularly troubling for the Fatimids, sources suggest that the Muslim population in Jerusalem did not generally accept these rulers as the legitimate caliphs.23 Meanwhile, we have little record of architectural patronage by the early Fatimid caliphs in Jerusalem. Al-Muʿizz (r. 953–975) and al-ʿAziz (r. 975–996) do not appear to have sponsored major projects in the city. This fact is somewhat surprising, given their interest in expanding their rule further to the east. Instead, most of these early caliphs’ architectural projects were focused on the new capital in Cairo. Fatimid architectural interest in Jerusalem shifted dramatically under the notorious reign of the caliph al-Hakim bi-Amr Allah (r. 996–1021). Often derided as psychotic by modern scholars, al-Hakim is infamous as a cruel persecutor of Christians, Jews, and women; destroyer of churches and synagogues; and yet is also regarded as a divine igure by adherents of the later Druze faith. In Jerusalem, al-Hakim violently altered the city’s architectural composition by presiding over the destruction of the Church of the Holy Sepulchre around 1010.24 Since the church had been protected by an earlier treaty with Byzantium, this would spark years of discord between the Fatimids and Byzantines. Yet the precise reasons for the destruction are debated. Some sources suggest that the Byzantine emperor was often there, escalating tensions in the city; others suggest that the caliph was outraged that Christians visited the church as Muslims visit Mecca; other sources suggest that Muslims were angered by tales of the Miracle of the Holy Fire.25 In any case, al-Hakim’s destruction of the Holy Sepulchre asserted Muslim dominance over the contested city, putting a temporary end to the struggle over the sacred space. By 1020, only ten years after these large-scale destructions, al-Hakim allowed for the rebuilding of churches in Egypt and Jerusalem, a reversal that raised eyebrows for later Muslim geographers, as did his permission for recently converted Muslims to revert to Christianity and Judaism. Although scholars have often dismissed al-Hakim’s destruction of the Holy Sepulchre as a symptom of his madness, we have seen that the church had been attacked by the local Muslim populations several times in the previous centuries. It had stood as a symbol of Christian power among the local populations and as an 23 Ibid., 352–53. 24 Sources disagree on the precise date of the church’s destruction, with Muslim sources generally stating that the destruction occurred ca. 1007 and Christian sources suggesting a slightly later date of 1009 or 1010. The destruction of the church was followed by several years of massive church destructions authorized by the caliph, particularly in Cairo: Pruitt, “Method in Madness.” For a thorough analysis of al-Hakim’s reign, including a translation of many of the key sources, see Walker, Caliph of Cairo. 25 Canard, “La Destruction.” For a contemporary Latin account, see Callahan, “Al-Hākim, Charlemagne.”


43 impetus for holy war on the part of the Byzantine emperor.26 Indeed, its destruction had further repercussions within the Byzantine Empire, which were also expressed through claims on sectarian space. In particular, it seems that at some point after the church’s destruction, the Byzantines closed the mosque in Constantinople in retaliation for al-Hakim’s act.27 In this way, the religious spaces became pawns in imperial negotiations: the mosque in Constantinople acted as a proxy for the Fatimid state, while the Holy Sepulchre was a stand-in for Byzantium.28

Rebuilding the Fatimid City: Imperial Investment in the Reign of Al-Zahir (1021–1036) The inal seven years of al-Hakim’s life was a period of upheaval for the Fatimids.29 The caliph’s actions became increasingly erratic, as noted above, and in 1014, he named his cousin Ibn Ilyas as his successor, rather than his son, al-Zahir. Given that the basis of Fatimid legitimacy was patrimonial lineage, this was a radically destabilizing move. In 1017, a new doctrine began circulating in Cairo, declaring the divinity of al-Hakim and claiming that he had superseded the Prophet Muhammad as God’s representative on earth. Its initial promulgators were Hamza bin Allah and Muhammd ad-Darazi, from whose name this new Druze movement is derived. The Druze held that because the messiah had come, the Islamic sharia, based on the teachings of the Qur’an and hadith, should be abandoned in this new age. The new doctrine sowed discontent within the Fatimid ranks and further destabilized their legitimacy throughout the Islamic world. In 1021, when al-Hakim mysteriously disappeared, the Druze even maintained that he had not died and would return at the end of days. Following the disappearance of al-Hakim, his powerful sister, Sitt al-Mulk (r. 1021–1023), took control of the Fatimid state.30 She was largely concerned with undoing the chaos of the previous years, seeking to distance the Fatimids from

26 Al-Muqaddasi’s well-known comments on the founding of Jerusalem support the competitive discourse surrounding the city, suggesting that ʿAbd al-Malik constructed the Dome of the Rock to rival the beauty of the Church of the Holy Sepulchre: see Ruggles, Islamic Art. 27 One can infer its closure from the reference to the mosque’s reopening in Constantinople under al-Zahir: see al-Maqrizi, Ittiʿaz, 2:176. See also Lev, State and Society, 40; Runciman, “The Byzantine ‘Protectorate’.” 28 Anderson, “Islamic Spaces.” 29 For an analysis of this period, see Walker, Caliph of Cairo, 239–62. 30 For a consideration of Sitt al-Mulk’s fascinating career, see Cortese and Calderini, Women, 117–27; Halm, “Le Destin.”


44 the Druze heresy and restoring order within the empire. Under her guidance, alHakim’s son, al-Zahir, duly succeeded to the throne and immediately condemned those who proclaimed his father’s divinity or who deviated from Islam. Many Druze adherents were imprisoned and killed, while others led Egypt for the Levant.31 As part of these efforts to counter the turmoil of his father’s reign, alZahir also invested substantial resources in the restoration of Jerusalem, opening a new chapter of Fatimid patronage that made an indelible contribution to the cityscape.32 Even within the context of the urban unrest in Cairo, wars, Bedouin insurrections, and plague, al-Zahir prioritized the reconstruction of Jerusalem’s urban infrastructure, which was in great peril, and was further damaged by an earthquake in 1033.33 Unlike the ninth-century restorations of its monuments, which were begrudgingly executed by the Abbasid rulers, al-Zahir supported a full-scale rehabilitation of the Haram al-Sharif’s Islamic structures. That these restorations were undertaken during a period of great strife for the Fatimids further emphasizes al-Zahir’s commitment to Jerusalem, whose architectural framework changed dramatically as a result. The Aqsa mosque was reconstructed, with an elaborate mosaic program added to its new maqṣūra (see below, and Plates 3.1–4). The Dome of the Rock was repaired. According to sources, inscriptions naming the Fatimid ruler were added to the Haram al-Sharif. In addition, the city’s reconstruction extended beyond Islamic holy spaces. The city walls were rebuilt. Al-Zahir even allowed the reconstruction of the Church of the Holy Sepulchre. By the end of his reign, the two most prominent sacred spaces of the city would have intimate imperial associations, with the Byzantines claiming the Holy Sepulchre and the Fatimids claiming the Haram al-Sharif. Moreover, the latter was more powerfully and overtly connected with the miraculous event of the Prophet’s night journey (isrāʾ) and ascension (miʿrāj). I argue that al-Zahir’s investment in Jerusalem and in sites more explicitly tied to these miraculous events were in reaction to the internal threats of the heretical Druze movement, which declared the divinity of al-Hakim and preached that his disappearance was a result of his occultation. al-Zahir’s architectural argument against these claims was to restore and embellish the monuments of Jerusalem which emphasized the particular holiness of the Prophet Muhammad, by celebrating his ascension to heaven. This is especially evident in his renovation of the al-Aqsa mosque.

31 Lev, State and Society, 36–37. 32 Grabar, “Fatimid City” in Grabar, Shape of the Holy, 135–69; Bloom, Arts, 81–83. 33 Events during the whole of al-Zahir’s reign are dif icult to make out. We have very detailed accounts preserved by al-Musabbihi, but these stop in 1025, at the peak of unrest. See Lev, State and Society, 38.


45 The current form of the Aqsa mosque includes many Crusader-era additions. However, at its core, it preserves much of the plan of al-Zahir’s renovations (Plate 3.1).34 Based on restoration work to the mosque in the 1920s and the description of the mosque by Nasir-i Khusraw, scholars have determined that the Fatimid structure was made up of seven aisles of arcades running perpendicular to the qibla wall. Each of these aisles consisted of eleven arches, with the exception of two on either side of the central aisle, which was twice the width and featured a clerestory, gable roof, and wooden dome.35 Thus, it appears that the mosque of alZahir was signi icantly narrower than the Abbasid-era mosque of al-Mahdi, even as it possessed many of the same basic features.36 Restoration work also uncovered a splendid Fatimid-era mosaic and painted decoration in the dome and its supporting arches. The lavish mosaic program, dating to the reign of al-Zahir, is executed in the pendentives leading to the dome, the drum of the dome, and in the archway through which one entered the domed space in front of the mihrab—an assemblage I will refer to as the maqṣūra (Plates 3.1–4).37 The mosaic program here clearly harks back to the Umayyad mosaic program, as seen in ʿAbd al-Malik’s Dome of the Rock.38 This is signi icant because, at the time of al-Zahir’s renovations, mosaics appear infrequently in Islamic architecture.39 Their inclusion in the mosque therefore linked the Fatimid-era program to the Umayyad prototype.40 34 Much of the determination of the dating was carried out by Hamilton in Structural History. On Mimar Kemalettin’s restoration work, see Creswell, Early Muslim Architecture, vol. 2 121–22; and Yavuz, “Restoration.” 35 Creswell, Early Muslim Architecture, vol. 2, 121–22. 36 For a reconstruction, see Grabar, Shape of the Holy, 150; Creswell, Early Muslim Architecture, vol. 2, 119–26; Hamilton, Structural History. 37 Grabar has referred to this assemblage as a “triumphal arch”: Shape of the Holy, 149. The mosaic program as a whole has been studied by Stern, “Recherches.” For a discussion of mosaics in Islamic art and architecture, see Bloom and Blair, Grove Encyclopedia, vol. 2, 207–8. Here, I am calling the assemblage consisting of dome, archways, pendentives, and mini domes maqṣūra. This term refers to a special, elaborated space in the mosque but does not preserve the original meaning of a space reserved for the ruler. 38 Stern, “Recherches.” 39 The practice is rare enough that one wonders if the same mosaicists may have been employed in the reconstruction of the Haram al-Sharif and of the Holy Sepulchre, which would also have had a new mosaic program: see Ousterhout, “Rebuilding,” 70–71. For a discussion of mosaics in Islamic art, see Bloom and Blair, Grove Encyclopedia, vol. 1, 207–9. 40 The most famous post-Syrian Umayyad use of mosaics in Islamic architecture is found at the Umayyad Great Mosque of Cordoba. In this case, the use of mosaics most likely hearkened back to Syrian Umayyad precedents: Dodds, “Great Mosque”; Khoury, “Meaning”; Ruggles, “Great Mosque.” On Umayyad revivals, see Flood, “Umayyad Survivals.”


46 However, the precise forms do not have any direct precedent. In the monumental arch, large-scale vegetal motifs sprout from small vases, and while the vegetal tendrils mimic those found in the Dome of the Rock, they are executed on a much larger scale and feature unusual loral motifs capping them off. At the top of the arch, above the Umayyad-inspired mosaic program, is a long line of golden inscriptions, written in two bands (Plate 3.2). This inscription includes the irst appearance of Qur’an verse 17:1 on the platform, associating this mosque directly with the masjid al-Aqṣā described in the Qur’anic account of the Prophet’s night journey. In the name of God, the Compassionate, the Merciful, Glory to the One who took his servant for a journey by night from the masjid al- haram to the masjid al-aqsa whose precincts we have blessed. [… He] has renovated it, our lord Ali Abu al-Hasan the imam al-Zahir li’Aziz din Allah, Commander of the Faithful, son of al-Hakim bi-Amr Allah, Commander of the Faithful, may the blessing of God be on him and his pure ancestors, and on his noble descendants. By the hand of Ali ibn Abd al-Rahman, may God reward him. The [job] was supervised by Abu al-Wasim and al-Sharif al-Hasan al-Husaini.41 While the style of the loral decoration on the arch recalls the Umayyad past, the inscription links the work directly with the Fatimid patrons. It not only names the current ruler of the Fatimid empire (al-Zahir) but ties him directly to his controversial father (al-Hakim). Moreover, it includes the speci ically Shiʿi formula calling for the blessings of God on the “pure ancestors” and “noble descendants.” In this way, while the decorative form of the mosaics carries on the traditions of the past, the inscriptional content puts an emphatically Fatimid stamp on this holy space. In addition to the inscriptional program on the arch, the Fatimid restoration inserted four highly unusual recessed roundels, executed in mosaic, on the pendentives of al-Aqsa’s dome (Plates 3.3–4). Each of these is comprised of four concentric circles, executed on alternating planes of silver and gold. Moving from the outside of the circle inward, we ind alternating palm fronds and eight-pointed stars on a silver background; a series of depictions of the peacock eye motif on a gold background; alternating rectangular and ovoid lozenges on a silver background, with a multi-lobed golden form in the centre. The recessed execution of the roundels results in the presence of four mini domes, surrounding the larger

41 Translation in Grabar, Shape of the Holy, 151. See also Hamilton, Structural History, 452–53; van Berchem, Matériaux.


47 dome in the centre (Plate 3.3).42 These devices are, as far as I know, unprecedented in the history of Islamic art and their meaning requires further contextualization (see below). During the reign of the al-Zahir’s son and successor, al-Mustansir (r. 1029– 1094), the Persian Ismaili poet and philosopher Nasir-i Khusraw (d. 1077) wrote a highly valuable irst-hand account of his travels ( Safarnama),43 which describes his impressions of al-Zahir’s recently restored monuments. 44 His account begins in 1046, as he set out for the hajj. The text provides valuable insight into the Muslim perspective on Jerusalem as a holy city (“Quds”) and the Haram al-Sharif as the site of the Prophet’s night journey and ascension. He emphasizes Jerusalem’s distinction as a pilgrimage destination, noting that Muslims could perform the rituals of hajj in Jerusalem if they could not make it to Mecca.45 Pilgrims would have been particularly plentiful in the time of his visit, as the Fatimid ruler had advised Egyptians to forgo the hajj to Mecca on account of famine in that city. Nasir-i Khusraw also presented the city as a pilgrimage centre for Christians and Jews, whom he describes visiting the city’s churches and synagogues. In his detailed description of the Haram al-Sharif, Nasir-i Khusraw refers to the entirety of the site as masjid (mosque).46 Taking the reader on a walking tour of the platform, he approaches the Haram al-Sharif through a gateway adorned with designs and patterned with colored glass cubes set in plaster. The whole produces an effect dazzling to the eye. There is an inscription on the gateway, also in glass mosaic, with the titles of the sultan of Egypt. When the sun strikes this, the rays play so that the mind of the beholder is absolutely stunned.47 42 Nasir-i Khusraw comments on the effect of light in the mosque at different times of day, noting that “When all the doors are opened, the inside of the mosque is as light as an open courtyard. However, when the wind is blowing or it is raining, the doors are closed, and then light comes from skylights.” Nasir-i Khusraw, Safarnama, 35. 43 Although he would later become a major igure in Ismaili thought, it is not clear whether his conversion to Ismailism occurred before or after his voyage: see Nasir-i Khusraw, Safarnama; Nanji, “Nāṣir-i Khusraw.” 44 The travelogue is also particularly valuable for its description of Cairo and Mecca. Nasir-i Khusraw entered Jerusalem on the ifth of Ramadan 438 (5 March 1047): Safarnama, 27. 45 The account does not suggest that Jerusalem was meant to overtake Mecca as a pilgrimage centre. 46 At irst he refers to the Aqsa mosque itself as maqṣūra, to distinguish it from the Haram al-Sharif, then later he calls it masjid al-Aqsa. 47 Nasir-i Khusraw, Safarnama, 28 (emphasis added). Nasir-i Khusraw calls it David’s Gate but Oleg Grabar identi ies it as the Gate of the Chain: Shape of the Holy, 146.


48 This vivid description demonstrates that the name of the Fatimid ruler—here, he is called simply “sultan of Egypt”—was displayed prominently as one entered the Haram al-Sharif, explicitly announcing the Fatimid rule’s patronage of the sacred space. Nor is this the only instance of the ruler’s name being prominently displayed on the Haram al-Sharif. In his description of the Dome of the Rock, Nasir-i Khusraw inventories the furnishings of the space and notes that [t]here are many silver lamps here, and on each one is written its weight. They were donated by the sultan of Egypt … They said that every year the sultan of Egypt sends many candles, one of which was this one, for it had the sultan’s name written in gold letters around the bottom.48 Once again, the ruler is not named; however, in this instance, he describes the patronage as occurring annually, suggesting that the candles must have featured the name of al-Mustansir. Nasir-i Khusraw’s account suggests that, unlike the tepid, occasional support of Jerusalem offered in the previous centuries, the Fatimids were committed to regular upkeep of the holy sites. The display of the ruler’s name on the gates and in the furnishings of the Dome of the Rock made the imperial support of Islamic architecture directly and frequently visible to visitors of the site, suggesting that imperial legitimacy was gained through architectural patronage. The practice of prominently featuring the ruler’s name on the Haram al-Sharif is also consistent with the Fatimid promotion, in Cairo, of “public texts” in which exterior architectural inscriptions became an aesthetic hallmark of the dynasty.49 While the reliance on mosaic decoration continued the Umayyad traditions of design, the prominence of names and titles in public spaces carried on a well-established Fatimid prerogative. In describing the reconstructed al-Aqsa mosque, Nasir-i Khusraw also offers lengthy descriptions of its measurements, providing quantitative data for the number of columns and other architectural details, paying particular attention to a cataloguing of the soft furnishings in the structure, noting the presence of Magrebi carpets, lamps, and lanterns. However, his account does not describe the new, elaborate Fatimid mosaic program in the Aqsa mosque. While frustrating for the art historian, a lack of attention to aesthetic practice, as opposed to physical description, is not unusual in Arabic sources.50 And although our medieval geographer fails to mention this elaborate mosaic program, his descriptions help to contextualize the visual

48 Nasir-i Khusraw, Safarnama, 32 (emphasis added). 49 For an analysis of the Fatimid public text, see Bierman, Writing Signs. 50 Rabbat, “ʿAjīb and Gharīb.”


49 program of the new maqṣūra, particularly the inscriptional content and the curious inclusion of the mini domes in the pendentives. Based on Qur’anic passages and hadith, it is believed that Muhammad was miraculously transported by night from Mecca to Jerusalem on a heavenly steed named al-Buraq (the isrāʾ).51 From Jerusalem, he ascended to heaven to meet with God (the miʿrāj). These are not only two of the most important episodes in the Islamic tradition, they are the moments that most distinctly mark Jerusalem (in general) and the Haram al-Sharif (in particular) as sites of Muslim veneration. Yet much ink has been spilt in attempting to determine exactly when the Dome of the Rock became known as the spot from which Muhammad ascended to heaven.52 While Nasir-i Khusraw’s account does not associate the Dome speci ically with the Prophet’s ascension, he makes it clear that the Haram al-Sharif itself was associated intimately with both the isrāʾ and the miʿrāj. He describes the Dome’s rock outcropping as the irst qibla (place of prayer oriented toward Mecca) and the Aqsa mosque as “the spot to which God transported Muhammad from Mecca on the night of his heavenly ascent.”53 As Oleg Grabar has demonstrated, the Fatimid-era platform looked substantially different from the Umayyad-era platform, with numerous commemorative structures marking the sacred spaces of Islam.54 As groups, these new monuments mark important sites in the prophetic tradition, signi icant places in Islamic eschatology, and sites associated with the miʿrāj.55 For example, Nasir-i Khusraw’s account describes the proliferation of domes, gates, and small commemorative structures on the sacred platform, especially four domes near one another, the largest of which was the Dome of the Rock.56 Three of these domes he associates directly with the story of the miʿrāj: They say that on the night of the ascent into heaven the Prophet irst prayed in the Dome of the Rock and placed his hand on the Rock. As he

51 The episode is described in Qur’an 17:1, which says, “Praise Him who made His servant journey in the night (asrā) from the sacred sanctuary (al-masjid al-ḥarām) to the remotest sanctuary (al-masjid al-aqṣā).” 52 For discussions, see Mourad, “Jerusalem”; Elad, Medieval Jerusalem; Grabar, Shape of the Holy and Dome of the Rock; Rabbat, “The Meaning.” 53 Nasir-i Khusraw, Safarnama, 20–30 and 34. 54 For a reconstruction of the Fatimid-era platform, see Grabar, Shape of the Holy, chapter 4. 55 For an analysis of the monuments in relation to Islamic eschatology, see Necipoğlu, “Dome of the Rock.” 56 Although the structures have been rebuilt over the centuries, the Haram al-Sharif still features many of these domes and gates. For an aerial view of the platform, see https:// wiki/ Temple_ Mount#/ media/ File:Israel- 2013(2)- Aerial- JerusalemTemple_Mount-Temple_Mount_(south_exposure).jpg.


50 was coming out, the Rock rose up because of his majesty. He put his hand on the Rock again, and it froze in its place, half of it still suspended in the air. From there the Prophet went to the dome that is attributed to him and mounted the Buraq, for which reason that dome is so venerated. 57 Thus, although the Dome of the Rock is not mentioned as the precise spot from which the Prophet is believed to have ascended into heaven, it is characterized as marking an important moment in the miʿrāj story. A similar meaning is ascribed to the Prophet’s Dome. In addition to these two domes, Nasir-i Khusraw asserts that Gabriel’s Dome is the spot whence “Buraq was brought … for the Prophet to mount.” In this way, the domes on the platform of the Haram al-Sharif commemorate moments in the ascension story. Given this historical context and the religious associations attached to the Haram al-Sharif in the eleventh century, how might we make sense of the inscriptional program and circular shapes in the renovated Aqsa mosque’s maqṣūra? As I have noted, the concentric circle of mini domes is very unusual in the history of Islamic art.58 I would posit that they were meant to evoke the domed structures that sat just beyond the Aqsa mosque, on the Haram al-Sharif. For as one walks through the Fatimid-era arch into the domed maqṣūra, the visitor irst encounters Qur’anic verse 17:1, which explicitly mentions the Prophet’s Night Journey. Its presence within this structure appears to assert that the viewer is standing on the very spot to which the Prophet was transported during the miraculous event. Progressing through the arch, the visitor turns up to face the mosaic mini domes, which move the eye toward heaven while recalling the domes on the Haram alSharif. These domes commemorate the second part of this story, the Prophet’s ascension. Taken as a whole, then, the new Fatimid maqṣūra functioned as a microcosmic representation of Jerusalem’s sacred role in Islam. Much of al-Zahir’s reign was devoted to undoing the damage of al-Hakim’s late days and the chaos of the rising Druze movement. Accordingly, he would have had a particularly strong motivation for promoting this orthodox, Islamic episode of the Prophet’s direct encounter with God. Attempting to wipe away the heresy of the Druze proclamation of al-Hakim’s divinity and occultation, al-Zahir invested lavishly in this commemoration of the Qur’anic argument for the Prophet’s primacy in the faith. In Islam, the ruler does not ascend to heaven; only the Prophet is

57 Nasir-i Khusraw, Safarnama, 39. 58 The closest parallel I have found are in the roundels often found in the pendentives of Ottoman-era mosques, most notably that of the Suleymaniye mosque. However, these roundels, in addition to being ive hundred years later, are not recessed.


51 capable of this feat. But, one might ask, if al-Zahir was concerned with distancing the Fatimids from the heresy of the Druze movement and reversing the excesses of alHakim’s late reign, why does he include his father’s name in the maqṣūra’s inscription asserting that the renovation was carried out by “the imam al-Zahir liʾAziz din Allah, Commander of the Faithful, son of al-Hakim bi-Amr Allah, Commander of the Faithful”? It is highly unusual for a Fatimid inscription to include both the name of the reigning caliph and the name of his father.59 However, including both names serves to discredit the Druze heresy and proclaims al-Zahir as the rightful successor to his father, rather than the cousin, Ibn Ilyas. It also counters the Druze teaching that al-Hakim did not actually die. Naming the order of rightful succession in the inscription asserts that al-Hakim was, indeed, dead and that al-Zahir was his legitimate successor. In effect, the inscription asserts that there was nothing unusual in the transference of power from al-Hakim to al-Zahir—a statement that couldn’t be further from the truth.

Conclusion The role of Jerusalem changed dramatically in the post-Umayyad, pre-Crusader period. In the centuries of Abbasid rule, the monuments of the Haram al-Sharif were of little interest to the rulers in Baghdad. However, the local population of Jerusalem was invested in the status of the Islamic structures, calling on the distant rulers to restore them, with lukewarm compliance by the Abbasid caliphs. Following the Abbasids, Jerusalem once again rose in status, with the destructive and turbulent reign of al-Hakim prompting a major shift in the role of the city and its Islamic monuments. The Fatimid renewal of the Haram al-Sharif under al-Zahir operated in concert with the Byzantine renewal of the Holy Sepulchre, following a 1030 treaty between the two empires.60 These renovations symbolized both a new era of peace between the polities and a new distinction between Islamic and Christian spaces in the holy city. Al-Zahir’s renovations of the monuments on the Haram al-Sharif announced an intimate relationship between the dynasty and the sacred site, one that had not been encountered since the Umayyad era. Visitors to the platform saw elaborately refurbished monuments and encountered the ruler’s name inscribed throughout. Inside the Aqsa mosque, the visitor marvelled at the new Fatimid maqṣūra. This

59 It is so unusual that Caroline Williams mistakenly named the inscription on the Aqmar Mosque in Cairo (1125) as the only example of this formula. She interprets this much later inscription in the context of a similar twelfth-century succession crisis: “The Cult.” 60 Ousterhout, “Rebuilding.”


52 article has argued that through its arches and unusual mini domes, the maqṣūra functioned as a model-in-miniature for the commemorative monuments on the sacred platform—thereby reminding visitors of the city’s sacred role in the isrāʾ and miʿrāj. The architectural form and inscriptional content of the renovations thus emphasized an orthodox Islamic view of man’s encounter with the divine and insisted on the mortality of the late ruler, in direct contrast to Druze doctrine regarding al-Hakim’s divinity and occultation. Ultimately, the destructive reign of al-Hakim acted as a catalyst for his successor’s constructive investment in the city, which called increasing attention to Jerusalem as a global stage for architectural patronage—one that would have dramatic repercussions in the decades and centuries to come.



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55 Mourad, Suleiman. “The Symbolism of Jerusalem in Early Islam.” In Jerusalem: Idea and Reality, edited by Suleiman Mourad, 86–102. New York: Routledge, 1996. Mulder, Stephennie F. The Shrines of the ʿAlids in Medieval Syria: Sunnis, Shiʿis and the Architecture of Coexistence. Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, 2014. Nanji, Azim. “Nāṣir-i Khusraw.” In Encyclopaedia of Islam, 2nd edition, 2012. Nasir-i Khusraw. Nasir-i Khusraw’s Book of Travels: Safarnama. Translated by Wheeler M. Thackston. Bibliotheca Iranica: Intellectual Traditions Series. Albany: Mazda, 2001. Necipoğlu, Gülru. “The Dome of the Rock as Palimpsest: ʿAbd al-Malik’s Grand Narrative and Sultan Süleyman’s Glosses.” Muqarnas 25 (2008): 17–105. Nees, Lawrence. “Charlemagne’s Elephant.” Quintana. Revista do Departamento de Historia da Arte, Universidade de Santiago de Compostela 5 (2006): 13–49. Obeid, Anis. The Druze and Their Faith in Tawhid. Syracuse, NY: Syracuse University Press, 2006. Ousterhout, Robert G. “Rebuilding the Temple: Constantine Monomachus and the Holy Sepulcher.” Journal of the Society of Architectural Historians 48 (1989): 66–78. Peters, F. E. Jerusalem. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1995. Pringle, Denys. The Churches of the Crusader Kingdom of Jerusalem: A Corpus, 4 vols. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1993–2009 . Pruitt, Jennifer. “Method in Madness: Reconsidering Church Destructions in the Fatimid Era.” Muqarnas 30 (2013): 119–39. ——. “The Miracle of Muqattam: Moving a Mountain to Build a Church in Fatimid Egypt.” In Sacred Precincts: The Religious Architecture of Non-Muslim Communities across the Islamic World, edited by Mohammad Gharipour, 277– 90. Leiden: Brill, 2014. Rabbat, Nasser. “ʿAjīb and Gharīb: Artistic Perception in Medieval Arabic Sources.” Medieval History Journal (2006): 99–113. ——. “The Dome of the Rock Revisited: Some Remarks on al-Wasiti’s Accounts.” Muqarnas 10 (1993): 67–75. ——. “The Meaning of the Umayyad Dome of the Rock.” Muqarnas 6 (1989): 12–21. Rosen-Ayalon, Myriam. The Early Islamic Monuments of Al-Haram Al-Sharīf: An Iconographic Study. Jerusalem: Hebrew University of Jerusalem, 1989. Ruggles, D. F. “The Great Mosque of Cordoba.” In The Literature of Al-Andalus, edited by Raymond P. Scheindlin, Maria Rosa Menocal, and Michael Sells, 159– 64. New York: Cambridge University Press, 2000. ——. Islamic Art and Visual Culture: An Anthology of Sources. Malden, MA: WileyBlackwell, 2011. Runciman, S. “The Byzantine ‘Protectorate’ in the Holy Land.” Byzantion 18 (1948): 207–15. Sacy, Silvestre de. Exposé de la religion des Druzes. Paris, 1838.


56 Stern, Henri. “Recherches sur la mosquée Aqsa et ses mosaiques.” Ars Orientalis 5 (1963): 27–47. Walker, Paul. Caliph of Cairo: Al-Hakim bi-Amr Allah, 996–1021. Cairo: American University in Cairo Press, 2009. ——. “The ‘Crusade’ of John Tzimisces in the Light of New Arabic Evidence.” Byzantion 47 (1977): 301–27. Williams, Caroline. “The Cult of ʿAlid Saints in the Fatimid Monuments of Cairo. Part I: The Mosque of Al-Aqmar.” Muqarnas 1 (1983): 37–52. Yavuz, Yildirim. “The Restoration Project of the Masjid Al-Aqsa by Mimar Kemalettin.” Muqarnas 13 (1996): 149–64.

Jennifer Pruitt ([email protected]) is an assistant professor in Islamic Art History at the University of Wisconsin–Madison. Her research investigates art and architecture in the medieval Islamic world; the role of the caliphate and sectarian identity in architectural production; the status of Christian art in medieval Islam; and cross-cultural exchange in the medieval world. She is completing her book manuscript, Building the Caliphate: Construction, Destruction, and Sectarian Identity in Fatimid Architecture (909–1031). Abstract This essay explores the architectural history of Jerusalem in the Abbasid (751–970) and Fatimid (970–1036) periods. Compared to the time of the Umayyads (661–750), Abbasid-era Jerusalem was characterized by a caliphal disinterest in the monuments of the holy city. However, it also saw growth in the identi ication between local populations and their respective religious monuments. This contest over sacred space culminated under the Fatimid dynasty, in the cataclysmic reign of al-Hakim bi-Amr Allah (r. 985–1021), who is infamous today because he called for the destruction of the Holy Sepulchre. Indeed, al-Hakim’s incursion into the city was predominantly destructive. Nevertheless, his attention to the city would have productive results for eleventh-century Jerusalem. His successor, al-Zahir, was deeply invested in renovating the structures of the Haram al-Sharif, ushering in a chapter of architectural patronage and a resurgence of imperial interest in the structure. This essay argues that this patronage was carried out with the goal of undoing the excesses of al-Hakim’s reign. In al-Zahir’s reimagining of the sacred space, the platform’s architecture emphasized the orthodox Islamic tales of the Prophet’s night journey (isrāʾ) and ascension to heaven (miʿrāj), in direct contrast to the perceived heresies of the later years of al-Hakim’s reign. Keywords Islamic architecture, medieval Jerusalem, Aqsa Mosque, Dome of the Rock, Byzantium, Holy Sepulchre, Haram al-Sharif, Charlemagne, Fatimids



, of the global turn in art history, scholars redirect attention from “roots” to “routes,”1 then manuscript studies—as traditionally de ined—might be in trouble. Conventional approaches have focused on the former, tracing recension schemas in an attempt to recreate the pictorial programs of lost archetypes from later copies, charting lines of pictorial “in luence.” Individual manuscripts, according to this line of thought, are valued primarily as “witnesses” to lost originals as part of an always-elusive recuperative agenda.2 While many scholars have offered cogent critiques of this genealogical method,3 the quest for origins still looms large, especially for manuscript traditions that span multiple cultural contexts. The shortcomings of this method are thrown into especially sharp contrast by the corpus of manuscripts that form the core of this essay: the illustrated Greek copies of Barlaam and Ioasaph, a high-drama edifying tale based loosely on the life of the Buddha and translated into a staggering number of languages from around the medieval and early modern world. Specialized studies have attended to individual recension programs and modes of translation, while cross-cultural overviews showcase the tale’s wide currency.4 Alongside this wide terrain of textual diffusion is a signi icant, and somewhat unwieldy, body of visual material. Of the roughly 160 surviving Greek manuscripts of the text, a dozen were conceived In addition to an anonymous reader, I would like to thank the following colleagues for conversations about the topic or feedback on the piece, whose shortcomings remain my own: Barbara Crostini, Shannon Gayk, Aden Kumler, Amanda Luyster, Peggy McCracken, Christina Normore, Jonathan Sachs, and especially Carol Symes. While Brooke Andrade and Sarah Harris of the National Humanities Center offered bibliographic assistance at the early stages of this project, Alexandra Kelebay, Catherine Becker, and Columba Stewart were instrumental in sourcing the inal images. This research was funded by a grant from the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada. 1 See Clifford, “Traveling Cultures” and “Diasporas” in Routes. This paradigm is taken up productively by Flood, Objects. 2 For example, Weitzmann, Illustrations. 3 For example, Dolezal, “Elusive Quest” and “Manuscript Studies.” See also Lowden, “Transmission.” 4 Lopez and McCracken, In Search.




as illustrated copies; their pictorial programs irst received systematic attention from Sirapie Der Nersessian, whose study of 1937 is complemented by the recent critical edition of the Greek text by Robert Volk.5 Both are irmly anchored in a roots-origins approach: Der Nersessian imagined a singular (lost) iconographic prototype of ca. 1000, whereas Volk posited ive versions of the text and three distinct pictorial cycles. In addition to the illuminated manuscripts themselves, imagery drawn from the legend has found its way into a variety of other artistic contexts around the globe. Despite much rigorous scholarship, however, our understanding of this diffuse visual corpus is still somewhat fragmentary, and issues of transmission overshadow virtually all other potential research questions. This essay synthesizes some of this material in order to re lect on the creative adaptation, particularization, and local in lection of a medieval cultural phenomenon so widespread as to be truly global—in a very medieval sense. The “world” as igured in the Greek kosmos encompasses a range of concepts from adornment and aesthetics to world order and the universe itself.6 Drawing on such expansive associations, worldliness will serve as this essay’s key heuristic and Byzantium—the Greek-speaking eastern Roman Empire—as the epicentre of cultural encounter from which the story of Barlaam and Ioasaph acquired a worldwide appeal. Moreover, the diffusion of its iconography, which has generally been understood as a one-way migration from the east to the west, is more accurately captured through a study of multiple routes, rather than through a teleology that reduces Byzantium to a mere storehouse for rich source material on its predetermined journey towards western Europe. This, of course, is part of a much larger effort to address the problematic narrative of Byzantium’s “influence” on European art, in which Byzantine material is viewed as conservative and static, in contrast to innovative and dynamic Western adaptations of it. On the contrary, my study’s emphasis on worldliness reveals the nuance, mutability, and political repurposing of such materials, and their role in acts of mondialisation, a term that stresses ongoing processes of world formation.7 To this end, Sharon Kinoshita has adopted “worlding” as a critical and destabilizing interpretive stance, one that stresses contingency

5 Der Nersessian, L’Illustration (hereafter Der Nersessian); Volk, Die Schriften VI/1 (hereafter Volk) and Die Schriften VI/2 (hereafter Barlaam and Ioasaph). 6 Finkelberg, “On the History,” treats the ancient philological context of the word; Drpić, Epigram, discusses its meanings in Byzantium, especially regarding epigrams as adornment (kosmesis). 7 Key here is Nancy, Creation. See also Flood et al., “Roundtable.”


59 rather than the inevitability of (modern) globalization. 8 In the context of the present study, this worlding is ironically carried out through the changing forms of a tale that purportedly advocates the renunciation of the worldly. In what follows, my analysis moves from the textual peregrinations of the story itself to the permutations of the related visual material in multiple contexts within and beyond Byzantium, to see what kinds of worlds they create and navigate.

From Enlightenment to Edification Known in Arabic as the Kitāb Bilawhar wa Būḏāsf, in Georgian as the Balavariani, in Greek as Barlaam and Ioasaph, and in Latin as Barlaam and Josaphat, the different versions of the story share the same basic premise and plot structure in order to promote a message of worldly renunciation and conversion. Echoing the narrative of the Buddha’s enlightenment, it tells how a prediction of the young prince’s destiny prompts his father, the king of India, to shield him from all signs of pain and mortality: an endeavour that proves futile when the prince ultimately chooses the spiritual over the material. Despite many other points of convergence with the Buddhist story, the Christian and Muslim versions fundamentally alter the narrative by introducing the igure of an ascetic teacher who plays a pivotal role in the prince’s spiritual journey, in contradistinction to the solidary enlightenment of the Buddha.9 The privileging of this spiritual advisor, Bilawhar or Barlaam, in the titles of all versions of the tale underscores this profound shift in focus from enlightenment to edi ication—not only of the prince but also the reader, for whom the text becomes the teacher. The legend of the Buddha’s life is thought to have traveled from India as part of the cultural traf ic along the Silk Roads, where it might have been translated from Sanskrit (or another Indian language) into Pahlavi (Middle Persian) and then combined with a variety of Arabic literary sources and sermons to become the Kitāb Bilawhar wa Būḏāsf compiled in ninth-century Abbasid Baghdad.10 The

8 Kinoshita, “Worlding” and “Painter, Warrior,” on the connected histories of Marco Polo. 9 See e.g. de Blois, “On the Sources.” The importance of Christian paideia is stressed by Crostini, “Spiritual ‘Encyclopedias’,” 213–29, esp. 227; as well as Crostini, “Eleventh-Century Monasticism,” 216–30. I would like to thank the author for sharing this essay with me in advance of its publication. 10 Gimaret, Le Livre, offers an extensive study of this Arabic narrative, its diverse source materials, and variations. My account of the story’s transmission is simpli ied for clarity: for example, I do not discuss the Manichean fragments of the text nor do I elaborate the stemmas of the different versions.




irst extant written version of the story was thus part of the Abbasid translation movement, the signi icance of which cannot be overemphasized: in the famed “House of Wisdom,” scholars in Baghdad collaborated on translations, interpretations, and scienti ic writings that fueled profound developments in all areas of knowledge both within and beyond Islamic lands.11 (This route parallels that of Kalila wa Dimna, another collection of moral tales, the Pañcatantra, which was translated into Arabic from the Sanskrit through a no-longer extant Pahlavi intermediary.12) While the tale’s moral import is clear, the religious orthodoxy of the Kitāb Bilawhar wa Būḏāsf is ambiguous. There is only one brief mention of Islam in the text; no reference to Muhammad; and the ascetic tenets that form the basis of the prince’s instruction are called merely “the Religion.” 13 In the later Greek and Latin Christian versions, as in the Arabic, the plot is more of a pretext for Bilawhar’s teachings, which are elaborated as a series of parables. The irst extant Christian iteration of the tale, indeed, was adapted into an emphatic account of monastic triumphalism. This Balavariani was composed by Georgian monks in Jerusalem, probably at Mar Saba, in the tenth century: a time and place when the story’s celebration of asceticism would have resonated strongly. Here, “the Religion” is identi ied explicitly as Christianity, with the royal father, King Abenes, cast as “a man of strong pagan beliefs” persecuting the “hated servants of Christ” in an effort to protect his son.14 Similarly, the rather generic ascetic parables of the earlier story in Arabic are transformed into parables that serve to illuminate Christian truths. To accomplish this, the Georgian version selectively reduces the number of parables to those that can best illuminate Christian ascetic practice, speci ically. The subsequent Greek edition produced by Euthymios (d. 1028), in the Iviron monastery on Mount Athos, added an even more elaborate exegetical gloss to the narrative frame.15 Whereas the Balavariani opens with the pagan king persecuting

11 Gutas, Greek Thought, esp. 175–86. 12 On the routes of Kalila wa Dimna, see Kinoshita, “Translatio/n, Empire,” and also below. On the con luence of these frame-tales and their trajectories, see Uhlig and Foehr-Janssens, eds., D’Orient en Occident. 13 Building on Gimaret’s work, Lopez and McCracken (In Search, 54–89) contextualize the Arabic version within the framework of Muslim understandings of Buddhism. On the sectarian issues raised by the two Arabic recensions, see de Blois, “On the Sources.” See also Gimaret, “Traces”; and, more recently, Genequand’s contribution to Uhlig and FoehrJanssens, eds., D’Orient en Occident, 67–77. 14 Lang, Balavariani; Lopez and McCracken, In Search of the Christian Buddha, 90–121. 15 The earliest Greek copy was produced ca. 1021, thus putting the preparations of the Greek text between 963 and 1021, according to Volk. On its immediate audience, see Pérez Martín, “Apuntes.”


61 Christians in his land of India—plunging the reader straight into the narrative— Barlaam and Ioasaph begins with a lengthy prelude on the edifying purpose of the book and a prefatory digression on India’s evangelization by the apostle Thomas. It also describes monastic foundations in Egypt, devoting far more attention to the “glorious band of Christians and the companies of monks” than to the pagan king’s worldly majesty. While maintaining the basic narrative structure, the Greek version further elaborates points of Orthodox Christian dogma and monastic virtue. The number of parables are even more reduced than in the Georgian version, and the resulting space is illed by additional exegetical material, including many scriptural passages, citations from the Church Fathers, and other sources. As Lopez and McCracken aptly put it, “If the anonymous Georgian monk Christianized the Arabic tale, the Greek monk theologized it.”16 The Greek Barlaam and Ioasaph served as the basis for subsequent Armenian, Slavic, Ethiopian, and Christian Arabic versions, as well as the Latin Barlaam and Josaphat, later rendered into an extremely diverse range of European vernaculars.17 In addition to the versions by Gui de Cambrai and Rudolf von Ems, an abbreviation is included in the popular Speculum historiae of Vincent of Beauvais and the even more popular Golden Legend of Jacques de Voragine.18 The European versions differ markedly both from each other and from the Byzantine “source.” For example, the Golden Legend reduces the narrative to the most essential elements and eliminates the didacticism of the Greek version, in order to humanize and dramatize “the lived experience of Christian doctrine.” 19 By contrast, Gui de Cambrai’s French version transforms this humanized piety into a feudal tale with Josaphat serving as the “bellicose crusader for Christ.”20 The many versions of the story thus represent a series of creative adaptations to serve local or confessional needs. Narrative details, contexts, and purposes were malleable, but the core element was

16 Lopez and McCracken, In Search of the Christian Buddha, 133. The textual sources are thoroughly discussed by Volk. 17 The tale was translated into Latin in Amal i in 1047/8, but a second twelfth-century translation was the main catalyst for the European dissemination of the story. On the French and Latin manuscripts, see Sonet, Le Roman. In addition, another entirely independent Greek-to-French vernacular translation was made in Constantinople in the thirteenth century, in the margins of Iviron 463 (see below). A critical edition of this French text is underway; for now, see Egedi-Kovács, “La Traduction française.” 18 See Cordoni, Barlaam und Josaphat; and Cordoni and Meyer, eds., Barlaam und Josaphat. 19 Lopez and McCracken, In Search, 143. For the most part, the parables are merely referenced rather than elaborated. 20 Ibid.; Gui de Cambrai, Barlaam and Josaphat, trans. McCracken.




the heroic investment in ascetic life. In its myriad iterations across cultures and languages, this most worldly of medieval stories stressed worldly renunciation.

Visual Edification in Byzantium and Beyond Unlike surviving Arabic and Georgian versions of the tale, which preserve neither manuscript illuminations nor any indications of lost illustration cycles, the Byzantine adaptors of the tale developed a full iconographic program. Of the entire corpus of Barlaam and Ioasaph manuscripts, Volk has shown that at least twelve were meant to be illuminated, since they either preserve visual programs or traces of illustrations that were never executed or are no longer extant (namely, captions alluding to miniatures).21 The most elaborate pictorial cycle, consisting of over two hundred individual scenes, is represented by Paris, Bibliothèque nationale de France MS gr. 1128, which is dated to the early fourteenth century.22 The earliest and best preserved is Mount Athos, Holy Monastery of Iviron Codex 463, with eighty especially well-executed miniatures dating from the latter half of the eleventh century.23 Both of these manuscripts begin with the apostle Thomas preaching the gospel in India.24 The Iviron manuscript (fol. 4r) depicts the saint arriving by boat on the left, preaching in the centre, and baptizing on the right (Plate 4.1). Beyond indicating the setting of the story, this visual sequence foregrounds edi ication as its primary purpose and a concern with the world as its core theme. The program unfolds with the persecution of Christians, and of monks in particular: they are shown expelled, tortured, beheaded, and set a lame. The narrative then turns to the prince, Ioasaph, his birth, and his many exchanges with his father and later with the wise monk Barlaam, interspersed with visualizations of Barlaam’s teachings, many in the form of parables. One particularly evocative parable, involving a man and unicorn, crystallizes the tale’s central concerns while serving as a microcosm of visual edi ication in Byzantium and beyond. Not only is this the only parable with a clear textual and

21 Volk, 525–81. 22 Der Nersessian, 26–27; Louvre, Byzance, 458 (no. 352); Evans, Byzantium, 61 (no. 31); Volk, 408–9 (no. 105). The manuscript can be viewed online at 12148/btv1b8452659r. 23 Der Nersessian, 23–25; Pelekanides, Treasures II, 307–24 ( igs. 53–132); Evans and Wixom, Glory, 242 (no. 164); Volk, 269–72 (no. 20); and note 61 below. 24 That is, following full-page author portraits: the Paris manuscript portrays Barlaam standing, dressed in monastic garb (fol. 1v); while the Iviron copy shows its author seated at a lectern, in accordance with conventions for evangelist portraits (fol. 1v).


63 visual genealogy in ancient sources, its wide-ranging travels allow us to consider its recon iguration across a vast terrain over a long period of time. While a “roots” approach to its iconography would entail a recuperative search for lost originals, a more fruitful “routes” approach enables us to focus on the different articulations of the story: that is, its mobility and mutability. The parable occurs in the context of a lecture on the dangers of corporeal pleasure. Barlaam tells Ioasaph how a man, being chased by a unicorn, tumbled into a fearsome abyss and managed to grab two branches as he fell, which helped him to gain a foothold.25 Looking up, he saw above him two mice, one black and one white, gnawing at the roots of the tree whose branches he held. Looking down, he saw a dragon with open jaws and four deadly asps, awaiting his fall. But honey dripped from the branches of the tree and, as he tasted its sweetness, he forgot the perils that surrounded him. The parable teaches that these few drops of honey—pleasure—are the transient delights that distract us from the precarious realities of mortality. Complicating traditional Christian allegorical associations of the unicorn with Christ, the Greek text of Barlaam’s explanation equates the unicorn with death.26 Illustrations of this parable vary across the corpus of extant Byzantine illuminated manuscripts.27 Two early copies preserve traces of the imagery, and although their states of preservation make any de initive reading of them problematic, Der Nersessian’s line drawings show the man situated below the unicorn and above the dragon; other details remain elusive (Figures 4.1–2). Other extant miniatures convey the pursuit by showing the man running up to a tree, rather than falling and grabbing branches. In the simple marginal sketch of the Cambridge manuscript28 and the more elaborately painted Paris miniature, the story unfolds sequentially through abbreviated continuous narration, with the unicorn on the left chasing the man, who runs and clings to the branches of the tree on the right. In the Cambridge scene (Figure 4.3), the unicorn leaps towards the man, who is shown in light with arms outstretched; then, on the right, the man is pictured again in the branches of a tree with mice gnawing its base above an open-jawed dragon as four snakes 25 Barlaam and Ioasaph, 12:215–56. 26 Barlaam and Ioasaph, 12:243–44: Ὁ μὲν μονόκερως τύπος ἄν εἴν τοῦ θανάτου, τοῦ διώκοντος ἀεὶ καὶ καταλαβεῖν ἐπειγομένου τὸ Ἀδαμιαῖον γένος. 27 Of the six manuscripts studied by Der Nersessian, four include an illumination of this scene: see her chart on p. 36, plus discussion, with line drawings, on 63–68. In the Iviron codex, there is a lacuna between folios 38v and 39r, where the miniature presumably would have been: see Volk, 271; Toumpouri, “L’Illustration,” 12. Note that this parable and other portions of Barlaam and Ioasaph also found expression in later monumental programs in Romania, Serbia, Greece, and elsewhere. 28 Cambridge, King’s College MS gr. 45 (olim 338): see Volk, 294–95 (no. 36).




Figure 4.1. Fourth Apologue (Man and Unicorn) from Barlaam and Ioasaph: Ioannina, Zosimaia Schole MS 1, fol. 54r. Line drawing after Der Nersessian, L’Illustration, ig. 24.

jut out from a wall. The Paris manuscript represents the parable in two stages (Figure 4.4): on the left, the unicorn bears its teeth ferociously as the man looks over his shoulder; on the right, he scrambles up a tree. Only upon close inspection can one make out the dragon below the tree; the other narrative elements remain indistinct. The Cambridge miniature’s diagrammatic presentation stresses legibility above all else; the Paris scene lacks iconographic clarity but compensates by emphasizing the emotional charge of the leeing man’s urgency and his furrowed brow of fear. Indeed, this moment of high drama gains additional poignancy by its juxtaposition with a sumptuous banquet, depicted directly above it on the same page: a reference to the pleasures of the world with which Barlaam introduces the parable. In the text of the parable, Barlaam likens the man running from the



Figure 4.2. Fourth Apologue (Man and Unicorn) from Barlaam and Ioasaph: Jerusalem, Orthodox Patriarchate, Stavrou MS 42, 75r. Line drawing after Der Nersessian, L’Illustration, ig. 25.

unicorn to those indulgent men who, with no thought for the future, cling to the pleasures of the lesh, leaving the soul to be af licted by evil.29 By including the parable’s set-up or premise, the Paris manuscript offers a moral gloss in visual terms, drawing a clear analogy between the folly of leeting corporeal pleasures and the folly of leeing from death.30 This more expansive treatment of the parable is consistent with the Paris manuscript’s general tendency to attenuate visual narratives: this copy includes the most substantial illustration cycle, often stretching single episodes into two miniatures. Here, by elaborating the connection between

29 Barlaam and Ioasaph, 12:215–21. 30 Barlaam and Ioasaph, 12:243–44.




Figure 4.3. Fourth Apologue (Man and Unicorn) from Barlaam and Ioasaph: Cambridge, King’s College MS Gr 45 (olim 338), fol. 41v. Reproduced by permission.

worldly danger and pleasure, it focuses less on the parable itself and more on the larger narrative framework: Barlaam’s teaching of worldly renunciation. As stories travel, narrative details and their meanings shift—both in texts and images. In the case of this particular parable, some of these shifts run counter to well-established traditions. As noted above, the unicorn is an allegory for Christ in medieval Christian exegesis (Roman and Orthodox). This association was codiied in the Physiologos, the late antique bestiary that was becoming increasingly



Figure 4.4. Man Fleeing the Unicorn, from Barlaam and Ioasaph: Paris, Bibliothèque nationale de France, MS gr. 1128, fol. 68r. Photo courtesy of the Bibliothèque nationale de France.

in luential in the eleventh century. Citing Psalm 91:11 (“But my horn shall be exalted as the horn of a unicorn”), the Physiologos describes how only a virgin is able to capture the beast and deliver it to the king’s palace, just as only a Virgin could bear Christ and deliver him up for kingly glory. In photographs of the no




Figure 4.5. Virgin and Unicorn from the Smyrna Physiologos: Smyrna, Evangelical School B8, fol. 74. After Strzygowski, Der Bilderkreis, plate 12.

longer extant Smyrna Physiologos, the unicorn places its hoof on the knee of a seated young woman in courtly dress (Figure 4.5),31 imagery also adopted by Byzantine marginal Psalters.32 The Theodore Psalter’s Psalm 91:11, for example, similarly depicts a unicorn resting its hoof on the knee of a seated woman (Figure 4.6). It further reinforces the typological signi icance by including the igure of Saint John Chrysostom, who interprets the scene for the reader by gesturing up to the image of the Virgin positioned above the seated woman.33

31 This manuscript (Smyrna Library, Evangelical School B8) was destroyed in 1922: Demus, “Physiologus”; Bernabò et al., Il isiologo; Corrigan, “Smyrna Physiologos.” For a recent study of its scribe, see Hutter, “ Τheodoros βιβλιογράφος.” 32 Walter, “Christological Themes,” 276–77. On marginal Psalters, see Corrigan, Visual Polemics. 33 London, British Library MS Add. 19352, dated to 1066: see Barber, Theodore Psalter.



Figure 4.6. Saint John Chrysostom interprets the Unicorn (Psalm 91:11), from the Theodore Psalter: London, British Library, MS Add. 19352, fol. 124v. By permission of the British Library.

But under the in luence of Barlaam and Ioasaph, this gentle allegory became entangled with the parable’s iguration of the unicorn as the relentless pursuit of death. Two Psalters produced in Constantinople’s Studios monastery during the mid-eleventh century—the Theodore and Barberini Psalters34—reveal a con luence 34 The former is Vatican City, Biblioteca Apostolica Vaticana, Barb. Gr 372, dated to before 1092. For the latter, see Anderson et al. Barberini Psalter.




Figure 4.7. “Man in the Well”: relief from Site 9, Nāgārjunikonda Museum. Photo courtesy of Catherine Becker.

of these associations. Both Psalters illustrate Psalm 91.11 with scenes similar to the Phsyiologos con iguration, but they also use the unicorn as a symbol of death to accompany Psalm 143:4 (“Man is like to vanity, his days are as a shadow”).35 Although much of the pigment has laked from the Theodore Psalter miniature, the iconography remains legible and is clearly taken from Barlaam and Ioasaph (Plate 4.2): the man leeing the rampant unicorn on the left inds refuge in a tree on the right whose roots are gnawed by the white and black mice, above a pit with Hades and a dragon. The parable’s impact on these two Psalters speaks to the popularity of the tale and also to the adaptability of speci ic elements across multiple narrative contexts. Indeed, of the many parables included and illustrated in the Greek version of Barlaam and Ioasaph this one derives from ancient traditions that reach well beyond the Mediterranean;36 in early versions, however, the aggressive animal is an elephant. For example, a number of reliefs from the third-century Buddhist stupas 35 In the Theodore Psalter, this scene appears on fol. 182v, with the caption μονοκέρωτος ἡ θάνατο(ς); in the Barberini Psalter it appears on fol. 237v, with the caption μονοκέροτο(ς)— θάνατο(ς). Such imagery occurs in select later Psalters, as well. 36 While it is, according to François de Blois, “the only shared story that is de initely of Indian origin,” its source is mediated: it “is manifestly taken from a literary source in Arabic and not directly from some Indian or Buddhist work” (“On the Sources,” 17). Cf. Gimaret, “Traces.”


71 of Andhra Pradesh depict a scene known as the “man in the well.”37 One relief, now housed in the Nāgārjunikonda Museum, compresses this scene into a vertical strip on the far left, separate from the main igures in the frieze (Figure 4.7). Here, we see an elephant diving head irst into a well, inside which a man grasps branches that are being gnawed by a mouse as serpents prevent his escape and a coiled beast sits below with open jaws. The scene is rendered more schematically and in reduced scale to set it apart from the main pictorial space; the result, according to Catherine Becker, is a sort of “cartoon bubble” that separates the “narrative realm” of the visualized story from the space of its narration by the monk seated at the centre of the composition.38 The transformative potential of the tale is then stressed through a before-and-after formula: at the far right of the relief a king is depicted as visibly aggressive, sword in hand, as he is restrained. Then, at the centre, he is shown kneeling with arms raised respectfully as he listens to the monk. The cause of his transformation is the story depicted on the far left. In this and the other reliefs of the “man in the well” at Andra Pradesh, storytelling is the point of the narrative: “a story elucidating the folly of clinging to a life of suffering brings about a transformation in its audience.”39 Underscoring this reading, we note that the man in the well does not visually engage his surrounding perils but stares ixedly at the monk in the main space of the frieze, while his predicament’s narrator directs his gaze at the viewer, thus linking the parable and its oral performance to maximize its poignancy. Two points deserve emphasis here. First, speci ic narrative elements of this edifying story seem less important than its overall potential for effectively illustrating the “intractability of the human condition.” Second, while the parable in the Andra Pradesh relief has a wide set of textual attestations, from ancient Jain sources to the Mahabarata, the source of the frame narrative, the monk and the transformed king, remains unclear.40 This strongly suggests that the narrative frame and the parable may have circulated independently before coming together in this con iguration. This mutability is, moreover, carried forward in medieval iterations, whose key narrative elements can be interchangeable (elephant can become unicorn) and in which the parable often breaks free from its frame and,

37 Vogel, “Man in the Well,” Zin, “Parable,” Becker, Shifting Stones, and Toumpouri, “L’Homme chassé.” 38 Becker, Shifting Stones, 113–26. 39 Ibid., 115. 40 Both Becker (ibid., 134) and Zin (“Parable,” 81) observe that none of the corresponding texts include the frame story of the transformed king—that is, the parable alone inds textual corroboration. See also Vogel, “Man in the Well”; Toumpouri, “L’Homme chassé,” 9–11.




in the process, gains global traction. Hence its essential elements feature in both the Arabic Kitāb Bilawhar wa Būḏāsf as well as the collection of fables known as Kalila wa Dimna, which (as noted above) followed a similar transmission route. Notably, both texts describe a man who inds refuge from a rampant elephant.41 The Georgian Balavariani also features an elephant in its telling of this parable. But in the Greek versions of the parable, the elephant becomes a unicorn: not only in Barlaam and Ioasaph and the Psalters in luenced by it, but in the text of Stephanites and Ichnelates, a translation of Kalila wa Dimna made for the Byzantine emperor Alexios I Komnenos (r. 1081–1127). 42 The introduction of the unicorn can be seen as a strategic attempt to preserve the distant, exotic setting of the story.43 The elephant was a familiar animal for the Byzantines, who were capable of differentiating between Asian and African breeds; elephants were housed in the imperial menagerie and their depictions graced public and private monuments.44 By contrast, the unicorn was a mythical beast thought to be native to India, the elusive land in which the story was set. This substitution, and the ensuing complication of its Christian symbolism, provides an analogue to Barlaam and Ioasaph’s opening scene, in which the apostle Thomas preaches in the land of India. Even as the unicorn’s new association with death went against established allegorical interpretation, it lent vibrancy to the tale of worldly renunciation, giving the scene a compelling dynamism that an elephant simply could not. The handful of extant illuminated copies of the story’s Christian Arabic version show us how artists navigated these contemporary, and competing, narrative traditions. The earliest representative of this corpus is a thirteenth-century manuscript in the Balamand monastery in Lebanon.45 Of its nine miniatures, seven depict the prince with his teacher and his father and the remaining two represent

41 De Blois (Burzōy’s Voyage, 74–80) has demonstrated that the text of the parable is essentially the same in both Arabic tales. 42 See Sjöberg, Stephanites und Ichnelates (an edition is based on the oldest, twelfth-century manuscript); and Condylis-Bassoukos, Stéphanitès kai Ichnélatès (an edition that pairs the text with that of Kalila wa-Dimna). However, no known manuscripts of this text include miniatures. 43 Toumpouri, “L’homme chassé,” 17; Zin, “Parable,” 64–67. 44 Toumpouri, “L’homme chassé,” 15–16. 45 Our Lady of Balamand Monastery MS 141 (formerly number 147): Sminé, “Miniatures”; Briquel-Chatonnet et al., Manuscrits chrétiens, 34–35. No comprehensive study of the Christian Arabic corpus exists, although Toumpouri-Alexopoulou (“Byzantium and the Arab World”) provides some preliminary remarks.



Figure 4.8. Scene from Barlaam and Ioasaph: Balamand, MS 147, fol. 129r. Photo courtesy of the Hill Museum & Manuscript Library with the permission of St. Joseph of Damascus Manuscript Conservation Center.

parables, including the man pursued by the unicorn, the format of which differs considerably from that of the rest of the miniatures of the codex (Figure 4.8). Nearly half a page in height, this unframed scene is centrally anchored by the body of the man who grasps the tree branches with both hands, while the trunks are gnawed by black and white mice as asps and a ferocious dragon await below. While the unicorn itself is not depicted here, it is clearly identi ied in the accompanying inscription. This miniature bears a striking similarity to the oldest extant Arabic copy of Kalila wa Dimna, dating from the irst quarter of the thirteenth century, which also depicts that parable but omits the animal pursuing the man, which in




Figure 4.9. Scene from Kalila wa Dimna: Paris, Bibliothèque nationale de France, MS ar. 3465, fol. 43v. Photo courtesy of the Bibliothèque nationale de France.

this case (according to the text) is an elephant (Figure 4.9).46 In a further permutation, the Persian versions of Kalila wa Dimna transform the beast into a camel, who 46 Paris, Bibliothèque nationale de France, MS ar. 4365, fol. 43v: 12148/btv1b84229611/f100.item. Grube (“Prolegomena,” 320) includes a checklist of the



Figure 4.10. Scene from Kalila wa Dimna: Istanbul, Topkapi Saray Library, MS H. 363, fol. 35. Photo courtesy of the Topkapi Palace Museum.

appears in the upper right corner of the miniature of a later thirteenth-century copy (Figure 4.10).47 All of these miniatures demonstrate the blending of local and trans-local visual and narrative traditions. The unicorn parable also circulated independently, in portable and monumental scales, across a range of funerary, didactic, and civic

nineteen Kalilah wa Dimna manuscripts that include this iconography of the “Perils of Life.” See also Grube, ed., A Mirror, esp. igs. 59–65; Zin, “Parable,” 46–54. 47 Istanbul, Topkapı Sarayı Müzesi, MS H. 363. See Topkapı Sarayı Müzesi et al., Topkapi Saray Museum, 50–51 and ig. 28.




contexts beyond Byzantium.48 The illustrated Latin and European vernacular versions of Barlaam and Ioasaph, for the most part, prioritize the narrative portions of the story rather than the parables, as is consistent with these translations’ reduction of the story’s exegetical and didactic features.49 However, the parable of the man and the unicorn continued to receive special attention. In a miniature from the early fourteenth-century Liber Barlaam et Josaphat servorum Dei, now in the Vatican, the unicorn perches on a rock to the left, surveying the man who has fallen into the abyss below—mice, dragon, and asps are all present and identi ied by a caption.50 Other depictions situate the man as the focal point, hanging in suspension and surrounded by a panoply of clearly legible perils. Still others privilege the tree and, in so doing, evoke a powerful allegory of the Tree of Life. For example, one of the most densely and exquisitely illustrated books of its era, the Psalter-Hours of Yolande de Soissons, made in Amiens in the late thirteenth century, depicts the parable in conjunction with the Of ice of the Dead. The miniature contrasts good and evil along the central axis of the page, which is formed by the tree, into which the man is nestled, framed by the unicorn with a white mouse on the left, and a black mouse with the open jaws of the dragon on the right (Figure 4.11).51 No longer associated with the story of the Indian prince and his ascetic teacher, here it offers a self-suf icient meditation on mortality. In other contexts, it could be combined with didactic material in exempla for sermons and devotional compilations.52 In a ifteenth-century Carthusian miscellany the tree is captioned “mans lyf” and its branches hold a beehive with the “hony drope” which 48 In western Europe it appears in an impressive array of genres and materials, on portals, frescos, stained glass, and tombs. The bibliography is vast and includes Muñoz, “Rappresentazioni allegoriche”; Der Nersessian, 63–67; Einhorn, “Das Einhorn”; Einhorn, Spiritualis unicornis; Toumpouri, “L’Homme chassé”; Aavitsland, Imagining, 108–28; and Tagliatesta, “Les Représentations.” 49 There is no systematic study of this material to parallel Der Nersessian’s study of the Byzantine corpus. Some of the illuminated manuscripts are listed in Sonet, Le Roman, but without detailed descriptions. Overviews of the wider iconography include: Stammler, “Barlaam und Josaphat”; Wessel, “Barlaam und Josaphat”; Donato, “Barlaam e Iosafat.” 50 Vatican, Biblioteca Apostolica Vaticana (BAV), MS Ottob. lat. 269, fol. 35v. See Frosini and Monciatti, Storia, 86–87 and 191–94, with excellent commentary and a plethora of comparative images. 51 New York, Pierpont Morgan Library, MS 729, fol. 354v. See Gould, Psalter and Hours, 77. The use of the parable to highlight the immediacy of death was rare, if not unique. Similar imagery appears on the tomb of Adelaide of Champagne, countess of Joigny, from the mid-thirteenth century. However, there is no visual reference to the parable’s unicorn and dragon or hell mouth; just the two small animals biting the roots of the tree: see Pillion, “Un Tombeau français.” 52 Brantley (Reading, 127) points out that the parable of the unicorn found its way into “collections from which real sermons, not just reported ones, were to be fashioned.”



Figure 4.11. Scene from Barlaam and Josaphat in the Psalter and Book of Hours of Yolande de Soissons: New York, The Pierpont Morgan Library, MS M.729, fol. 354v. Photo Credit: The Morgan Library & Museum/Art Resource, NY.




Figure 4.12. Verse allegory of a man pursued by a unicorn from Barlaam and Josaphat incipit: London, British Library, MS Additional 37049, fol. 19v. By permission of the British Library.



Figure 4.13. Scene from Barlaam and Josaphat: relief in the tympanum of the cathedral at Parma. Photo Credit: Scala/Art Resource, NY.

fall to the man’s lips (Figure 4.12). Also present are the mice, the open mouth of the beast, and the “unycorne” in the lower left, whose allegorical signi icance is made clear by the caption “ded pursues to sla man.”53 A relief in Ferrara, once part of a pulpit or ambo, also preserves this imagery, testifying to its use in the monumental and performative contexts of preaching as well.54 Monumental representations of the parable in western Europe are especially well documented in Italy.55 The tympanum of the southern door of the baptistery in Parma, from around 1200, is anchored compositionally by a man in a tree with a ire-breathing dragon at its base, which is being gnawed by two quadrupeds (Figure 4.13).56 For Arthur Kingsley Porter, this works in concert with the

53 London, BL Additional 37049, fol. 19v. See Brantley, Reading, 128–29. 54 Tagliatesta, “Les Représentations,” 12–13. 55 Ibid. Extant or attested programs north of the Alps are found in Austria (Krems), Germany (Bischof ingen and Lorsch), and Denmark (Vester Broby). 56 Dietl, “La decorazione”; Siclari, “L’apologo.”




imagery on the west portal, dedicated to the Six Ages of the World and the Six Ages of Man, and to the parable of the vineyard (Matthew 20:1–16). 57 Similar imagery also appears in fresco at the Cistercian abbey of Tre Fontane, painted at the turn of the thirteenth century as part of the so-called Vita Humana cycle, and may be a formal forerunner of the lost fresco in Torre Colonna (Tivoli) and at the Casa Corboli of Asciano (Siena).58 The civic contexts for these latter programs testify to the political deployment of the imagery as commentary on the transitory nature of terrestrial power. At Asicano, for example, the apologue is framed by roundels of rulers from antiquity meeting their tragic and violent ends (Absalom, Priam, Scipio, Nero) as well as the Judgement of Solomon and Aristotle surrounded by virtues.59 In these varied contexts, the narrative setting of the parable ceases to matter. Ironically, its global dissemination and adaptation has made its intimate connection with global processes largely illegible.

A Worldly Mirror Turning from the story’s worldwide peregrinations to its critique of worldliness, the remainder of this essay considers how Barlaam and Ioasaph helped to forge links between the monastic and imperial worlds of Byzantium by serving as a mirror for monks and rulers. Throughout the tale, the world looms large as the enemy of those attempting to live in emulation of holy men.60 However, this message of asceticism is complicated, if not undermined, by the deluxe pictorial programs through which the narrative is conveyed and by the increased production of sumptuous illuminated manuscripts with monastic associations. The Iviron illustrated copy has been linked to a number of luxurious books produced in eleventh-century Constantinople for elite, even imperial, circles.61 These books therefore witness a new overlapping of monastic and aristocratic spheres in the eleventh century, a phenomenon that has generated a substantial body of scholarship. Rosemary Morris has argued that the boom in monasticism, which manifested itself in the

57 Porter, “Development,” 137–54. 58 Aavitsland, Imagining, 115. 59 Tagliatesta, “Les Représentations,” 110–11. 60 Much of Barlaam’s speech delivered in the chapter that culminates in the parable of the man and the unicorn celebrates those who deny themselves the comforts of the lesh: Barlaam and Ioasaph, 12:103–4 and 12:183–215. 61 This iliation is based on palaeography and shared iconographic sources. See Pérez Martín, “Apuntes”; D’Aiuto, “Su alcuni copisti”; and Toumpouri, “L’Illustration.”


81 growth of religious institutions, increasingly expansive land acquisition, and forms of lay patronage, entailed a certain degree of spiritual compromise.62 By the end of the eleventh century, the traditional values of monastic self- suf iciency (autakreia) became imbricated in a dense network of lay aristocratic and imperial in luence. Because they were not subjected to the demands of inheritance or political coniscation, certain monastic estates evolved into highly pro itable and powerful establishments, often on par with those of the lay aristocracy, and thus played a signi icant role in the economic life of their regions and of the capital.63 In luence was also political, and extended beyond economics to the judicial and bureaucratic spheres as well. For example, certain favoured communities could leverage their well-developed ties to elicit the assistance of the emperor or patriarch rather than turning to local secular or ecclesiastical structures, or “worldly courts” (kosmika kriteria) because “the kosmikoi [men of the world] do not understand spiritual affairs.”64 For Orthodox monks, the challenge of “being in the world but not of it” did not entail a full retreat from worldly social networks, but a recasting of those networks: despite the timeless ideal of asceticism that permeates monastic texts, the monastery itself was an ever-contingent social space. Without lattening the multi-faceted dimensions of Byzantine monasticism— which comprised a vast range of practices corresponding to the diversity of the wider Byzantine world—historians generally concur that a process of “secularization” is evident over the course of the eleventh century.65 Inmaculada Pérez Martín has examined the role of notary-monks in monastic book production as evidence of this phenomenon,66 and Barbara Crostini has investigated how monasteries and their communities engaged in forms of political action and even subversion, using Barlaam and Ioasaph as one of her primary examples.67 Throughout the Byzantine copies of this story, monks serve as advisors to princes and thus act as agitators for change; they constitute radicals who pose, in her words, “a powerful and disruptive social force that undermines the seeming happiness of a prosperous secular state.” In this way, the story is “disquieting as well as exhilarating” from the monastic

62 Morris (Monks and Laymen, 200) sees a fundamental tension between “the spiritual tenets of monasticism and the practical realities of survival.” For the period preceding that covered by Morris, see Hatlie, Monks and Monasteries. See also Thomas and Hero, eds., Byzantine Monastic Foundation Documents. 63 Morris, Monks and Laymen, 241. 64 Ibid., 262 (Protaton no. 7). 65 Pérez Martín, “La Sécularisation,” 565. 66 Ibid. 67 Crostini, “Eleventh-Century Monasticism.”




perspective.68 For despite Barlaam’s ascetic lifestyle, his teachings effected the conversion not only of Prince Ioasaph, but his father and, in turn, the entire kingdom. Edi ication, in this narrative, makes eventual impact across a diverse monastic and political public. In other words, monasticism meant spiritual edi ication in the service of wider social change. The proactive agenda of the narrative is signposted from its very outset with the evangelization of faraway India by St. Thomas: the entire tale is prefaced by his apostolic mission, represented in the opening of the Iviron manuscript as the sequential unfolding of distant travel, preaching, and conversion. A central framework for understanding the story’s illumination and dissemination is thus the monastic revival of the eleventh century and, more speci ically, the rich pictorial programs developed in the monasteries of Constantinople at that time. As part of this new and distinctive “monastic iconography,” Barlaam and Ioasaph sits alongside the Heavenly Ladder of John Klimakos and the tenthcentury metaphrastic lives, all of which received their irst pictorial cycles at this time.69 Kathleen Corrigan has argued that the Physiologos too falls into a similar pattern: although it had been illustrated previously—as noted above, marginal imagery for Psalm 91:11 was based on the Physiologos—it was only in the eleventh century that the basic animal illustrations were augmented with moral interpretations that dealt speci ically with monastic concerns, such as temptations of the lesh and the challenge of “rejecting the world outside the monastery.”70 The Smyrna copy of the Physiologos, with its ampli ied moral message, also contained excerpts from Cosmas Indicopleustes’ Christian Topography, a treatise on minerals, geography, and cosmology by a sixth-century Alexandrian merchant, who discusses India at length and even mentions the unicorns to be found there; they are duly depicted in the illustrated copies.71 In addition, two of the three extant copies of Cosmas’s treatise date to the eleventh century, and one of these is closely related, thematically and technically, to the lost Smyrna manuscript.72 Taken collectively, these works speak to a particular monastic context in which sumptuous illuminations offered a key framework for interpreting the world. On the one hand, then, Barlaam and Ioasaph was the ideal evocation of the intertwined spiritual and political dimensions of Byzantine monasticism. On the other, it offered spiritual authorization for the exercise of terrestrial authority. It is in this

68 Ibid., 218–19. 69 Angold, Church and Society, 271. For the Ladder of John Klimakos, see Martin, Illustration, and the discussion below. On the saints’ lives associated with Symeon Metaphrastes, see Ševčenko, Illustrated Manuscripts. 70 Corrigan, “Smyrna Physiologos,” 209. 71 See Wolska-Conus, Topographie chrétienne; Kominko, World of Kosmas. 72 Crostini, “Spiritual ‘Encyclopedias,’” 218.


83 context that we can place later uses of the story and its imagery at the Byzantine court. For example, a number of poems by Manuel Philes, court poet of Emperor Andronikos II (r. 1282–1328), reference that imagery in the imperial palace in Constantinople: On a picture of Life which represents a tree, in which a man is gaping upwards and quaf ing honey from above, while below, the roots [of the tree] are being devoured by mice: On seeing this symbol of the shadow of [earthly] things, bear in mind, O man, the end that is hidden from you. Standing upright, you are enjoying the honey of pleasure, while a dragon with gaping mouth awaits your fall to destroy you. 73 Even without explicit mention of a unicorn, the story is unmistakably the parable from Barlaam and Ioasaph, with which the poem’s audience is expected to be familiar. Philes moves from describing the imagery itself to addressing that audience, equating the reader or listener with the man in the tree while, at the same time, making the reader the spectator. The image—both the actual picture referenced by Philes and the poet’s mental picture—constitute a mirror into which the audience looks to see its own image re lected in the man’s perilous predicament. Meanwhile, the story’s protagonists came to be understood as mirrors of holiness, since both Barlaam and Ioasaph were venerated as saints and frequently included in the pictorial cycles of later Byzantine churches. The earliest monumental depiction of Saints Barlaam and Ioasaph is at the Church of the Virgin at Studenica (1208/9, now in central Serbia), where they are situated on the southwest pilaster. Ioasaph is pictured on the left face of the pilaster with a scroll in one hand, while his other gestures toward the Virgin and Child at the right (Figure 4.14). Although bearded, he still appears youthful; sancti ied by a halo, he also wears his royal crown (Figure 4.15). The depiction of Barlaam, on the face farther to the left, follows conventions for representing ascetics: an unruly beard, wild hair, and more gaunt physiognomy (Figure 4.16). Saints Barlaam and Ioasaph appear in those churches under the in luence of Athonite monasticism, as Sharon Gerstel has shown, highlighting the regional in luence of Mount Athos in popularizing the tale.74 For, as we recall, it was there that it was irst translated into Greek by the monk Euthymios, and where the luxurious Iviron copy resides to this day. The story’s celebration of a royal prince turned monk and his ascetic mentor would resonate especially strongly in a monastic community that included many former aristocrats. Moreover, Gerstel argues that a related iconographic program also begins to appear in the fourteenth-century churches of Thessaloniki and its hinterland, precisely because both concern monastic life and the rite of the Holy Mountain:

73 Miller, ed., Manuelis Philae, 1:126–29 at 127 (no. 248); see Mango, Art, 247. 74 Gerstel, “Civic and Monastic,” 225–39.




Figure 4.14. St. Ioasaph (left) with the Virgin and Child (right): Studenica, Church of the Virgin, southwest pilaster. Photo courtesy of the Svetlana Tomeković database.

John Klimakos’s Heavenly Ladder or Ladder of Divine Ascent.75 In one particularly striking and unusual fresco in the exonarthex of the Vatopedi monastery on Mount

75 Ibid. A third related program was that of Pachomios and the Angel. It should be noted that Klimakos’s Heavenly Ladder was one of the “monastic classics” whose manuscript copies received a pictorial cycle in the eleventh century like Barlaam and Ioasaph.



Figure 4.15. St. Ioasaph (detail): Studenica, Church of the Virgin, southwest pilaster. Photo courtesy of the Svetlana Tomeković database.

Athos, dated to 1312, monks are depicted striving, eagerly and earnestly, to ascend the ladder despite taunting demons; Christ awaits at the ladder’s summit and a dragon lies below to catch those who fall. A lavish banquet is shown immediately adjacent on the left, and its detailed attention to sumptuous cosmopolitan dress and rich feasting has been described as re lecting the “the attachment of Late Byzantine of icials to material wealth and worldly pleasures.”76 The image’s pointed juxtaposition of sacred and secular spheres has also been read in light of

76 Parani, Reconstructing the Reality, 91.




Figure 4.16. St. Barlaam (detail): Studenica, Church of the Virgin, southwest pilaster. Photo courtesy of the Svetlana Tomeković database.

works by contemporary theologians and intellectuals, who “stressed the importance of obtaining spiritual perfection within the existing visible world” and, more speci ically, as re lecting the concerns of the noble-born inhabitants of the Vatopedi monastery.77 Spiritual striving and corporeal indulgence are also deliberately juxtaposed in the fourteenth-century Paris copy of Barlaam and Ioasaph, where the man’s light from the unicorn is positioned directly below the sumptuous banquet 77 Schroeder, “Salvation of the Soul,” 221; Oikonomides, “Byzantine Vatopaidi.”


87 scene. This pairing serves to tie the parable to its frame, as noted above, but it also sets up a contrast between indulgence and striving. Veneration of Saints Barlaam and Ioasaph was also cultivated in the service of dynastic af iliation, especially within Serbian territories, as Vojislav Đurić has shown.78 The foundation narrative of the powerful Namanjid dynasty was celebrated as a parallel to the story of Ioasaph and his royal father: when Grand Prince Stefan Nemanja (ca. 1113–1199) abdicated in 1196, he joined his youngest son who had already committed to the monastic life at Vatopedi on Mount Athos. This dynastic history was then aligned allegorically with King Abener and Ioasaph in a variety of rhetorical works.79 The churches founded by Serbian rulers, in turn— including Studenica (above)—featured images of Saints Baarlam and Ioasaph in close proximity to founding portraits, thus interweaving monastic cult and royal dynasty through this forged analogy. Later Serbian rulers would style themselves, explicitly, as “new Ioasaphs.”80 In many other contexts, however, the saints offered a clear manifestation of monastic power as distinct from that of the ruling elite. Efthalia Constantinides has differentiated between the Serbian dynastic messages of the story and church programs in Greece, where the saints embody the renewed spiritual authority of the monks vis-à-vis the emperor. These express the monastic challenge to imperium, an especially pointed message in light of the Hesychast controversy of the fourteenth century.81 This helps to explain the resonance of the most celebrated ruler to adopt Ioasaph as a monastic name, Byzantine emperor John VI Kantakouzenos (ca. 1292–1383), a fervent support of hesychasts and close friend of the movement’s founder, who abdicated the throne in 1347 and lived out the last thirty years of his life in the monastery of St. George of the Mangana in Constantinople. A luxurious edition of his many polemical, historical, and theological writings includes a unique double portrait showing him as both Emperor John and monk Ioasaph (Figure 4.17).82

Conclusion Rather than serving as a mere witness to purportedly lost roots or a waystation along a one-way trajectory of transmission, the global tale of Barlaam and Ioasaph

78 Đurić, “Le Nouveau Joasaph.” See also Guran, “L’Auréole de l’empereur.” 79 Ibid., 100. 80 Ibid., 102. 81 Constantinides, Wall Paintings. 82 Paris, BnF Gr. 1242: see Evans, Byzantium, 286–87 (no. 171); Drpić, “Art, Hesychasm.”




Figure 4.17. John VI Kantakouzenos as emperor and monk, from the Theological Works: Paris, Bibliothèque nationale de France, MS gr. 1242, fol. 123v. Photo courtesy of the Bibliothèque nationale de France.

became a mirror for both monks and princes, re lecting the Byzantine world and its concerns with worldliness. The wealth and complexity of its translations, adaptations, manuscript copies, and monumental representations speak to the ubiquitous appeal of the story. Furthermore, some manuscripts are so luxuriously illuminated as to complicate or comment on the narrative’s themes of restraint and renunciation, making their “strict ascetic message … almost an oxymoron,”


89 in the words of Barbara Crostini.83 On another level, the tale participated in a process of worlding or world-making, as a story set in distant India is reframed as a Christian apostolic project, prompting a reassessment of the worldly roles of monastic communities as agents of artistic production and political power. In both the tale and its transmission, we see monks forging and shaping a world from which they would also attempt to set themselves apart. As stories travelled throughout the medieval world “with merchants and caravans, monks and scribes, envoys and artisans, soldiers and slaves, the retinues of exogamous brides”—as Geraldine Heng has put it—mutability went hand in hand with mobility.84 In her primary illustration of global literatures avant la lettre, she offers a brief but brilliant sketch of the Buddha’s travelling life over two thousand years, attributing its global diffusion more to its subversive potential than to its edifying qualities: While scholars commonly focus on the pull of moral-metaphysical instruction the story enacts, key elements of the story also dramatize resistance to power and authority, stage critiques of corruption, and offer celebrations of evasion and concealment of embedded sociopolitical attractions that no doubt helped to drive the story’s global motility.85 The story’s “motility” is an allegory for medieval globalism: in biology, the capacity to be self-generative, to move spontaneously and independently. This motility lends itself not to a grand plan of transmission, where roots and routes dictate the parameters of the conversation; instead, it draws attention to the seemingly myriad possibilities of random encounter and ensuing recalibration. In motility, then, we have an apt term for the cultural work done by what I have called the worldliness of Barlaam of Ioasaph in its myriad manifestations, travelling across boundaries and borders, changing shapes and shaping change.

83 Crostini, “Eleventh-Century Monasticism,” 226. 84 Heng, “Reinventing Race,” 364. 85 Ibid.




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Cecily J. Hilsdale ([email protected]) specializes in the arts of Byzantium and the wider Mediterranean world. She is the author of Byzantine Art and Diplomacy in an Age of Decline (Cambridge University Press, 2014) and numerous articles dealing with cultural exchange: in particular the circulation of Byzantine luxury items such as diplomatic gifts; as well as the related dissemination of Eastern styles, techniques, iconographies, and ideologies of imperium. Abstract  This essay analyzes the nunace, mutability, and political purposes of illustrated Greek manuscripts containing a ubiquitous medieval tale: Barlaam and Ioasaph. Exploring the dynamic nature of this Byzantine material and its global peregrinations, it reveals processes of medieval world formation through text and imagery of a story that, paradoxically, advocates the renunciation of the worldly. Ultimately, it argues that the textual transmission of this story and its diverse visual imagery bridged cultures from Asia to Europe, and religions from Buddhism to Christianity. Keywords Barlaam and Ioasaph, Barlaam and Josaphat, illuminated manuscripts, global, iconography, monasticism, translation, unicorn, Physiologus, worlding


EXCHANGE OF SACRIFICES: WEST AFRICA IN THE MEDIEVAL WORLD OF GOODS SARAH M. GUÉRIN Où vergier mainte bone espice, Cloux de giro le et requelice, Graine de paradis novele, Citoal, anis, et canele, Et mainte espice délitable, Que bon mengier fait après table.

In that orchard, many a spice: Studded cloves and liquorice, Grain of paradise, newly come, Zedoary, anise, cinnamon; And many a spice delectable Good for eating after table.1

of the Roman de la Rose, Guillaume de Lorris (ca. 1200– ca. 1240) describes the marvellous garden of love, where apple trees grow pomegranates, nut trees sprout nutmegs, and where almond, ig, and date trees lourish within the cloistered walls. These fruits of the orient were joined by every imaginable spice good for cleansing the palate after a meal: cloves, licorice, zedoary, anise, cinnamon, and an exotic new spice, grains of paradise (“Graine de paradis novele”). Written in the third decade of the thirteenth century, Guillaume’s poem marks one of the irst instances when this peppery seed (related to the ginger plant) is recorded in western Europe. 2 Also known as melegueta pepper, Aframomum melegueta remained an extremely popular spice at French and Burgundian courts f or appro xima tel y two centuries. Unlike local ly available licorice and anise, or the cinnamon and zedoary (also known as white turmeric) imported from the Indian subcontinent, or the cloves and nutmeg from the spice islands of Indonesia, grains of paradise are native to the rainforests of West Africa and so came to northern Europe by a completely different route. 3 This long-distance relay network, which linked Guillaume’s France to the coastal rainforests of West Africa via trans-Saharan trade routes, also resulted in the lourishing production of Gothic ivories during this exact same period. From about 1230 to 1500, diptychs, polyptychs, and statuettes (Plate 5.1) made of African elephant ivory4 illed 1 Le Roman de la Rose, vv. 1389–94. Translation courtesy of Carol Symes. 2 Laurioux, “Spices”; Laurioux, “Modes culinaires.” 3 Brooks, Landlords and Strangers, 54–55; Brooks, Western Africa, 16 and Osseo-Asare, Bitter Roots, 70–105. 4 That is, the African Savannah elephant, not the smaller Asian elephant: Guérin, “Avorio d’ogni raggione,” 158–59.




church treasuries and private chapels, while ivory boxes carved with courtly scenes and lavish toiletry sets adorned with lirtatious imagery were de rigueur for aristocratic households.5 The prevalence of these two materials, elephant tusk and piquant spice, witnesses a profound shift in the trade routes that provisioned European markets with artistic and culinary luxuries, and illustrates the central role that West Africa played in the medieval world system.6 It was Janet Abu-Lughod who recuperated the concept of a “world system,” coined by the sociologist Immanuel Wallerstein to discuss twentieth-century capitalism, and made it applicable to the medieval globe. Abu- Lughod demonstrated that a non-occidental world economic network thrived before the European-dominated system evolved in the sixteenth century. 7 Her schema consisted of eight interlocking spheres, stretching from western Europe and centred on the Champagne fairs, through the Mediterranean and multiple Islamic systems, to the Far East. West Africa, however, sits forlorn and uncircumscribed on her diagram, while the trans-Saharan trade that furnished the Mediterranean basin, and all of its interconnecting systems, with the economic lubricant gold is conspicuously absent.8 Despite Abu-Lughod’s oversight, the trans-Saharan gold caravans are wellknown historic territory, due in part to contemporaneous texts furnished by Arabic-speaking geographers.9 However, these depictions of sub-Saharan Africa are cursory and generally bigoted, mitigating the economic and cultural systems that interlocked with the Saharan one, at such important trading cities as Walata, Timbuktu, and Gao. A richer picture of West African history and its economic system is still being drawn, largely by archaeologists, and this paper seeks to aggregate recent research and to sketch out what these unwritten chapters of Abu-Lughod’s magnum opus might have contained. When Abu-Lughod dismissed Africa (both East and West) from her consideration of the world system, it was because “Africa’s geographic reach was relatively limited. African merchants were largely local and African goods seldom made their way to China or Europe.” This view of the insigni icance of sub-Saharan

5 For example, the household of Philip V purchased a complete ivory toiletry set in 1316: Douët-d’Arcq, Comptes, 15. 6 For the use of “medieval” in non-European contexts, see Heng, “Early Globalities,” 236–38. 7 Abu-Lughod, Before European Hegemony, 8–20, and Figure 1. 8 Ibid., 36. 9 The Corpus of Early Arabic Sources for West African History, edited and translated by Levtzion and Hopkins, is an invaluable tool in the ield.


99 Africa to the world system—that is, before the hideous development of the trans-Atlantic slave trade—is reinforced by contemporary textual sources. The Mamluk historian Al-‘Umari, writing in Cairo in the mid-fourteenth century, noted that caravans set off from Sijilmasa across the Sahara with “valueless articles” like salt, copper, and cowries and “returned with bullion as their camels’ burden.”10 However, the goods sent south across the Sahara were emphatically not valueless to West African civilizations, whose particular regimes of value were dependent on local environments and culturally construed hierarchies. There are no universal commodity values. Indeed, Arjun Appadurai has articulated the inely attuned relationship of exchange as one of mutual sacri ice by both parties: “One’s desire for an object is ful illed by the sacri ice of some other object, which is the focus of the desire of another. Such exchange of sacri ices is what economic life is all about.”11 The following three sections each corresponds to a lobe of the West African economic system in which such mutual exchange of sacri ices took place. In the irst, I present a snapshot of trans-Saharan trade in the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries and the commodities that traversed the desert, considering not only Mediterranean-bound cargo, but the material needs and even desires of West African communities. The second section focuses on the Empire of Mali, which arose in the mid-thirteenth century as climate change expanded the terrain between ixed caravan entrepôts in the semi-desert Sahel (“shores” in Arabic) and the retracting forest regions some 1000 km farther south: the zone that provided many goods for interregional exchange. Mali, as a political and economic entity, bridged that gap and pro ited accordingly. Finally, the last section concentrates on artistic products from the Savannah–Forest interface, today in Nigeria, and reveals unexpected relationships between ivory, one of the key exports from the Savannah regions, and copper alloys, a major commodity imported across the Sahara into the West African economic sphere.

Trans-Saharan Trade and Its World of Goods One of the most detailed discussions of the mechanics of caravan trade across the Sahara is that of Ibn al-Khatib, writing in Granada in the mid-fourteenth century. Aby ‘Abd Allay Muhammad al-Maqqari of Tlemcen (Algeria) had visited Granada in May of 1356, and Ibn al-Khatib recorded notes on his family’s trading network,

10 Levtzion and Hopkins, Corpus, 276. 11 Appadurai, “Introduction,” 3–4.




which had been established on either side of the Sahara in the mid-thirteenth century.12 Al-Maqqari’s ancestors, according to what is stated in their biographies, became famous in trade. They established the desert route by digging wells and seeing to the security of merchants. … The sons of Yahya … were five. They made a partnership by which all had equal shares in what they possessed or might possess. Abu Bakr and Muhammad … were in Tlemcen; ‘Abd al-Rahman, who was their elder brother, was in Sijilmasa; ‘Abd al-Wahid and ‘Ali, who were their two younger brothers, were in Iwalatan [Walata]. They [all of the brothers] acquired properties and houses in those regions, married wives, and begat children by concubines. The Tilimsani would send to the Sahrawi [those in the Sahara, i.e. Walata] the goods which the latter would indicate to him, and the Sahrawi would send to him skins, ivory, nuts ( jawz), and gold. The Sijilmasi were like the tongue of a balance, indicating to them the extent of rise or fall in the markets and writing to them about the affairs of merchants and countries. And so their wealth expanded and their status grew.13 Walata is a small oasis town, now in the deserts of southeast Mauritania, which gained importance in trans-Saharan trade just as the al-Maqqari family was consolidating their network in the mid-thirteenth century (see Map 5.1).14 Al-‘Umari describes Walata as “the farthest point of inhabited country,” after the gruelling 1500 km trek across the desert from Sijilmasa.15 Ibn al-Khatib and al-‘Umari thus enumerate the standard commodities associated with medieval trans-Saharan trade. Yellow gold came from the alluvial deposits in modern Senegal and Mali, along the Falémé and Niger rivers.16 The empires of Ghana (ca. 700–ca. 1100) and, as we will see, of Mali (ca. 1250–ca. 1500) controlled the trade in gold from these sites, making these sub-Saharan

12 Levtzion and Hopkins, Corpus, 306 and 418–19 (nn. 1–8). 13 Ibid., 306–8 I. 14 Lydon, On Trans-Saharan Trails, 84–85; Cleveland, Becoming Walāta, 3–7. 15 While al-‘Umari based his text closely on previous geographers (notably Ibu Khaldun and Ibn Battuta), he also enjoyed access to Mamluk administrative records in Cairo when compiling his text: Levtzion and Hopkins, Corpus, 252–53 and 276. 16 Devisse, “Commerce et routes,” ig. 14.17; Mauny, Tableau géographique, ig. 58; Walker, “Italian Gold”; Nixon et al., “New Light.”



Map 5.1. Trade routes and climatic zones in West Africa, ca. 1300. © Gabriel Moss,

polities fabulously wealthy.17 “White gold,” that is elephant ivory, did not have a ixed place of origin given the inherent mobility of its source, and it is particularly unstable across the medieval period. And it was the African Savannah elephant (Loxodonta Africana) that was prized across the Mediterranean world. It is the only species that produces the large tusks so desirable for igural carving, with diameters well above 11 cm, in contrast with the smaller Forest elephant (Loxodonta cyclotis), with correspondingly petite tusks.18 Skins, both bovid hide for arms (shields of oryx leather were coveted around the Mediterranean) as well as those of reptiles (crocodiles) and carnivores (leopards and lions), were important prestige commodities. Al-Maqqari’s mention of “nuts” ( jawz) among the trade goods is one of the few instances when grains of paradise are mentioned in transSaharan trade, demonstrating that the al-Maqqari network had access to Forest 17 Levtzion, Ancient Ghana and Mali; Keech McIntosh, “Reconceptualizing Early Ghana”; Kea, “Expansions and Contractions.” 18 Grubb et al., “Living African Elephants.”




as well as Saharan commodities.19 Among other goods, including likely ebony and indigo,20 there were undoubtedly slaves, whose traces are notoriously dif icult to follow in the archaeological record.21 Although al-‘Umari considered them “valueless articles,” salt, copper, and cowries were essential to the health—physical, spiritual, as well as economic— of sub-Saharan communities. The importance of salt, especially in a hot climate, is incontrovertible and there are few natural sources in West Africa. In fact, the paramount importance of this mineral might have provided the initial impetus for interregional, including trans-Saharan, trade.22 The mines at Taghaza, Mali (the bed of an ancient salt lake), were a key source of both rock salt and the mineral ixative alum, which was also increasingly important for the northern European textile industry. Taghaza is also, not coincidentally, the mid-point on the Sijilmasa-Walata route.23 Copper, sometimes called “red gold,” came from mines not only within the Sahara itself (e.g. Akjoujit, Mauritiana; Tessalit, Mali; or Azelik/Takedda, Niger)24 but also from around the Mediterranean basin and—as we will see—far beyond. Used in West Africa primarily for artistic and ritual purposes—locally available iron was preferred for weapons and tools—copper and its alloys have recently been shown to have been valued for their spiritual malleability. In a number of sub-Saharan cultures, copper responds particularly well to the secret technologies of blacksmiths.25 Cowrie shells, of a mollusk most prevalent in the Indian Ocean, were used as currency in many parts of the Islamic world, including West Africa. Their passage to North Africa via the Red Sea and Egypt, and thence to West Africa by trans-Saharan caravan, thus truly bespeaks West Africa’s involvement in the world system.26 The trade of gold for cowries, therefore, could be considered as an exchange of monetary instruments between distinct value regimes, rather than al‘Umari’s vision of an exploitative system in which mere trinkets are exchanged for pure bullion. To the salt, copper, and cowries traveling across the Sahara should be

19 Mauny, “Notes historiques,” 708–9. 20 Levtzion and Hopkins, Corpus, 97–98: for al-Zuhri on Saharan goods available at Sijilmasa ca. 1100. 21 Keech McIntosh and McIntosh, “From Stone to Metal,” 112–13; Stahl (“Political Economic Mosaics”) notes, however, the intensi ication in the slave trade after the sixteenth century. 22 McDougall, “Sahara Reconsidered”; McDougall, “Salts.” 23 Levtzion and Hopkins, Corpus, 178 (no. 37); Guérin, “Avorio d’ogni raggione,” 168–69. 24 Herbert, Red Gold, 15–19. 25 McNaughton, Mande Blacksmiths; Garenne-Marot et al., “Cuivre, alliages.” 26 Johnson, “Cowrie Currencies.”


103 added cloth, both luxurious silks and quotidian woollens alike, porcelains, glazed ceramics, and especially glass beads. At both ends of the route managed by the al-Maqqari brothers, goods were funnelled into the medieval world system. The Mediterranean-oriented Tlemcen was connected with Europe and Asia, as far as the Indian Ocean and China. A similar scope holds for Walata and the other trade entrepôts on the southern shores of the Sahara. The goods exchanged in these Sahelian centres originated across West Africa, from modern Senegal and Sierra Leone to modern Niger and Nigeria. The organization of intra-continental trade across these regions in the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries was therefore another lobe of the world system.

Climate Change and the Empire of Mali: Bridging Sahel and Rainforest The Medieval Climactic Anomaly impacted West Africa as it did the rest of the globe.27 From roughly 700 to 1500, West Africa experienced a signi icant cycle of humidi ication and deserti ication which shifted its ecological zones profoundly, encouraging loral and faunal populations to migrate with their expanding habitats, and then forcing them to move again when these habitats contracted. During the wet period that lasted from approximately 700 to 1100, the transSaharan caravan routes were consolidated and thrived because a wetter and greener Sahara facilitated trade. This period corresponds to the so-called “ivory century” in the Mediterranean basin, when the craft of ivory carving lourished in al-Andalus, Byzantine Constantinople, Fatimid Egypt, and in the lands of the Germanic Ottonian Empire.28 The wet period allowed the large mammals of the Savannah grass- and woodlands to live comfortably much farther north than they do today. Generally, the semi-desert Sahel is too dry and its vegetation cannot easily support the Savannah elephant. But when the trans-Saharan trade routes were gaining prominence in the ninth and tenth centuries, the caravan cities along the Niger River, such as Gao and Tiraqqa (eclipsed later by Timbuktu), may

27 Brooks, Western Africa; Brooks, Landlords and Strangers, 7–25; Brooks, “Ecological Perspectives”; McIntosh, Peoples of the Middle Niger; McIntosh et al., eds., The Way the Wind Blows; Keech McIntosh, “Reconceptualizing Early Ghana”; Nicholson, “The Methodology of Historical Climate”; Talbot, “Environmental Responses”; Keech McIntosh and McIntosh, “West African Prehistory”; McCann, “Climate and Causation”; Lézine et al., “Sahara and Sahel.” 28 “Ivory century” was coined by Horton, “Swahili Corridor.” See also Cutler, “Resemblance and Difference”; Guérin, “Forgotten Routes.”




have supported signi icant elephant populations. 29 One last troupe of elephants still wanders these now inhospitable territories, ranging over some 24,000 square kilometers every year in search of water and vegetation for meagre survival.30 Indeed, the poor environment available to these last Sahelian elephants does not allow their tusks to grow to their full extent, as they would in richer environments. Recent excavations at Diouboye (Senegal), along the Falemé river and within the Bambuk region known for its riverine gold, have uncovered evidence of a Mande community focused on hunting to provision the trans-Saharan trade.31 At this site, active from about 1000 to 1400, the remains not only of medium-sized bovids but also of such dangerous beasts as leopards and crocodiles suggest the community’s involvement in sourcing goods important to interregional exchange. In addition to several small ivory beads, excavations have uncovered elephant bone: an exceptionally rare ind indicating that the Diouboye community was engaged with provisioning trans-Saharan trade, not only with leather and exotic skins but with ivory. Its location along the river which was the source of gold for the empires of both Ghana and Mali further demonstrates the region’s active diversi ication of exports and contribution to the low of trade. While elephants might have thrived closer to the terminal cities of the transSaharan caravans during the wet period, the intensi ied dryness of the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries makes this nearly impossible. 32 As the limits of the Sahara moved southwards, the Sahel also extended south nearly two degrees of latitude, shifting the natural habitat for the elephant population accordingly. The rainforests that provided many trade goods receded to modern Liberia, Sierra Leone, and territories directly adjacent to the coasts. Quixotically, it was precisely in this period, when the rainforests were at their greatest remove from the termini of the trans-Saharan caravans, that grains of paradise were irst described by Guillaume de Lorris. That is because a newly expanding empire controlled much of West Africa between the Sahel and the rainforests, and so played an increasingly important role overseeing interregional trade.33 The rise to power of the Empire of Mali began in the thirteenth century, as the Mandinka royal family (1240–1450), whose homelands have been tentatively

29 For cultural recollections of the elephant, see Arnoldi and Ezra, “Sama Ba.” 30 See Blake et al., Last Sahelian Elephants; Mauny, “Préhistoire”; Bouché, “Évolution.” 31 Dueppen and Gokee, “Hunting on the Margins.” My thanks to Stephen Dueppen for this reference. 32 Brooks, Western Africa, 79–82. 33 Levtzion, Ancient Ghana and Mali; Keech McIntosh, “Reconceptualizing Early Ghana”; Brooks, Landlords and Strangers, 97–119; Brooks, “Ecological Perspectives.”


105 identi ied as territories around modern Niani in southern Guinea,34 spread their control over large parts of West Africa. Eventually, the empire bridged all four climatic zones: Sahel, grass and woodland Savannahs, up to the border of the rainforests. The empire’s founding is remembered in the Sunjata epic, an oral history telling of the semi-mythical exploits and adventures of the irst mansa (king or emperor), Sunjata Keita ( l. 1230s), and his companions.35 Ibn Battuta (ca. 1304–1368/9), the great traveler from Tangiers, visited the Kingdom of Mali and described it as stretching from the Atlantic in the west to the land of Limiyyun to the southeast, downstream from Gao.36 The rulers of Mali closely supervised trade throughout their empire with import and export taxes on merchandise, and they extended their control over the Savannah gold ields. 37 In addition to the Bambuk area in eastern Senegal, Mali encouraged development of the Bouré gold region near the modern border between Guinea and Mali.38 The gold trade drove Mali’s continued involvement in trans-Saharan routes, and brought remarkable wealth. While gold might have provided much of that wealth, it was the control of other resources, namely iron for arms and horses for transportation, that enabled the mansas of Mali to control this vast territory. Recent excavations at an abandoned settlement along the Niger River, 23 km west of Ségou, demonstrate the means and materials with which the Empire of Mali wielded power.39 Local tradition has long identi ied the site, known as Sorotomo, with Silamakanba Koita, one of the comrades of Sunjata Keita, and radiocarbon dating of the earliest settlement layers con irm an early to mid-thirteenth-century date. Illustrative of the means of governance within the vast Empire of Mali is the strong archaeological presence of horses at Sorotomo.40 Not only were signi icant skeletal remains of small-scale horses found,41 the topography manifests an unusually high 34 The location of the capital remains much disputed. Levtzion (Ancient Ghana and Mali, 62) named Niani as the capital, but excavations in 1968 were inconclusive: see Filipowiak, “L’Expedition archéologique.” See also Hunwick, “Mid-Fourteenth Century Capital”; Conrad, “A Town Called Dakajalan.” For the Mandinka linguistic homelands, see Bird, “Development,” especially 153. 35 Many versions have been recorded, edited, and translated: e.g. Conrad, ed. and trans., with Condé, narrator, Sunjata. 36 Levtzion and Hopkins, Corpus, 287. 37 Levtzion, Ancient Ghana and Mali, 115. 38 Mauny, Tableau géographique, 294–98; Walker, “Italian Gold,” 36. 39 MacDonald, et al., “Sorotomo.” 40 Local traditions link the site and Silamakanba Koita with the possession of a substantial cavalry: MacDonald et al., “Sorotomo,” 54. 41 In the eleventh century, Al-Bakri described the horses used by West African polities as “very small”: Levtzion and Hopkins, Corpus, 81; Law, Horse, 25–26.




number of ponding areas (mares): trough-like reservoirs used for watering livestock. The possession and mobilization of horses, especially a cavalry at the ready for raids, attacks, and long-distance communication with an imperial centre, is the clearest sign of dominion. The nearby Souloukoutou iron mines likely supplied another intrinsic element of empire. Iron, the most common metal found in West Africa, smelted into weapons and horse tackle,42 may explain Sorotomo’s location and represent another source of Silamakanba Koita’s power.43 Although the empire relied on iron weaponry to expand and maintain power,44 the process of smelting iron had an increasingly deleterious effect on the landscape, exacerbating the recession of woodlands in the dry period and pushing Mali’s zone of in luence southwards.45 The southward expansion of Mali was therefore driven by climate change, worsened by environmental degradation; but it was also the intentional result of rulers’ efforts to supply rainforest goods for interregional trade, including ebony, grains of paradise, and kola nuts. With the onset of the dry period in the twelfth century, a number of new trading centres were accordingly established along the border of the rainforest, de ining the edge of Mali’s zone of in luence: Labé (Guinea), Falaba, (Sierra Leone), Kissidougou (Guinea), and Moussadougou (Côte d’Ivoire).46 Rainforest exports were exchanged at these sites for iron and iron goods, gold, and cotton cloth.47 While the trading entrepôts of the Sahel were mixed societies blending Arab, Berber, and Songhai populations,48 Muslim Mande traders were placed in power by the mansa in the rainforest market towns, becoming overlords of local populations (including Lobi, Senufo, and Kulango). Known as Dyula (or Jula), the horse-mounted traders developed both a distinct dialect of Mande, incorporating a large number of loan words, and a strongly accomodationist strand of Islamic theology.49 It was they who provisioned the Empire of

42 For the iron horse bridle found at Koumbi Saleh, perhaps the capital of Ghana, see Berthier, Recherches archéologiques, 78–79. 43 MacDonald et al. are cautious, since no evidence of iron smelting was unearthed during excavations, although only two test units were dug: “Sorotomo,” 56. 44 A number of Mandinka-style lance heads have been found throughout the territories conquered by the Empire of Mali: Blandin, “Fer Noir,” 45 (no. 1) and 143 (nos. 1, 3, and 4); McNaughton, Mande Blacksmiths, 112–14. 45 Brooks, Landlords and Strangers, 78–80. 46 Ibid., 69–73. 47 Brooks, “Ecological Perspectives,” 34. 48 The Soninke traders who specialized in the gold trade were known as Wangara: Massing, “Wangara.” 49 Wilks, “Juula.”


107 Mali, and the rest of the western hemisphere, with African forest goods, including ebony and grains of paradise. The receding woodlands and rainforests of the dry period thus compelled the Empire of Mali to stretch its reach, bridging forest and Sahel with the horse-mounted and iron-armed Dyula. It emerged in the thirteenth century as an economic and political entity controlling trade across West Africa, even as the distances between these zones increased dramatically due to climate change.

The Savannah–Forest Interface and Northwestern Europe: Ivory for Copper The Dyula presence was especially strong along the southwestern edges of the Savannah woodlands. Trade and communication to the southeast, beyond the limits of the empire, was greatly facilitated by the Niger River, which connected trans-Saharan entrepôts along the Niger River Bend to the Savannah and Forest zones of the Niger Delta. Archaeological inds illustrate how the smaller kingdoms and polities throughout this region were similarly actively engaged in long-distance trade. Works of art from Durbi Takusheyi and Tada, sites in the Savannah and Savannah–Forest interface respectively, emphasize not only culturally contingent material hierarchies, but also the astonishingly wide compass of these communities’ speci ic material desires and their integration into the medieval world system. A cluster of eight burial mounds at Durbi Takusheyi, in the Savannahs of Northern Nigeria, illustrates the reach of Mali’s trading network in the fourteenth century.50 Three of these were high-status tombs, replete with the goods closely associated with trans-Saharan trade: metalwork from the central Islamic lands, glass beads from an impressive number of far-ranging locales, cowrie shells from the Indian Ocean, copper-alloy bracelets and anklets, and a number of pieces of solid gold jewellery likely from Senegal.51 Large ivory bangles were found in all three of the high-status graves, fashioned from the tusks of Savannah elephants roaming nearby. The tumuli of Durbi Takusheyi picture for us a community in direct contact with elephant populations, the source of trade routes that spanned some four thousand kilometres to the ivory workshops of France, and they demonstrate how export goods were appreciated. The juxtaposition of local ivory jewellery together with carnelian, foreign glass, brass, and cowries indicates the high status of ivory, a sense of its value. The elite deceased at Durbi Takusheyi were 50 Gronenborn et al., “Durbi Takusheyi”; Gronenborn, “States and Trade”; and Gronenborn, ed., Gold. Radiocarbon dating placed tombs 4 and 5 ca. 1300–1325, while tumulus 7 is uncertainly dated between the fourteenth and sixteenth centuries. 51 For the Mamluk bowl, see Ward, “Plugging the Gap”; Silverman, “Material Biographies.”




buried with luxury goods from close by, from elsewhere in West Africa, and from across the entire eastern hemisphere. In addition to ivory, a wide variety of copper-alloy objects were found in the Durbi Takusheyi tombs: inished imported goods, anklets and bracelets cast locally, and the raw material itself in the form of ingots—the long slim rods appropriate for trade (Figure 5.1a). Three brass ingots were found with the male individual from tomb 5, and in form they are surprisingly close to those in the abandoned shipment of around 2,085 brass bars that Théodore Monod found, together with thousands of cowrie shells, in the so-called el Djouf, or “empty quarter,” of northern Mauritania, a site called Ma‘den Ijâfen.52 Monod photographed and documented the abandoned caravan, dated to between 1000 and 1280, but he was not able to excavate properly and the site has yet to be relocated.53 Monod did, however, retrieve twenty- ive of the brass rods, and an analysis of their lead isotopes54 revealed that the copper ore was not likely extracted from any of the suspected North African sources, such as the Moroccan copper mines near Igli.55 Instead, the closest match is a seam of copper ore stretching across modern Belgium and the German Harz region!56 Although these are preliminary indings, it seems that the brass ingots abandoned at Ma‘den Ijâfen, though they never reached their inal destination, had already come a long distance indeed. An initial report on the copper-alloy items from Durbi Takusheyi states that the ingots found in tumulus 5 similarly share isotopic ratios with a number of western European ore deposits,57 also linking the burials on the Nigerian Savannahs to the mining centres of northern Europe. Furthermore, while there is great diversity of isotopic ratios among the copper-alloy objects from Durbi Takusheyi, the man buried with the ingots cast his impressive anklets (Figure 5.1b) from his own

52 Monod, “Ma‘den Ijâfen”; Lintz et al., eds., Maroc médiéval, nos. 56 and 57; Lydon, On Trans-Saharan Trails, 74–76. 53 Bedaux et al., “Recherches archéologiques,” 147; Garenne- Marot and Hurtel, “Le Cuivre,” 326; Castro, “Examen métallographique,” 497 and 510. 54 At the Smithsonian, Willett and Sayre studied three datasets of lead isotopes from West African copper alloys: ore samples, archaeological and ethnographical artifacts, and lead isotope ratios from previous analyses of West African materials, which were statistically coherent with the Smithsonian lab results. I am aware of the preliminary nature of such meta-analytical studies and urge further tests. Willett and Sayre, “Lead Isotopes.” See also Gale and Stos-Gale, “Lead Isotope Analyses.” 55 Levtzion and Hopkins, Corpus, 69. Ibn Battuta also mentioned Takedda (Azelik, Niger) as a source of copper: Levtzion and Hopkins, Corpus, 302. See also Herbert, Red Gold, 16–19. 56 For Ma‘den Ijafen isotopes, see Willett and Sayer, “Lead Isotopes,” 67. 57 Gronenborn, ed., Gold, 105.



Figure 5.1a–b. Drawing of tumulus 5 at Durbi Takusheyi, Nigeria, ca. 1300. Copper-alloy (brass) anklets from tumulus 5, height: 24 cm each. Images courtesy of Detlef Gronenborn, the Römisch-Germanisches Zentralmuseum Durbi Takusheyi project.

stock of this same material: ingots and anklets shared the exact same composition and isotopic signature. This individual—for whom the brass trade was clearly important and whose identity it must have de ined—fashioned them (or had them fashioned for him) from the materials of prestige trade items, to accompany him to the grave. The local and the foreign, the elephant ivory around his wrists and the European copper around his ankles, both expressed his status and identity within his community. The meeting of European copper and Savannah ivory in the tombs of Durbi Takusheyi is a clear example of the community’s active local engagement in global trade. The number of ivory bangles reveals a society not only with ready access to the African Savannah elephant, but one that appreciated the aesthetic potential of their tusks, using their ivory as an esteemed material for personal adornment. The community valued the main product that was exported, ivory, simultaneously transforming imported raw resources (like the brass) into culturally signi icant items. Indeed, the technique of lost-wax casting used for such items as the brass anklets from Durbi Takusheyi appears to have been an independent, indigenous




development among the kingdoms of the Niger River Delta. 58 The remarkable inds of Igbo-Ukwu (Nigeria), near the mouth of the Niger River—including some 685 objects in copper and bronze, in addition to thousands of glass beads, terracotta sculptures, cowrie shells, and regalia—date to between the eighth and the early eleventh centuries (Figure 5.2).59 Not only do these artifacts stand witness to a highly sophisticated artistic tradition, the analysis of the Igbo-Ukwu bronzes reveals two signi icant sources for the copper ore. 60 The irst, found in the earliest of these pieces, was identi ied with relatively local ore deposits in modernday Nigeria, along the Benue Rift.61 A second source, observed among the later bronzes, is from North African copper deposits in Tunisia and Algeria, thus products of the trans-Saharan trade.62 At Igbo-Ukwu, therefore, lost-wax casting was irst practised based on regionally available, indigenous resources. The subsequent success of the art form in the next generations, and the increased desire for its products, evidently surpassed the locally available resources, encouraging long-distance, interregional trade. The impetus for long-distance networks thus came from an endogenous development at Igbo-Ukwu. Thurstan Shaw suggested that this long-distance trade was largely balanced by leveraging locally available elephant tusks to obtain the desired goods. It is worth noting that in addition to the copper-alloy riches, three largescale elephant tusks were included in the high-status burial chamber unearthed at Igbo-Ukwu, echoing the association between copper and ivory seen at Durbi Takusheyi.63 In the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries, the Yoruba kingdom of Ife was lourishing in the Forest zone of the Niger River Delta. Ibn Battuta seems to have known of Ife, describing it more or less correctly as the kingdom beyond the last territories of the Empire of Mali: “Yu i is one of the biggest countries of the Sudan, and their sultan is one of their greatest sultans.”64 Ife is known today for the astonishing group of naturalistic, lost-wax cast, copper-alloy heads that were unearthed

58 Picton, “West Africa”; Craddock and Picton, “Medieval Copper”; Craddock and Hook, “Copper to Africa.” 59 For the dating controversy, see Shaw, Igbo-Ukwu; Shaw, “Those Igbo-Ukwu Dates.” 60 Chikwendu et al., “Nigerian Sources”; Craddock et al., “Metal Sources”; Willett and Sayre, “Lead Isotopes,” 57. 61 Willett and Sayre, “Lead Isotopes,” 58–60; Chikwendu et al., “Nigerian Sources.” 62 Willett and Sayre, “Lead Isotopes,” 60–61. 63 Shaw, Igbo-Ukwu, 284–85; Insoll and Shaw, “Gao and Igbo-Ukwu,” 17–18. 64 Levtzion and Hopkins, Corpus, 287.



Figure 5.2. “Roped” pot on a stand, from Igbo-Ukwu, Nigeria: ninth or tenth century. Leaded bronze, height: 32.3 cm. Lagos, Nigerian National Museum (79.R.4). Image courtesy of Bridgeman Images.

in the palace compound of the Ooni (ruler) of Ife in 1938.65 This was a secondary burial, so instead of a dating based on archaeological context, thermoluminescence has been used to place the corpus in the fourteenth and ifteenth centuries.66 Rather than the compelling heads from the palace compound,67 however, it is the seated igure from Tada (Plate 5.2)—a small Nupe trading village about 200 km due north of Ife along the banks of the Niger River—that offers the perfect illustration of trade, exchange, and material desire.68 Dated to 1325 ± 60 years, the Tada igure is thus contemporary with the burials at Durbi Takusheyi, with the

65 Drewal and Schildkrout, eds., Dynasty and Divinity. 66 Willett, “Ife,” 233–34; Willett and Fleming, “A Catalogue.” See Aitken, Thermoluminescence Dating. 67 Blier, “Kings”; Blier, “Art in Ancient Ife”; Blier, Art and Risk. See also Abiodun, Yoruba Art, especially chapter 7. 68 Divergent iconographic readings of the seated Tada igure have been offered. Blier reconstructed the traditional Ogboni association hand gesture: “Art in Ancient Ife,” 73–74; Blier, Art and Risk, 52–59 and plate 5. However, Abiodun (Yoruba Art, 229–35) interprets the Tada igure as a diving priest.




lourishing of the Empire of Mali, and, not insigni icantly, with the apogee of Gothic ivory carving in western Europe.69 Seated on the ground, with one leg bent and the other foot tucked underneath, the 53.7 cm high sculpture displays remarkable attention to naturalistic details of the igure’s anatomy and physiognomy. Although unanimously attributed to the workshops at Ife due to stylistic and technical similarities, 70 the seated igure was not found among the sites and shrines of the Ife heartlands. Rather, it was removed in 1979 (along with seven other copper-alloy igures) from a “sacred hut” at Tada to the National Museum, Lagos.71 Isotopic analysis of the nearly pure copper from which the seated igure was cast indicates that the ore came neither from a local Nigerian source, a North African one, nor from the Harz region that constituted the ingots at Maʽden Ijâfen and Durbi Takusheyi. Instead, the copper ore seems to come from the Massif Central, a mineral-rich outcropping of the earth’s crust in southern France.72 The copper from which the Tada igure was cast may thus come from the very territories which so desired Savannah elephant ivory at exactly this same moment—elephant tusks that were in turn carved into igures for Christian worship. For example, the abbey of Frigolet, 70 km or two days’ journey from the southern limits of the Massif Central, had (at the time of the French Revolution) an ivory Virgin and Child (Plate 5.1).73 Such large-scale (37.8 cm) ivory statuettes were frequently used in this period in liturgy and private devotion, and were the focus of pious veneration.74 These two communities, Frigolet and Tada, can therefore be posited as being in a mutually dependent chiastic relationship—each

69 Willett and Fleming, “A Catalogue,” 138–39. 70 Analysis of the clay core demonstrates a closely related manufacture with the Ife bronzes: Slater and Willett, “Neutron Activation.” 71 The irst photograph published was in Hermon-Hodge, Up Against It, plate facing 196. Palmer, as Lieutenant Governor of Northern Nigeria, did not visit Tada: Palmer, “Gabi Figures” and “Ancient Nigerian Bronzes.” Colonial district of icer S. W. Walker observed the igures in situ: Walker, “Gabi Figures.” 72 Willett and Sayre, “Lead Isotopes,” 62–68. The two objects from the Ife corpus are formed of nearly pure copper with high levels of arsenic, with the Tada igure (0.95%) and the Obulafon mask sitting slightly outside the core statistical spread for the Massif Central. A branch of the cupreous deposits closer to Marseilles is similarly high in arsenic (Cauuet, “Les Ressources”) and was not tested by the project. It might yield a closer match: Werner and Willett, “Composition,” 144–45. For mining in medieval France, see Hoffmann, An Environmental History, 215–27; Blier, Art and Risk, 77–82. 73 Gaborit-Chopin and Levy-Hinstin, “La Vierge.” 74 Guérin, “Meaningful Spectacles,” and Guérin, “Activation et glori ication.”


113 providing for the other raw materials for the production of ritually important igural sculpture. They can be seen, materially and artistically, as equal partners in an exceptionally long-distance, intercontinental trade network. They were an exchange of sacri ices. Yet in contrast to the Gothic ivories, whose modes of interpretation were largely grounded in biblical exegesis rather than the vicissitudes of trade, the seated Tada igure may have been conceptually associated with the actual mechanisms of exchange. When the bronze sculptures were irst observed by S. W. Walker, in situ at Tada, the seated igure was still being ritually washed every week in the waters of the Niger River and scrubbed with its gravel. Eva Meyerowitz con irmed this observation seven years later, in 1941: “the priest seems to have devoted particular attention to this igure, which is taken to the Niger every Friday where it is vigorously scoured with water and river sand.”75 Frank Willett visited Tada in the late 1950s and interviewed the chief priest of the shrine, who corroborated earlier testimonies regarding the practice of ritually washing the statue in the Niger every Friday (a practice discontinued, Willett notes, in 1949).76 The priest also indicated that the community associated the seated igure with “the fertility of the people, of their crops and of the ish in the River Niger on which they live.” Visiting Tada in 1936, the anthropologist S. F. Nadel described the shrine that housed the copper-alloy statues as “quite close to [the river] bank, and next door to the chief’s house … Inside [the] hut the 8 igures [are] arranged like in museum. Surprising cleanliness and order … The square inside is covered with pure, new sand from [the] river which is regularly renewed and cleaned.”77 River and shrine are thus closely associated, inter-permeating the other’s space, reinforcing the identi ication of the statue with the river. That these ritual practices were of some longevity is testi ied to by the abraded and corroded surface of the copper—though whether the wear is the result of decades of scouring or centuries is dif icult to assess. Another piece of evidence does, however, suggest greater antiquity: the educator and linguist M. C. English reported that the ceremonies surrounding the ritual washing were not performed in the indigenous Nupe language but in Yoruba, the language of Ife.78 The rituals

75 Walker, “Gabi Figures,” 169–72; Meyerowitz, “Ancient Nigerian Bronzes,” 92 and plate A. 76 Willett, Ife, 51; Willett, Treasures, 146. 77 London, Archives of the London School of Economics, Papers of Siegfried Nadel (1903– 1956, anthropologist), 2; and Nupe: Field Notebooks, Second Series, 1935–1936. See Nadel, “Field Diaries,” ed. Blench. 78 English, Outline of Nigerian History, 52. I thank Deb Stewart, librarian at the Penn Museum, for help in locating this citation.




surrounding the seated Tada igure, its association with fertility and prosperity, and its deep link to the river may reach far back into the region’s history, when Tada was a trading outpost for the Yoruba-speaking Ife kingdom. Thurstan Shaw has already noted the propitious location of Tada at the interface between Savannah and Forest, an ideal riverine entrepôt for the exchange of goods from the two climatic zones.79 It was this very luvial network that delivered the materials from which the igures were cast: a remarkable crystallization of the forces that engendered its own existence, underscoring the ties between the sculpture’s materiality, its ritual function, and its origin in an interconnected world system.

Conclusion We have undertaken a brief journey over a vast terrain in order to assess the complexity of the interregional trade networks linking West Africa to Europe and the Mediterranean world in the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries, and thereby integrating West Africa into the world system. The heyday of grains of Paradise in French and Burgundian cuisine coincides with the lourishing production of Gothic ivories carved from African elephant tusks. During these centuries, the changing climate of medieval Africa had a direct effect not only on the availability of such trade goods, but on the political structures that arose to manage and monopolize regional and interregional trade. I have shown how local, sub-Saharan communities contributed to these trade networks, and suggested how and why certain goods and materials were desired in those communities, impelling the communities south of the Sahara to participate in interregional trade. If cultures around the Mediterranean littoral were enticed across the Sahara by the promise of gold, what material was precious enough to exchange for pure gold bullion? The inds at Durbi Takusheyi and the sculpture of Ife suggest that copper alloys are part of the answer. The remarkable copper-alloy casts of Nigeria, from Igbo-Ukwu in the eighth through eleventh centuries, and those of Ife from the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries, demonstrate the trajectory of increasing desire for copper alloys on the Niger River delta. As the demand for copper increased, the sources for copper ores moved further a ield—to the Sahara and North Africa. By the fourteenth century, the Niger Delta seems to have been sourcing its copper ore from western Europe as well. The Tada igure, cast from copper ore perhaps taken from the mines of the Massif Central, can thus be juxtaposed with Gothic ivory statuettes carved

79 Shaw, “A Note on Trade.”


115 from the tusks of African elephants at exactly the same moment. Remarkably the seated igure at Tada was ritually associated with the trade route itself, its weekly washing in the Niger River assuring the community’s prosperity by means of this thoroughfare. Thus copper and ivory reached a sort of trade equilibrium. Not one of direct exchange, but an equilibrium reached through the mediation of several “lobes” of a world system. The desire for copper alloy had a rippling effect across four separate interlocking zones of in luence: the Forest zone, the Empire of Mali, transSaharan caravans, and the Mediterranean. And remarkably, the very locales that responded to the need for copper alloy appreciated the main export product from the Savannah–Forest interface: elephant tusks. In heeding the local use and signi icance of materials in a sub-Saharan context, a picture of a vastly different regime of value has emerged. In an economy where gold and ivory are plentiful, such materials as the biologically necessary salt or the spiritually potent copper alloys ful ill real needs and desires. Desires signi icant enough, compelling enough, to trade for gold and ivory. It was, to paraphrase Appadurai, a worthwhile sacri ice to exchange gold and ivory for copper and salt.




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123 Sarah M. Guérin ([email protected]) is Assistant Professor in the Department of History of Art at the University of Pennsylvania. Her research focuses largely on ivory carving in medieval Europe, which she has approached from a variety of methodological standpoints. In addition to two articles on the medieval ivory trade, she has addressed questions of artistic production, theological interpretation, and haptic engagement with medieval ivories. She is preparing a monograph entitled Ivory Palaces: Material, Belief and Desire in Gothic Sculpture. Abstract Although excluded from Abu-Lughod’s description of the medieval world system, West Africa nevertheless played a central role in this economic network via the trans-Saharan routes linking the Mediterranean with Africa south of the Sahara. In the thirteenth century, these links were extended and strengthened under the Empire of Mali, which structured trade between trans-Saharan entrepôts and the Savannah regions where prized African elephants thrived. The carved ivories produced in contemporary Europe would not have been possible without these networks, which also supplied local communities with the materials they themselves prized, some of which were regional products, some of which were imported from northwestern Europe. In particular, works of art produced at the Savannah-Forest interface in modern Nigeria demonstrate sub-Saharan Africa’s connection to the world system in the years around 1300. Keywords copper, ivory, gold, trans-Sahara, trade, West Africa, grains of paradise, world system, Empire of Mali, Tada, Durbi Takusheyi



THE BERYOZOVO CUP: A BYZANTINE OBJECT AT THE CROSSROADS OF TWELFTH-CENTURY EURASIA ALICIA WALKER best known for its sacred art.1 Haunting icons, breathtaking mosaics, immersive wall paintings, and otherworldly ecclesiastical architecture are among the hallmarks of the tradition. Yet, as one of the wealthiest and most cosmopolitan societies of the medieval world, the Byzantine Empire also generated an impressive body of art and architecture that was used in non- religious practices. One such object is a gilded silver cup found in the Siberian town of Beryozovo on the Ob River (now modern Russia), an area where numerous medieval artifacts have been discovered (Plate 6.1).2 On the exterior bottom of the vessel is incised an Old Cyrillic inscription, which records its weight in a hand dated to the twelfth century.3 Medieval Rus’ was part of the Orthodox Christian sphere and maintained active diplomatic, trade, and ecclesiastical relations with Byzantium.4 While the inscription suggests that the cup arrived in Rus’ lan ds soon after its production, the vessel’s form, technique, iconography, and styl e irmly support a Byzantine origin.5 Its speci ic region of manufacture is debated, however, with

I am grateful to Amanda Luyster, Oya Pancaroğlu, Christina Normore, Carol Symes, and the anonymous reviewers, all of whom provided excellent suggestions for the improvement of this essay. Any shortcomings or errors remain, of course, my own. 1 Following the convention of modern scholarship, I refer to the medieval eastern Roman Empire, with its capital at Constantinople, as “Byzantium.” I acknowledge, however, the anachronistic nature of this term, which is irst attested only in 1557, over one hundred years after the fall of the (eastern) Roman Empire to the Ottomans in 1453. Regarding the origin of the moniker and the legacy of cultural bias that it encodes and perpetuates, see Kaldellis, Hellenism, 42–43; Evans, ed., Byzantium, 5. 2 See Marshak and Kramarovsky, Sokrovishcha Priob’ia. Since 1867, the Beryozovo cup has been in the collection of the State Hermitage Museum, Saint Petersburg. For the historiography of this object and discussion of its provenance, see Piatnitsky, “K istorii postuleniia,” 128–39. 3 Piatnitsky, “K istorii postuleniia”; Piatnitsky et al., Sinai, Byzantium, Russia, 100. 4 On the real and symbolic connections between Kievan Rus’ and the Byzantine Empire, see Raffensperger, Reimagining Europe. 5 See Darkevich, Svetskoe iskusstvo Vizantii; Ballian and Drandaki, “Middle Byzantine Silver.”


126 scholarly consensus split between a Constantinopolitan provenie nce and a provincial one.6 Nonetheless, all scholars agree that the Beryozovo cup is a work of high quality, produced for members of the empire’s social elite.7 The polylobed wall of the cup creates 154 repoussé surfaces on which are embossed vignettes of feasting and entertainment in the top row, and depictions of real and fantastic beasts as well as vegetal designs in the lower rows.8 The motifs include dancers, musicians, acrobats, harpies, sphinxes, quadrupeds, birds, and lowers (Plate 6.2). These lora, fauna, and entertainers rotate around a centrally placed female igure, who is crowned and sits at a table (see Plates 6.1–3). The iconography adorning the exterior of the vessel evokes worldly pleasures, but as the cup was drained of liquid, its user would have encountered an unexpected motif on the interior bottom surface: a chased portrait of the military saint George, identi ied by a Greek inscription and depicted with a halo (Plate 6.4 and Plate 6.13 detail, right). Mounted on a horse, he is equipped with a spear, shield, and armour.9 A cloak is clasped at his right shoulder and lutters behind him. He is framed by tendrils, which evoke a natural setting. It is not surprising that this luxurious object has fascinated scholars for over a century.10 Conspicuously absent from previous studies, however, is extended consideration of the way in which the iconographic combination of courtly entertainments and a warrior saint actively juxtaposes sacred and the secular motifs.11 6 A third attribution, proposing a Russian provenience, lacks suf icient support. For the Constantinopolitan position, see Darkevich, Svetskoe iskusstvo Vizantii, 321 and 324–25. For the provincial Byzantine position, see Bank, Prikladnoe iskusstvo Vizantii, 193–94; Marshak and Kramarovsky, Sokrovishcha Priob’ia, 142; Piatnitsky, “K istorii postuleniia.” 7 For discussion of the Beryozovo cup in relation to other Byzantine objects and monuments that participated in artistic connections between the Byzantine and Eastern Islamic worlds, see Walker, “Integrated yet Segregated.” 8 For a full iconographic analysis of the vessel’s exterior decorative program, see Darkevich, Svetskoe iskusstvo Vizantii, 161–215. 9 For a survey of the iconographic types of Saint George in Byzantine art, see Walter, Warrior Saints, 109–44. Also see Grotowski, Arms and Armour. 10 For instance, Darkevich, Svetskoe iskusstvo Vizantii, especially 78–91 and 322; Bank, Byzantine Art, 22 and 312–13, igs. 215–17; Piatnitsky et al., Sinai, Byzantium, Russia, 100 (no. B82); Piatnitsky, “K istorii postuleniia,” 128–39; Maguire and Maguire, Other Icons, 46–49. 11 In the Byzantine world, many social practices (and the objects employed in them) elided religious and non-religious authority, decorative programs, and functions. Indeed, there is no direct translation in medieval Greek for the modern term “secular.” On this point, see Anthony Cutler, “Sacred and Profane.” Scholars still grapple with how to reconcile this linguistic and conceptual difference. For instance, Eunice and Henry Maguire embrace the term “secular” in the title of their important survey of Byzantine art and “secular culture,” but in


127 Indeed, some scholars discuss the decorative program of the object without acknowledging the presence of Saint George at all.12 In other instances, his portrait is related to the motifs of lora and fauna on the grounds that he was a patron saint of animals and hunting.13 This explanation is unsatisfying, however, because it does not account for the full range of subjects elaborated on the vessel’s exterior surface. The lack of attention to Saint George may be due in part to the fact that this emphatically Christian motif on the interior of the cup seems at odds with the exoticizing character of the exterior of the vessel. Indeed, the lobed wall and the motifs that populate its segmented surface ind compelling parallels in works of medieval Islamic art.14 While the Byzantine provenience of the cup is secure, its transcultural character challenges art historical taxonomies that assume tidy stylistic and iconographic distinctions between works produced by different medieval geographic, cultural, and religious groups. By blurring the expected boundaries between Byzantine and medieval Islamic art, the Beryozovo cup invites engagement with the cosmopolitan nature of Byzantine material culture, the transcultural identities of the people involved in its production and use, and the complex social environments in which it functioned. While we do not know the speci ic circumstances of the Beryozovo cup’s production or use, it was undoubtedly employed in elite dining. Recent studies have paved the way for understanding Byzantine luxury tableware as an actor in the social performance of the courtly banquet. Much as the Orthodox liturgy and imperial ceremonial were carefully orchestrated rituals of symbolic display, so feasting, too, was structured by rules of precedence and etiquette.15 In these ways, imperial

the introduction they frame their study as one of “unof icial” and “profane” art, noting that “of icial” (i.e. religious) and “unof icial” art were mutually dependent and de ining: Maguire and Maguire, Other Icons, 1–2. In his recent consideration of the term “secular” in the interpretation of Byzantine tableware, Warren Wood in (“Within a Budding Grove,” especially 154–55) recognizes its anachronistic nature, but ultimately endorses its use, arguing that a discrete category for non-religious works of art is necessary in art historical analysis so as to avoid their being marginalized in (or even excluded from) scholarship on Byzantine art. For a broader discussion of the blurring between “secular” and “sacred” categories across medieval art and the shortcomings of “secular” as a heuristic, see Walker and Luyster, eds., Negotiating Secular and Sacred, 1–16, and the essays collected in that volume. 12 For example, Maguire and Maguire, Other Icons, 46–49. 13 See Darkevich, Svetskoe iskusstvo Vizanti, 144–49 and 322. 14 Darkevich, Svetskoe iskusstvo Vizantii, 163–75; Maguire and Maguire, Other Icons, 46–49. 15 On this point, see esp. Malmberg, “Visualizing Hierarchy,” 11–24; Malmberg, “Dazzling Dining,” 75–91.


128 banquets were much more than pleasurable pastimes; these events re lected and reinforced social order and stability.16 Scholars have shown how the iconographic programs of dining vessels articulated participants’ identities and further af irmed the power structure of the Byzantine court, which was diagrammed through carefully controlled seating arrangements that accommodated not only courtiers but also foreign emissaries and, in some instances, political hostages. In this context, elaborate dining ware acted as an integral agent in the communication of Byzantine superiority and control. The Beryozovo cup combines conventional Byzantine iconography with visual vocabularies and forms that evoked broader cultural and political spheres that Byzantium strove to dominate. Even the quintessentially Byzantine portrait of Saint George evoked transcultural identities because, by the twelfth century, military saints had emerged as emblems of authority across medieval Eurasia, from western Europe to the Crusader states, and even in some Islamic territories. Saint George was a truly transcultural heroic igure, who communicated Byzantine military prowess in terms that were immediately legible to individuals from diverse regional, cultural, and religious backgrounds. Although the Beryozovo cup was not necessarily made for “global” circulation, I argue that it re lected and promoted expanded, transcultural identities that resulted from the circulation of objects—as well as people and ideas—from beyond the distant borders of the empire to the court at Constantinople and from this epicentre throughout medieval Eurasia. As such, this case study recognizes how medieval globalism not only reshaped actual borders and pathways between cultural, economic, and political groups but also forged new mental geographies and conceptual frontiers that directly impacted the identities of people at the centres of socio-political power, and shaped the works of art they created.17

The Beryozovo Cup within the Corpus of Middle Byzantine Elite Tableware The Beryozovo cup is one of several extant middle Byzantine (ca. 843–1204) metal vessels that were intended for use in elite dining and share features of form, size, workmanship, style, composition, and iconography. For instance, an eleventh-century vessel executed in silver repoussé has the image of another 16 For instance, see Leader-Newby, Silver and Society; Malmberg, “Visualizing Hierarchy”; Stone, “Eustathios”; Malmberg, “Dazzling Dining”; Maguire and Maguire, Other Icons, esp. 29–57. On tableware and feasting in the medieval Islamic world, see Pancaroğlu, “Feasts of Nishapur.” 17 My understanding of medieval globalism is greatly informed by Eva Hoffman’s seminal study “Pathways of Portability.” Also see Walker, “Globalism.”


129 military saint, Theodore, on the interior of its base, although in bust form rather than as a mounted igure (Plates 6.5 and 6.6).18 While the iconographic programs of both vessels feature real and fantastic animals, the Saint Theodore cup prominently displays scenes of animal combat (and animals attacking humans), which are absent from the Beryozovo cup. Furthermore, only the latter includes images of banqueting and entertainments. The Saint Theodore cup does not have the same polylobed surface; instead, igures are arranged in two concentric circles. Some animals are positioned within round or teardrop frames, while others are rendered against an open ield. Unlike the Beryozovo cup, the Saint Theodore cup was originally equipped with a handle and is fabricated from a single sheet of metal—rather than a double wall of silver, as in the case of the Beryozovo cup—such that the worked side of its repoussé decorations is visible on the interior. In addition, the Saint Theodore cup is signi icantly shorter in pro ile, being less than half the height of the Beryozovo cup (5 cm versus 11.6 cm). The two vessels are, however, of comparable diameter, and each cup would have it easily in a person’s hands, suggesting that they were intended for individual use.19 The decoration of another twelfth-century Byzantine drinking vessel is rendered in a larger scale than on the Beryozovo cup. In addition, the igures are executed in more pronounced repoussé and framed by an arcuated colonnade (Plate 6.7).20 Yet the decorative programs of the vessels employ a similar iconographic vocabulary that includes dancers and musicians as well as mounted warriors. A close stylistic and iconographic connection is also evident in the rims of the two vessels, which display the same incised motifs of racing animals interspersed with tendrils (Plate 6.8). Finally, both cups feature a double wall construction. The inner surface of the bottom of this cup displays addorsed grif ins (Plate 6.9). In comparison to the Beryozovo cup, the height and diameter of this vessel are only slightly smaller (within 2 cm), indicating that it was also designed for use by one person. A inal example further illustrates the similarity and diversity of these middle Byzantine dining vessels. In this case, only the upper section of a two-part,

18 Bank, Byzantine Art, 21 and 312, and igs. 212–14; Maguire and Maguire, Other Icons, 16–17. 19 The Theodore cup is slightly smaller in diameter, measuring 14 cm versus 18.5 cm for the Beryozovo cup. 20 Darkevich, Svetskoe iskusstvo Vizantii, igs. 83–84; Bank, Byzantine Art, 22 and 313, igs. 218–19; Piatnitsky et al., Sinai, Byzantium, Russia, 100–101, no. B83; Ballian and Drandaki, “Middle Byzantine Silver,” 53 and 57.


130 covered cup is preserved, and all the motifs are chased ( Plate 6.10).21 The decorative program shows musicians, dancers, and acrobats around the outer surface and animals circling the top. Indeed, some motifs are strikingly similar to those on the Beryozovo cup: for instance, the image of an acrobat standing on his hands and lowering his body to drink from a cup that rests on the ground (compare Plate 6.11). The diameter of this vessel approximates that of the Beryozovo cup (the diameter of the latter is less than 2 cm larger); however, the original height of the lidded cup would have been substantially greater given that the lid alone is less than 3 cm shorter than the full height of the Beryozovo cup. Still, their overall dimensions indicate that each vessel was intended for use by a single person. Looking beyond drinking vessels to the wider range of wares placed on the Byzantine banquet table, the Beryozovo cup’s mounted rider inds a close parallel in two twelfth-century Byzantine plates purportedly discovered in Bulgaria (Plates 6.12 and 6.13).22 One of these dishes displays a framing motif of sprinting animals against foliage (see Plate 6.12), which closely parallels the ornament along the rims of the Beryozovo cup and other middle Byzantine drinking vessels (compare Plate 6.8).23 The riders depicted at the centre of these two plates are not labelled, nor do they have haloes. Unlike the motif of Saint George, which evokes both heroic and holy authority, these igures do not employ explicitly Christian symbols. Together, these comparanda link the Beryozovo cup to a broader corpus of middle Byzantine elite tableware. They make clear not only the diversity of forms, techniques, and iconography that were employed in these objects, but also the points of commonality among the vessels, which include themes of feasting, courtly entertainment, hunting, and natural abundance, as well as close parallels in the style of decoration and the techniques of production.

Islamic Models for the Beryozovo Cup The recurring images of feasting, dancing, music-making, and natural bounty on the Beryozovo cup have led some scholars to relate it to a “shared culture” of luxury objects that were enjoyed at courts throughout the wider medieval Mediterranean

21 Darkevich, Svetskoe iskusstvo Vizantii, ig. 165; Bank, Byzantine Art, 313, igs. 220–24; Ballian and Drandaki, “Middle Byzantine Silver,” 53 and 59. 22 They are reported to have been recovered outside Tatar Pazarcik, Bulgaria. Ballian and Drandaki, “Middle Byzantine Silver,” 47. 23 Ibid., 51–53.


131 world, and beyond.24 Indeed, some of these vessels resonate thematically with the so-called “princely cycle” of medieval Islamic iconography, which showcases pastimes of the court.25 Similar motifs of elite pleasures rendered in an Islamic or Islamicizing style are found in the decoration of twelfth- and thirteenth-century objects and monuments over a vast geographic range and across a wide span of cultures.26 Still, to view the Beryozovo cup as participating in a generic, “shared culture” of courtly iconographies runs the risk of lattening its distinctiveness. While works of medieval art and architecture from other elite environments employ similar imagery, these objects and monuments frame and in lect this common visual language in different ways, so as to communicate ideas and identities that are speci ic to the individuals and communities that produced and used them.27 As noted above, some characteristics distinguish the Beryozovo vessel from surviving Byzantine comparanda and af iliate it more directly with Islamic models. In particular, the Beryozovo cup’s unusual polylobed form does not ind close parallels among other middle Byzantine metal vessels, but is a distinctive feature of several twelfth-century Islamic candlesticks. This corpus includes at least eight extant examples, which have been attributed proveniences in Afghanistan and Iran.28 The Iranian examples have been further localized to the region of Khorasan, speci ically, the city of Herat.29 These areas experienced tremendous upheaval during the eleventh and twelfth centuries, when the medieval Islamic dynasties of the Great Seljuqs (1037–1194), the Ghurids (ca. 879–1215, whose capitals included Herat), and the Ghaznavids (977–1156) were engaged in intense competition

24 See Maguire and Maguire, Other Icons, 47–49. On the subject of the “shared culture” of medieval Islamic and Christian courts throughout the Mediterranean region, see Grabar, “Shared Culture.” 25 Regarding Islamic iconographic comparanda for the Beryzovo cup and other middle Byzantine silver vessels, see Darkevich, Svetskoe iskusstvo Vizantii, 161–215. For an extensive iconographic compendium of “princely cycle” imagery, see Johns and Grube, Painted Ceilings; Shepherd, “Banquet and Hunt”; Shoshan, “High Culture,” especially 72–74; Hoffman, “Between East and West.” 26 For instance, see Tronzo, Cultures; Hoffman, “Fatimid Book”; Walker, The Emperor and the World, especially 108–64. 27 On this point, especially see Hoffman, “Pathways of Portability,” 22–23. For additional studies that move beyond the reductive framework of the “shared culture” model, see, for example, Flood, Objects of Translation; Walker, The Emperor and the World. 28 Atıl et al., Islamic Metalwork, 98–99. Atıl notes seven of the examples; the eighth is in the Linden-Museum, Stuttgart. 29 Atıl et al., Islamic Metalwork, 99.


132 and sustained military confrontation.30 The majority of these candlesticks feature either inscriptions or repeating loral or geometric patterns on the surface of the polylobes. However, in one example, a decorative program of real and fantastical animals bears a striking stylistic and iconographic resemblance to the Beryozovo cup (Plates 6.14 and 6.15; compare Plates 6.1–3).31 This candlestick is dated to the second half of the twelfth century; it is thought to have been produced in eastern Iran or Afghanistan and to be of Ghurid (or possibly Ghaznavid) production.32 The object is quite large, measuring about 33 cm in height with a base diameter of about 40 cm, but because it is hollow it is extremely light and easy to move. While the Byzantine Empire did not maintain diplomatic or commercial relations with the Ghurids (or Ghaznavids), twelfth-century realignments of power in Ghurid (and Ghaznavid) territories likely put large numbers of works of art into circulation, and may have made them accessible across a broader geographic and cultural sphere. Furthermore, the Seljuqs—who maintained extensive connections with Byzantium—could have played a role in transporting Ghaznavid and Ghurid objects westward, making them available to the Byzantines through trade or gift-giving.33 The polylobed form of the Beryozovo cup seems to have been distinctive to Islamic metalwork of the period, and its exotic form might have been chosen as a meaningful framing device for the portrait of Saint George; it worked in tandem with the “princely cycle” iconography to position the Christian saint within an Islamicizing frame, inviting the viewer to re lect on his status as a transcultural heroic igure.

Hagiographical and Historical Narratives of Saint George How might medieval users of the Beryozovo cup have read the igure of Saint George in tandem with the banquet scene on its exterior wall? Saint George was said to have lived in the region of Cappadocia (in central Anatolia) during the fourth

30 Inaba, “Ghaznavids”; O’Neal, “Ghurids.” 31 Leth, David Collection, 71. 32 Regarding the art and architecture of the Ghurids and Ghaznavids and their transcultural character, see Flood, Objects of Translation. The candlestick in the Linden-Museum, Stuttgart, shows strong similarities to the candlestick in the David Collection, Copenhagen, and it is this comparison that supports a Ghurid attribution for the David Collection example. The Stuttgart candlestick includes an inscription naming the owner as a Ghurid court of icial and providing a date of 1166. See Blair, Text and Image, 63, 85–86. Also see Forkl, ed., Die Gärten, 82–85. I am grateful to Bekhruz Kurbanov for making his unpublished research on the Stuttgart candlestick available to me. 33 For concise discussions of Byzantine–Seljuq diplomatic, commercial, and social relations, see Necipoğlu, “Coexistence,” and “Turks and Byzantines.” Maria Vittoria Fontana has


133 century, and this association led to the development of a vibrant local cult. In the tenth century, Saint George emerged as one of the foremost protectors of Christian communities in this eastern region of the Byzantine Empire. Cappadocian veneration of Saint George is well attested in wall painting, for example, in the eleventhcentury Yılanlı Kilise (Snake or Dragon Church) in Göreme (Plate 6.16).34 The regional popularity of Saint George and his role as a protector of the Christian frontier eventually spread to Constantinople in the mid-tenth century, when the militarized aristocracy of Cappadocia amassed signi icant political power, which eventually led to the rise of emperors Nikephoros II Phokas (r. 963–969) and John I Tzimisckes (r. 969–976), who both hailed from prominent Cappadocian families.35 In the eleventh century, however, Byzantium lost signi icant territories in Anatolia. Most infamously, Romanos IV Diogenes (r. 1068–1071) was defeated and captured by a Seljuq army at the Battle of Mantzikert in 1071. 36 This loss destabilized Romanos’s authority and contributed to a period of civil war that opened the way for Seljuq advances over the course of the eleventh and twelfth centuries. As a result, the empire lost control of its former territories in the East. These events had signi icant impact on the wider Eurasian geopolitical situation. Alexios I Komnenos (r. 1081–1118) cited the Battle of Mantzikert in his plea for papal assistance to combat the rise of Muslim “in idels,” a call that eventually led to the launch of the First Crusade in 1095.37 Seen within this context, the Beryozovo cup’s combination of Saint George with an Islamicizing form and iconography might be understood to evoke, for an informed viewer, the Eastern locale of the saint’s life and cult as well as his role in protecting the empire from threats at its frontiers and in aiding Christian forces to reclaim territories from Islamic control. While we might be inclined to

identi ied Ghaznavid imitations of Byzantine ceramics that suggest commercial connections between these groups, which were possibly mediated by the Seljuqs: see “Note.” 34 Walter, Warrior Saints, 125–31; Restle, Die byzantinische Wandmalerei, 1:129–30, 2: igs. 246–47. 35 On these leaders and their dedication to George and other military saints, see Walter, Warrior Saints, 131–38. Saint George was said to have intervened on behalf of Nikephoros II in 961 before he assumed the throne, and wall painting cycles featuring Saint George saw a sharp increase in popularity from the tenth to twelfth centuries; scholars have identi ied one such mural program dated to the tenth century and two dated to the eleventh century versus ten dated to the twelfth century. 36 For a summary of the circumstances surrounding the Battle of Mantzikert and its outcomes, see Kazhdan, “Mantzikert”; MacEvitt, Crusades, 40–43; Peacock, Great Seljuk Empire, 54–56. 37 See Lilie, Byzantium and the Crusader States, 1–28; Frankopan, First Crusade, 87–100.


134 interpret this intermixing of Byzantine and Islamic artistic features to indicate a provenience at the eastern frontier of Byzantium, it is equally possible that the cup was produced and used at the empire’s centre, in the cosmopolitan capital of Constantinople.38 In this case, the cup could be understood as a courtly object that responded to circumstances unfolding at Byzantium’s borders, thereby evincing how seemingly marginal events at the edges of the empire impacted identity and self-representation at its core. George’s multifaceted character—a Christian saint of eastern origin, who was a provincial soldier but demonstrated the re ined character of a courtier—made him especially well-suited to communicate with viewers at both the centre and peripheries of Byzantium. Another possible interpretation would tie the iconographic program of the cup’s exterior more tightly to one of the stories that was woven into the Orthodox vita of the saint. In an eleventh-century Georgian version of his life, George was credited with saving the daughter of the idolatrous emperor Selinus from a dragon.39 The vita reports that, when returning from service in Diocletian’s army and while en route to his Cappadocian estate, George encountered the princess, who had been left as a sacri ice by her pagan father.40 George not only rescued her and paci ied the dragon, but converted the emperor and his people to Christianity, after which a great celebration ensued.41 Scholars have long noted an unusual detail in the banquet scene on the Beryozovo cup, namely that the central igure at the table appears to be a woman.42 This raises the possibility that the imagery on the vessel’s exterior alludes to the princess’s rescue by George and the subsequent

38 Regarding issues surrounding the production and consumption of Byzantine luxury arts, including metalwork, see Cutler, “Industries of Art,” especially 569–75; Cutler, “Uses of Luxury.” 39 Walter, “Origins,” especially 320–22. The earliest Greek version of the story dates to the twelfth or thirteenth century and follows the Georgian model closely. 40 Walter (Warrior Saints, 140–42) notes that the story probably was established and depicted by the twelfth century. 41 George is associated with one other instance of banqueting: in a posthumous miracle, he is said to have rescued a boy from Mytilene (on the island of Lesbos) who had been captured by Arab pirates and made to serve the emir of Crete as a cup bearer. In a well-known Crusader icon that illustrates the event, the boy holds a distinctly Islamic beaker in his hand to indicate that he has just been rescued from domestic servitude. For discussion of this narrative and its iconography, see Cormack and Mihalarias, “Crusader Painting”; Walter, Warrior Saints, 120 and 138, pl. 58. 42 For instance, Darkevich, Svetskoe iskusstvo Vizantii, 81; Ballian and Drandaki, “Middle Byzantine Silver,” 51. In both cases, the authors identify the female igure as a Byzantine empress and interpret the banquet scene as a courtly genre vignette.


135 celebration of her deliverance, thereby providing a narrative context for both the banquet on the exterior of the vessel and the portrait of a triumphant saint on its interior. The vessel’s polylobed form could also evoke the exotic, eastern borderland setting of these events. At the same time, the conversion of the princess and her pagan people and their absorption into the Christian oikoumene parallels the artistic assimilation of Islamic iconography and forms, here mastered by Byzantine artists and produced for Byzantine consumption. In this way, the cup becomes a subtle statement about the proselytizing potential of Christianity and its capacity to assimilate diverse individuals and traditions. While this message is certainly religious, it is also militaristic and political.

Military Saints across the Borders of Twelfth-Century Anatolia As Byzantine power in Anatolia waned in the years following the Battle of Mantzikert, multiple Turkic peoples, foremost the Seljuq Sultanate of Rum (1081– 1307), competed to control the territory. In this process, they integrated Roman and Byzantine material culture and traditions with Islamic political and cultural identities. This phenomenon is particularly well illustrated by a twelfth-century coin (Plate 6.17), which features a mounted rider attacking a dragon—a igure strikingly similar to Saint George—as the emblem of the last Danishmendid ruler of Malataya, Nasir al-Din Muhammad (r. 1162–1170 and 1175–1178), who was defeated by the Seljuqs of Rum in 1178.43 The process of cultural absorption extended beyond the political sphere to include the repurposing of the cults of regional military saints.44 The Christian holy warriors George and Theodore were translated into the popular Islamic igure al-Khidr, and cult sites formerly dedicated to these Christian saints were appropriated for Islamic use.45 Keeping these developments in mind, we can view the portrait of Saint George on the Beryozovo cup in a new light. While the exterior of the vessel frames the saint

43 Pancaroğlu, “Itinerant Dragon-Slayer,” 156–57. The Seljuqs of Rum also produced coins depicting dragon-slaying igures. See also Shukurov, “Turkmen”; Georganteli, “Transposed Images.” 44 Pancaroğlu, “Itinerant Dragon-Slayer;” Wolper, “Khiḍr,” “Khiḍr and the Changing Frontiers,” and “Khiḍr and the Politics of Place.” 45 Among the best known of these transformations, elements from a church of Saint Theodore in the area of Euchaïta (Avkat, Turkey) were reused in the construction of a nearby dervish lodge. Pancaroğlu, “Itinerant Dragon-Slayer,” 151; Wolper, “Khiḍr,” 313–16. Regarding western Europeans’ and Crusaders’ possible awareness of al-Khidr, see Ng and Hodges, “Saint George.”


136 within a visual vocabulary of Islamic luxury and power, the interior portrait—with its Greek inscription and distinctively Orthodox style and iconography—insists on the integrity of his Byzantine identity. In this way, the object mirrors a contemporary socio-political climate in which the alarming loss of Byzantine territories transpired alongside the accrual of ever more intimate familiarity with Seljuq– Islamic culture and increased luency in this adversary’s visual culture. This situation heightened a need for the Byzantine court simultaneously to compete with and distinguish itself from this threatening “other.” The transcultural character of Saints George and Theodore—as well as the monuments and objects associated with them and their cults—was ampli ied by their accumulation of new signi icance within the regional social and religious landscape of Islamic Anatolia.

Saint George at the Banquet The iconography of the Beryozovo cup (and related items of elite middle Byzantine dinnerware) was further animated in the context of imperial and aristocratic banquets, events at which the host’s and guests’ status and cultural identities were staged to reify social order and authority. Indeed, tenth-century Byzantine court protocol manuals instruct their readers in conventions of precedence and the required placement of guests at imperial banquets.46 This display was carried out for the bene it of a Byzantine audience as well as for foreign visitors. Within the highly charged social practice of elite dining, tableware could play an active role in advertising Byzantine power by means of the conspicuous consumption of precious materials and the conspicuous display of objects that communicated pointed messages through their iconographic programs.47 A detailed account of one such banquet describes how the emperor Manuel I Komnenos (r. 1143–1180) hosted a spectacular feast in celebration of the marriage of his son, Alexios II Porphyrogennetos, to Agnes, the daughter of the Frankish king Louis VII (r. 1137–1180), on 2 March 1180.48 Court banquets were ordinarily held in the imperial palace, but this unusually extravagant event took place in the hippodrome in Constantinople and involved a marvellous display of food and drink, 46 This type of manual, known as a kletorologion, derives its name from the Greek word kletorion (banquet). The best known is attributed to Philotheos, who was the atriklines (chief of banquets) at the Byzantine court in the late ninth to early tenth century. See Oikonomides, Les Listes; Kazhdan, “Philotheos.” 47 On this point, also see Maguire and Maguire, Other Icons, 46–57. 48 For discussion of an illustrated manuscript produced for Agnes, which instructs her in the process of acculturation in Byzantine elite society, see Hilsdale, “Constructing a Byzantine Augusta.”


137 as well as massive logistical challenges. The event also celebrated the marriage of Manuel’s daughter, Maria Porphyrogenneta, to Renier, son of the powerful Latin marquess William of Montferrat.49 This was one of many occasions when Manuel welcomed well-connected European guests to the court, while he schemed to preserve and advance Byzantine interests in the Holy Land. Indeed, imperial banquets could be cast metaphorically as battles. On this occasion, Manuel commissioned the premier Greek rhetorician, Eustathios of Thessalonike (ca. 1115–1195), to compose an encomium in celebration of the event. In a striking passage, Eustathios compares the tables of the nuptial feast with “tables of another kind” on which the emperor distributes not celebratory fare but instead “the lesh of the barbarians.” At the banquet of the battle, “the guests” are not Byzantine and Latin courtiers, but instead “ locks of vultures, who rejoice in feasting on such things.”50 The passage credits the peace and unity enjoyed at the wedding table to Manuel’s ability to keep barbarian foes at bay. Eustathios also offers a perspective on the iconographic program of the Beryozovo cup. Among the diverse real and fantastical beasts that decorate the lower registers of the vessel appear several harpies, who are depicted as birds with the heads of human women (see Plate 6.2). In a passage of his poem, Eustathios refers to the harpies, evoking the mythological narrative in which they plagued the legendary Phineus by stealing his food and fouling his table. Eustathios playfully equates the harpies with low-ranking members of the court, who were not assigned seats at the feast, as well as to the grasping poor, who sought to steal scraps from the banquet platters.51 These hybrid creatures evoke in humorous terms the agonistic undertones of the banquet environment. At a subsequent point in the text, however, harpies entertain the emperor’s guests with witty comments and amusing jests, suggesting that their presence at the banquet was not necessarily unwelcome.52 The Komnenian double wedding of 1180 evinces the close relationship of the Komnenian court to elites of western Europe. The Crusades brought an in lux of Westerners to Constantinople as diplomatic envoys and guests in transit to the Holy Land.53 On ceremonial occasions of transcultural mingling, a vessel like the Beryozovo cup could have communicated a nuanced message to a Latin user, who

49 Wirth, ed., Eustathii Thessalonicensis, 170–81; Stone, “Eustathios,” 33–42. 50 Stone, “Eustathios,” 38; Wirth, ed., Eustathii Thessalonicensis, 173 (l. 35)–74 (l. 40). 51 Stone, “Eustathios,” 38–39; Wirth, ed., Eustathii Thessalonicensis, 174 (l. 64) and 17 (l. 78). 52 Wirth, ed., Eustathii Thessalonicensis, 174–76; Maguire and Maguire, Other Icons, 53–54. 53 Regarding Byzantium’s relations with western European and Crusaders states as well as the presence of Latin Christians at the twelfth-century court at Constantinople, see Lilie, Byzantium and the Crusader States; Ciggaar, West and Byzantium; MacEvitt, Crusades.


138 would irst encounter the exoticizing exterior iconography of elite pleasures. But having drained the vessel of its contents, this same user would have registered a sobering message of Byzantine military prowess and Orthodox Christianity’s special relationship with one of the most renowned of soldier saints. Indeed, recognition of Byzantium’s particular hold on Westerners’ conception of Saint George is demonstrated by early depictions of the saint in Europe, which employ Orthodox iconographic types.54 The Byzantines were not alone in promoting George as an otherworldly bulwark against Muslim adversaries; the saint also emerged prominently in Crusader hagiography and veneration.55 Several Latin historians even claimed that he—and an elite force of other holy protectors—fought alongside Crusader forces in 1098 as they battled for Antioch.56 In recognition of George’s support, the Crusaders renewed his cult in the Holy Land, rededicating and expanding the church that had been founded around 530 at Lydda (Ramla) near Jerusalem.57 They also encountered the Orthodox iconography of the saint at the numerous Eastern Christian cult sites dedicated to him throughout the Holy Land.58 Although the artistic programs of these churches tend to be poorly preserved, a rare, intact wall painting from the eleventh-century phase of decoration at the Syrian Orthodox church of Deir Mar Musa al-Habashi (located about 80 km northeast of Damascus) depicts Saint George in familiar iconographic terms as a mounted warrior (Plate 6.18).59 In addition, he appeared on Crusader coinage, for example on the copper coins minted at Antioch and issued by Roger of Salerno (Plate 6.19), who was the regent (1112–1119) for Bohemund II, prince of Antioch (r. 1111–1119).60 Among both Crusaders and western Europeans, Saint George’s af iliation with the East was well noted. If intended for use by a western European or Crusader, the Beryozovo cup 54 These monuments include a wall painting at the church of Saint Botolph in Hardham, West Sussex, which has been dated to the late eleventh or early twelfth century. Park, “‘Lewes Group,” 217–22. 55 See de Laborderie, “Richard the Lionheart”; MacGregor, “Ministry of Gerold d’Avranches”; MacGregor, “Negotiating Knightly Piety”; Folda, “Mounted Warrior Saints”; Lapina, “Demetrius of Thessaloniki.” 56 Anon., Deeds of the Franks, 69. See MacGregor, “Negotiating Knightly Piety,” 324–32. Regarding the importance of Orthodox Christian saints in the new devotional practices of the Crusaders, see Lapina, “Demetrius of Thessaloniki.” 57 Walter, Warrior Saints, 112; MacGregor, “Negotiating Knightly Piety,” 332–42. 58 See Immerzeel, “Holy Horsemen,” “Divine Calvalry,” and Identity Puzzles. 59 Immerzeel, Identity Puzzles, 56–67, especially 60–61, pl. 25; Immerzeel, “Holy Horsemen,” 41–42, pl. 11. 60 Metcalf, Coinage, 28, no. 9 and pl. 6, nos. 95–101.


139 would have presented a mutually revered holy person, creating a sense of shared values between Orthodox and Latin Christians. At the same time, the distinctly Byzantine style and iconography of the igure asserted Orthodox Christianity as the source for the image of this most powerful of military saints, thereby laying claim to a mediating role for Byzantium between Latin Christians and the holy person whose aid they so earnestly sought.61 The Beryozovo cup may have offered a different but equally powerful message to still another population of foreigners who frequented the Byzantine court in the twelfth century: Seljuq political refugees, diplomatic envoys, and even rulers. The irst Seljuq (of Rum) leader to visit the Byzantine court was the Sultan of Ikonion, Masud I (r. 1116–1155; son of Kılıç Arslan I), who led to Constantinople after his brother, Arab, unseated him in 1124, during the reign of John II Komnenos (r. 1118–1143).62 Even more noteworthy was the visit of one of Masud’s sons, K ılıç Arslan II (r. 1156–1192), who sought support from Manuel I in 1161 after being defeated by the Danishmendids, who had allied with the Byzantines against the Seljuqs.63 In order to gain Manuel’s support, Kılıç Arslan II was forced to take an oath of fealty to the emperor. The chronicle recording his visit to Constantinople reports that, on each of the forty- ive days that he resided at court, Kılıç Arslan was sent food on gilded silver plates. During a inal meal in the company of the emperor, he received all ninety plates in a show of imperial largesse, disposable wealth, and political power.64 The chronicle does not specify that these plates were decorated, but another source describes a different set of gilded dishes made to commemorate Manuel I’s victory over Kılıç Arslan’s father in 1146. The scenes decorating these vessels were said to have showcased the emperor’s superior military skills and the sultan’s defeat.65 Indeed, as numerous scholars have noted, the Komnenians, and Manuel in particular, actively used works of art in diverse media to project political claims.66 Paul Magdalino has speculated that the dishes given

61 Such assertions of Byzantine precedence may have been pointed responses to Crusader efforts to co-opt premier military saints as divine protectors and advocates. Lapina (“Demetrius of Thessaloniki”) argues that the Crusaders’ celebration of Saint Theodore’s assistance at the Battle of Antioch was intended to undermine Byzantine authority and to solidify the Crusaders’ political claims to Antioch against those of the emperor Alexios I Komnenos. 62 Korobeinikov, “Sultan,” 94. 63 Ibid., 94–96. 64 Chabot, ed. and trans., Chronique, 3:319; Maguire and Maguire, Other Icons, 55–57. 65 Mango, Art, 228. 66 Magdalino and Nelson, “Emperor,” esp. 132–51.


140 to Kılıç Arslan II may have been worked with images of Byzantine dominance over Seljuq adversaries, perhaps even over the sultan himself. 67 Unfortunately for Manuel, the military prowess he celebrated in art was not always realized in fact. Kılıç Arslan later broke his pledge and defeated Manuel’s forces at the Battle of Myriokephalon in 1176, a humiliation that did not go unnoticed by western European and Crusader elites at the time.68 Perhaps even more signi icant than these visits by Seljuq rulers was the presence of numerous lower-ranking Seljuq émigrés who are known to have defected to the Byzantine court in the eleventh and twelfth centuries. 69 These individuals joined the Komnenian aristocratic hierarchy and assimilated into Byzantine society, usually converting to Orthodox Christianity in the process. A prominent family representing this larger phenomenon was the Axouch clan, whose patriarch, John, was taken captive as a child in 1097, during the First Crusade. He subsequently entered the court of Alexios I Komnenos (r. 1081–1118), rising to power under his heir, John II Komnenos. John Axouch’s own son, Alexios Axouch, also held positions of trust and authority under the Komnenian emperors, but fell from power during the reign of Manuel I and was con ined to a monastery in 1167.70 Rustam Shukurov notes that some Seljuq refugees seeking safe haven at the Byzantine court may have been attracted to this destination because they were themselves half-Greek. Based on the documented instances of Byzantine women who married Seljuq courtiers, Shukurov posits that the harems of the Seljuq elite included a signi icant population of Greek-speaking, Orthodox women, who raised children luent in Greek and familiar with Orthodox Christian devotional practices.71 These half-Greek, half-Seljuq offspring thus possessed linguistic, ethnic, and religious af iliations that produced decidedly transcultural identities, which simultaneously put them at odds with the majority cultures of the Byzantine and Seljuq courts and equipped them to adapt to and survive within either one of these socio-cultural environments. An elite Seljuq viewer—whether an emissary, a hostage, or a refugee— who encountered an object like the Beryozovo cup at the Byzantine banquet table might have noted an echo of the dining ware familiar from Islamic courtly

67 Magdalino, Empire of Manuel I, 473–75. 68 Foss, “Myriokephalon”; Magdalino, Empire of Manuel I, 98–100, 458–59. 69 On this topic, see esp. Brand, “Turkish Element”; Necipoğlu, “Coexistence,” and “Turks and Byzantines,” 3–6; Shukurov, “Harem Christianity.” 70 Kazhdan and Cutler, “Axouch.” Regarding the misfortunes of the scion of this family, John Komnenos Axouch, see Walker, The Emperor and the World, 144–64. 71 Shukurov, “Harem Christianity.”


141 environments.72 In particular, Seljuq viewers may have recognized both the vessel’s polylobed form and its familiar “princely cycle” iconography. Yet, as they drank from the cup and were eventually confronted by the portrait of Saint George, their reactions may have become more con licted. The warrior saint and his iconography might have evoked regional cult sites in the Anatolian landscape that had been converted from Christian to Islamic use, thereby recalling Seljuq conquest of Byzantine territories. At the same time, the emphatically Byzantine character of George’s portrait (and the Greek inscriptions framing it) professed a irm claim to him as a protector of Orthodox Christians. As a result, the cup projected a message that was, by turns, hospitable and hostile: Seljuq users might have been put at ease by the familiarity of the form and iconography displayed on the exterior of the cup, but then put on warning when Byzantine military prowess and supernatural allegiance were unexpectedly asserted as the cup was drained.

Conclusion While it is impossible to know exactly who used the Beryozovo cup, or at what speci ic moments it was employed, we can appreciate that it strongly re lects the dynamic environment of the twelfth-century Byzantine court, through which western European, Crusader, and Seljuq elites circulated regularly, dining in the company of Byzantine aristocrats at tables laid by the Komnenian emperors. In such circumstances, the cup projected an image of cosmopolitan luxury but it also conveyed the privileged relationship between Byzantium and the most revered of supernatural military allies, Saint George. This message was aimed at foreigners, both Christians and Muslims, who needed to be kept in check with constant reminders of Byzantium’s once and future authority over Anatolia and the Holy Land, but also at the emperor’s own courtiers, who were aware of the Komnenians’

72 While there are no direct parallels between the form and iconography of the Beryozovo cup and Seljuq drinking vessels, a late twelfth- to early thirteenth-century Seljuq gilded silver bowl in the Keir Collection shows a single row of repoussé polylobes chased with images of harpies and vegetal motifs that show remarkable similarities of form and iconography to another twelfth-century Byzantine gilded silver cup in the State Hermitage Collection: see Canby et al., eds., Court and Cosmos, 268 (no. 169); Darkevich, Svetskoe iskusstvo Vizantii, 14–59. Their strong parallels further substantiate an argument for the intercultural nature of elite dining practices across the Byzantine and Seljuq worlds. For examples of additional twelfth-century Seljuq metal and ceramic drinking vessels and tableware, many of which feature “princely cycle” imagery of elite revelry and motifs of natural abundance, see Canby et al., Court and Cosmos.


142 intense diplomatic and military struggles to assert control in the midst of a highly unstable geopolitical situation. The emperor entertained a diverse audience at his feasts, but these Byzantine, Seljuq, western European, and Crusader participants possessed an increasingly merged visual and conceptual language, which the emperor could con idently deploy in order to communicate these messages. We can therefore appreciate the Beryozovo cup as an object that had the capacity to project the cultural and geographic realities of twelfth-century Anatolia and the Holy Land onto the epicentre of Byzantine society and politics at Constantinople. Yet, appropriately enough, this object also attests to the porous nature of imperial boundaries and the profound social mixing of the Byzantine, Seljuq, western European, and Crusader worlds. Positioned within this complex network, the cup invites distinct but intersecting modes of reception. Its imagery drew from multiple artistic traditions to construct a transcultural message of social and political authority that has been muted by the modern insistence on monolithic categories of secular and sacred, Christian and Islamic. Indeed, we might imagine that the cup’s viewers and users were not only capable of perceiving its iconography as a uni ied program of heavily politicized courtly and heroic imagery, but might also have considered any object that failed to invoke these multiple domains of identity and power to fall short of constructing an image that could compete effectively in the tumultuous and cut-throat environment of twelfth-century Eurasia.



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Alicia Walker ([email protected]) is Associate Professor of Medieval Art and Architecture at Bryn Mawr College. Her primary ields of research include cross-cultural artistic interaction in the medieval world from the ninth to thirteenth centuries and gender issues in the art and material culture of Byzantium. Her irst book, The Emperor and the World: Exotic Elements and the Imaging of Byzantine Imperial Power, was published by Cambridge University Press in 2012. She is currently at work on her second monograph, provisionally titled The Erotic Eye in Byzantium, which explores the role of Greco-Roman iconography in the expression and regulation of female sexuality in early and middle Byzantine art and material culture. Abstract In the twelfth century, Christian military saints, including George and Theodore, became intercultural heroic igures. Appearing in works of art across western European, Byzantine, Crusader, and Islamic cultural spheres, these holy heroes sometimes featured in contexts and objects that modern taxonomies classify as “secular.” This article focuses on a particularly intriguing example of this phenomenon: a middle Byzantine silver drinking cup, which displays on its exterior a program of so-called princely cycle imagery derived from medieval Islamic courtly iconography, but contrasts these decidedly non-religious motifs with a portrait of Saint George on the interior bottom of the vessel. By excavating the logic of the cup’s iconography—its inclusion of George at a banquet—it aims to overcome the insuf iciencies of conventional, modern terminology and taxonomies for medieval art by engaging with the transcultural complexity of elite leisure culture in the medieval world. Keywords Byzantine, Seljuq, dining ware, silver, secular, transcultural, Saint George, Crusades


Plate 2.1. Mural depicting Central Asian textiles and musical instruments. From the north wall of the tomb of Xu Xianxiu (d. 571) at Taiyuan, Shanxi (China); 4.5 × 6 m. After Wenwu Tiandi 1 (2003), ig. 1.


Plate 2.2a. Interlocking pearl roundels (30 cm in diameter) on a red and black honeysuckle design. Fragment of a ifth-century lacquer cof in found in Tomb M1 at Hudong, Datong, Shanxi (China). After Wenwu 12 (2004), ig. 8.

Plate 2.2b. Figures in nomadic dress in ilial piety episodes, in a border of palmetto leaves, pearl roundels, and interlocking hexagons. Side of a ifth-century painted lacquer cof in (61 × 175 cm) found at Guyuan, Ningxia. After Ningxia Huizu zizhi qu Guyuan bowuguan and Zhong Ri Yuanzhou lianhe kaogu dui, eds. Yuanzhou gumu jicheng (Beijing: Wenwu chubanshe, 1999), plate 18.


Plate 3.1. The Aqsa Mosque, Jerusalem, with a view toward al-Zahir’s maqṣūra (added ca. 1031). © Jennifer Pruitt.

Plate 3.2. Al-Zahir’s maqṣūra, with inscriptions featuring Qur’an 17:1 at the top. Aqsa Mosque, Jerusalem. © Jennifer Pruitt.


Plate 3.3. Al-Zahir’s maqṣūra, looking toward the central dome and one of four mini domes. Aqsa Mosque, Jerusalem. © Jennifer Pruitt.

Plate 3.4. Detail of the concentric circle mini domes in the Aqsa Mosque, ca. 1031. © Jennifer Pruitt.


Plate 4.1. The Apostle Thomas preaches the Gospel in India, from Barlaam and Ioasaph: Mount Athos, Holy Monastery of Iviron, Codex 463, fol. 4r. Reproduced by permission.

Plate 4.2. Man and Death (Psalm 143:4), from the Theodore Psalter: London, British Library, Ms. Add. 19352, fol. 182v. Reproduced by permission of the British Library.


Plate 5.1. Seated Virgin and Child, said to be from the Abbey of Frigolet, France, ca. 1300. Ivory, height: 37.8 cm. Private Collection, reproduced by permission.


Plate 5.2. Seated igure from Tada, Nigeria, late thirteenth–early fourteenth century. Nearly pure copper, height: 53.7 cm. Lagos, Nigerian National Museum, 79.R.18. Image courtesy of Bridgeman Images.


Plate 6.1. Beryozovo Cup: Byzantine, twelfth century. Gilded silver, height: 11.6 cm; diameter: 18.5 cm. St. Petersburg, The State Hermitage Museum, inv. no W-3. © The State Hermitage Museum / photo by Vladimir Terebenin.

Plate 6.2. Detail of Plate 6.1, showing lobes decorated with human and animal igures. © The State Hermitage Museum / photo by Vladimir Terebenin.


Plate 6.3. Detail of Plate 6.1, showing female igure at a banquet. © The State Hermitage Museum / photo by Vladimir Terebenin.

Plate 6.4. Detail of the Beryozovo Cup (see Plate 6.1), showing interior of the vessel displaying an image of Saint George. © The State Hermitage Museum / photo by Vladimir Terebenin.


Plate 6.5. Cup: Byzantine, eleventh century. Silver, height: 5 cm; diameter: 14 cm. St. Petersburg, The State Hermitage Museum, inv. no. W-1193. © The State Hermitage Museum / photo by Svetlana Suetova, Konstantin Sinyavskiy.

Plate 6.6. Detail of cup (see Plate 6.5), showing interior of the vessel displaying an image of Saint Theodore. © The State Hermitage Museum / photo by Svetlana Suetova, Konstantin Sinyavskiy.


Plate 6.7. Cup with heroic igures under arches: Byzantine, twelfth century. Gilded silver, height: 9.5 cm; diameter: 17 cm. St. Petersburg, The State Hermitage Museum, inv. no W-72. © The State Hermitage Museum / photo by Vladimir Terebenin.

Plate 6.8. Comparison of decorative borders in the rims of Plates 6.1 (top) and 6.7 (bottom). © The State Hermitage Museum / photos by Vladimir Terebenin.


Plate 6.9. Detail of cup (see Plate 6.8), showing interior of the vessel. © The State Hermitage Museum / photo by Vladimir Terebenin.


Plate 6.10. Lid from a cup: Byzantine, twelfth century. Silver, height: 9 cm; diameter: 16 cm. St. Petersburg, The State Hermitage Museum, inv. no. W-1193. © The State Hermitage Museum / photo by Vladimir Terebenin.

Plate 6.11. Comparison of motifs showing an acrobat standing on his hands and drinking from his cup: details of Plates 6.10 (left) and 6.1 (right). © The State Hermitage Museum / photos by Vladimir Terebenin.


Plate 6.12. Plate: Byzantine, twelfth century. Silver, height: 5.5 cm; diameter: 29 cm. Photo courtesy of the Benaki Museum, Athens.

Plate 6.13. Comparison of motifs showing rider igures: details of Plates 6.12 (left) and 6.4 (right).


Plate 6.14. Candlestick: Ghurid or Ghaznavid, from eastern Iran or Afghanistan, ca. 1150– 1200. Brass, height: 33 cm; diameter: 40 cm. Copenhagen, The David Collection, inv. no. 27 / 1971. Photograph: Pernille Klemp.

Plate 6.15. Detail of Plate 6.14: lobes depicting plants and animals. Photograph: Pernille Klemp.


Plate 6.16. Saint George and Saint Theodore attacking a snake: Byzantine, eleventh century. Wall painting from Yılanlı Kilise (Snake Church), Göreme, Cappadocia (Turkey). Photo: David Ball / Alamy Stock Photo.

Plate 6.17. Dirham of Nasir al-Din Muhammad from Danishmendid, Malatya (Turkey), 1162–78. Copper alloy, diameter: 3 cm. American Numismatic Society, 1916.215.840. Courtesy of the American Numismatic Society.


Plate 6.18. Saint George on horseback, ca. 1060. Wall painting from Deir Mar Musa al-Habashi, near Nebk, Syria. Photo courtesy of the Paul van Moorsel Centre, Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam / Mat Immerzeel.

Plate 6.19. Copper coin featuring Saint George on the obverse: Antiochene Mint of Roger of Salerno, Crusader, 1112–19. Oxford, Ashmolean Museum, acc. no. HCR43814. Image © Ashmolean Museum, University of Oxford.


Plate 7.1a–b. Silver, niello, and steel dagger, front and back: twelfth–thirteenth century, 38.5 cm. Just below the handle on the front is the warrior-saint killing a dragon (see Figure 7.1). Vaduz, Lichtenstein: Furusiyya Art Foundation (R-937). Images courtesy of the Furusiyya Art Foundation, Vaduz.


Plate 8.1. Detail of the back of a gilded bronze mirror with landscape, igures, and divinatory symbols, dating to the eighth century: Shōsō-in, Nara (Japan). The Shōsō-in Treasures, courtesy of the Imperial Household Agency.


Plate 8.2. Banner of a bodhisattva standing under a canopy on a lotus, ca. 850 CE: ink and colour on silk, originally from Cave 17, Dunhuang (China). Currently in the Stein Collection, British Museum. Courtesy of the British Museum.


MOBILE MEANINGS: A GLOBAL APPROACH TO A DAGGER FROM GREATER SYRIA HEATHER BADAMO Art Foundation in Vaduz, Liechtenstein, a dagger arrests the beholder with its striking display of power and protection (Plates 7.1a–b).1 One’s irst impression is of a dazzling implement—glittering, m agni icent, and extraordinary. Just over a foot long, the dagger is crafted from silver and embellished with a profusion of engraved imagery. Closer inspection reveals a unique combination of form s: an Arabic in scription, images drawn from the Islamic princely cy cle, and an icon of a C hristian warrior saint in a p ose of victory. Scholarly consensus locates its production to the twelfth- or thirteenth- century luxury industries of Greater Syria, a region characterized by its complex mosaic of Christian and Islamic polities and notable for its extreme religious, linguistic, ethnic, and cultural diversity. The objects that emerged from t his context often exhibit a synthesis of artistic languages and values that speaks to the interdependence of Christian and Muslim communities. The Furusiyya dagger exempli ies this kind of production, particularly its depiction of a warrior saint, a igure with clear Christian associations that, nevertheless, received interfaith veneration during this period (Figure 7.1). The dagger dates to a period in which the rulers of Greater Syria vied with one another for power and prestige, routinely establishing military alliances, trade agreements, and diplomatic relations across religious divides. In the midst of very real military con lict of crusade and jihad, economic and strategic concerns often trumped religious ideologies.2 Rivalries between the rulers of key cities, such as Cairo and Damascus, sometimes led Ayyubid princes to ally themselves with Frankish armies on the battle ield.3 The alliance between al-Salih Isma’il, emir of Damascus (r. 1237–1245), and the Franks of Acre is an example of this

I am grateful to the following for their advice: Christina Normore, Carol Symes, Alicia Walker, Elizabeth Williams, Martha Sprigge, the participants of the Global Turn conference held at Northwestern, and an anonymous reviewer for The Medieval Globe. All remaining errors are my own. 1 Mohamed, Arts of the Muslim Knight, 155–57. 2 Antony Eastmond’s new book, Tamta’s World, came to my attention too late for me incorporate his insights into this complex social milieu. 3 Humphreys, Saladin to the Mongols, 275.



Figure 7.1. A warrior-saint killing a dragon: detail of the Furusiyya dagger (Plate 7.1a–b). Vaduz, Lichtenstein: Furusiyya Art Foundation (R-937). Photo: Furusiyya Art Foundation.

phenomenon, resulting in the seemingly incongruous spectacle staged at the Battle of La Fourbie (17–18 October 1244), in which Muslim warriors went into battle under lags emblazoned with crosses. Conversely, Franks such as Bohemond IV of Antioch (r. 1201–1216, 1219–1233) established alliances with al-Zahir Ghazi, the Ayyubid emir of Aleppo (r. 1186–1216), and Kaykaus I, the Seljuk sultan of Rum (r. 1211–1220), in an effort to prevent attacks from Leo I, the Christian king of Armenian Cilicia (r. 1187–1219).4 Important forti ied cities changed hands frequently, a circumstance epitomized by the frontier site of Belias/Bānyās. Between 1128 and 1229, the city changed hands eight times, coming under the control of ive different political regimes including the Zengids, Ayyubids, Frankish Crusaders, and Normans of Sicily. In both the Crusader polities and Ayyubid principalities, a range of Eastern Christian communities made up a substantial part of populations that also included pilgrims, foreign merchants, and armies of diverse

4 Köhler, Alliances and Treatises, 270–71.


151 ethnic make-ups.5 The courts of the region employed people of different religious and cultural backgrounds as translators and diplomats. In the thirteenth century, both the Sejluk sultan, Kaykhusraw I (r. 1192–1196, 1205–1211), and the king of Cyprus, Hugh I Lusignan (r. 1205–1218), employed Greeks from their realms to serve as ambassadors and envoys.6 This was a world in which geographic regions, cultural groups, and religious domains did not always neatly align, requiring a lexible approach in negotiating complex political relations. This context is central to any understanding of the Furusiyya dagger, since it was made to operate in milieus de ined by complex social identities. Examining the dagger offers an opportunity to explore how the conditions within medieval contact zones undermined the stable identities of objects, producers, and owners assumed in traditional art historical scholarship. Focusing on the lexibility of its iconography, I investigate how its images might have acquired different meanings and resonances in culturally and religiously diverse milieus, enabling the dagger to communicate an array of messages for diverse audiences. In doing so, I build on a way of thinking about objects that has emerged over the past two decades in scholarship on art and exchange, which privileges aspects of mobility and social complexity over ixed artistic and social identities. Closer examination of the dagger reveals a degree of ambiguity that contradicts the persistent perception of the Crusader era as a period of con lict of monolithic socio-political groups de ined by clear divisions of cultural, religious, regional, and linguistic differences.

The Furusiyya Dagger: Functional and Iconographic Ambiguities In the premodern era, daggers were a standard component of elite male dress across the medieval world. A short-bladed weapon designed for cutting and stabbing, the dagger is a multi-purpose tool characterized by versatility: it can be employed for hunting, warfare, and utilitarian tasks. Daggers are rarely mentioned in manuals of court etiquette or in treatises on weapons, likely a symptom of their ubiquity and normalization—nearly every man carried a dagger, af ixed to a belt or suspended from a baldric at the right hip.7 Textual sources such as chronicles, memoirs, and hunting treatises suggest that daggers served a range of functions from personal protection to hand-to-hand combat. They were part of the standard gear of infantry, the last resort of cavaliers, and a tool for the courageous hunter 5 Prawer, Latin Kingdom of Jerusalem, 214–32. 6 Papacostas, “Crusader States and Cyprus.” 7 Peterson, Daggers and Fighting Knives, 12; Thompson, Daggers and Bayonets, 22–23. Women also carried knives designed for cutting and carving.


152 pursuing game at close quarters.8 Their intimate association with male pursuits and weapon ensembles made them recognizable attributes of masculinity.9 Luxury versions of these quotidian artifacts were status symbols, as indicated by the quality of materials and craftsmanship extant examples display.10 Such daggers moved easily across cultures and religions, exchanged as gifts, carried off as loot, and traded as commodities.11 The Furusiyya dagger is a particularly multivalent artifact, since it has no inscriptions that might identify its origins, patronage, or ownership. Within the past decade, scholars have attributed its production to a variety of sites in the Mediterranean, including Seljuk Anatolia, Ayyubid Syria, and the Crusader States.12 Its geographic indeterminacy arises, in part, from its manufacture, which synthesizes technical features of Seljuk and western European weapons, an unusual engraving technique, and a geographically indeterminate style with af inities to Frankish, Ayyubid, and Seljuk objects. To further complicate matters, the iconographic repertoire creates links to the Christian art of Norman Sicily, the Crusader polities, and Greater Syria, as well as Ayyubid and Seljuk art produced in Syria, Iran, Anatolia, and the Jazira.13 The dagger thus represents the cross-cultural mobility of people, techniques of production, and materials during the Ayyubid era, topics that Eva Hoffman has examined in the context of Christian and Muslim relations in the twelfth-century Mediterranean.14 While it is impossible to determine the precise identity of the dagger’s owner, the central motif of the warrior saint makes it likely that he was Christian. The prominently positioned igure resembles types employed in Coptic and Syrian Orthodox art and likely represents St. George or St. Theodore, who were both renowned dragon-slayers. When viewed alongside the fragmentary paintings of St. Theodore and St. Sergios in the Church of Mar Tradros in Qara, Syria, its debt to local Christian art is clear. The motif replicates the equestrian format; blessing hand of God; lying cloaks; and the saints’ accoutrements, a Crusader pennant and 8 For the use of daggers in combat, see Usama ibn Munqidh, Book of Contemplation, 89; Nicolle, Early Medieval Islamic Arms, 125–26. For their use in hunting panthers and lions, see Ibn Mangli, De la chasse, 77, 83–84. For daily use, see Holmes, “Life among the Europeans,” 30. 9 Thompson, Daggers and Bayonets, 22. 10 See, for instance, Alexander, Islamic Arms and Armor, cat. 75. There are numerous examples from the period in Mohamed, Arts of the Muslim Knight. 11 al-Qaddumi, ed. and trans., Book of Gifts, 105, 108, 182, 191, 217, 240. 12 Mohamed, Arts of the Muslim Knight, 155; Jenkins-Madina, “Dagger,” 430; Canby et al., eds., Court and Cosmos, 146. 13 Hillenbrand, “Art of the Ayyubids,” 23–25. 14 Hoffman, “Pathways of Portability.”



Figure 7.2a–b. Wall paintings from the church of Mar Tadros, showing Saints Theodore (top) and Sergius: Qara, Syria, thirteenth century. Images © Heather Badamo.

spear, which presumably once impaled a dragon (Figures 7.2a–b).15 The dagger’s image enlarges the hand of God and adds a cross to the saint’s shield, amplifying its message of Christian victory. By the twelfth century, Seljuks were also venerating 15 Carr, “Iconography and Identity,” ig. 5; Immerzeel, Identity Puzzles, igs. 39, 65, 82; Bolman, ed. Monastic Visions, igs. 4.8, 6.24, 7.3.


154 warrior saints, raising the possibility of Muslim ownership. 16 Nevertheless, the Furusiyya dagger’s image includes speci ically Christian elements, such as the hand of God and cross-emblazoned shield, making Christian ownership more plausible.17 Bashir Mohamed has suggested that it belonged to a Crusader. 18 While I am sympathetic to this idea, it is worth noting that the local Christian elites of this region also included Armenians, Georgians, Greeks, and converts from Islam of various backgrounds. In striking contrast, the remainder of the dagger’s motifs can be found in both the Christian and Islamic art of the eastern Mediterranean. Most of its decoration derives from the Islamic princely cycle, a repertoire of motifs centred on elite pursuits such as hunting, drinking, and conviviality.19 On the scabbard, quadrupeds pursue a hare, a bird of prey attacks a deer. At the mouth of the scabbard, an Arabic inscription reads: “increasing glory and good fortune.” 20 Such inscriptions are extremely common, found on metalwork, ceramics, and ivory objects at all levels of production. The handle features geometric ornament, a single grif in, and quillons that curve into abstract dragon heads. The themes of hunting, piety, and glory resonated broadly in this period, and these motifs are all common in the art of the central Islamic lands. The themes of the dagger are designed to resonate with its function. A costly artifact, it was made for use in the elite pursuits of hunting and feasting.21 Though often regarded as pastimes, these social practices were vital tools of governance, employed to cement bonds of loyalty, dispense princely favours, and display royal authority. They constituted a stage for elite performances, casting courtiers in the ambivalent roles of spectators and spectacles.22 In this context, dress was a key medium for communicating an array of information about wealth, rank, ethnicity, political af iliations, and status. Courtiers invested in sumptuous garments and accoutrements, designed to articulate their political, ideological, and cultural aspirations. In the eastern Mediterranean, the elites of the Georgian, Armenian, and Frankish courts emulated the dress of their more prestigious Byzantine and

16 Pancaroǧlu, “Itinerant Dragon-Slayer”; Wolper, “Changing Frontiers.” 17 Seljuk images of dragon-slayers differ in that they present the dragon-slayer as a princely hunter or a winged man. See the examples in Pancaroǧlu, “Itinerant Dragon-Slayer.” 18 Mohamed, Arts of the Muslim Knight, 156. 19 Grabar, Formation of Islamic Art, 154. 20 Trans. Canby et al., Court and Cosmos, 146. 21 I thank the anonymous reviewer for pointing this out. 22 See, for instance, Normore, Feast for the Eyes; Allsen, Royal Hunt.


155 Islamic rivals, seeking to enhance their status and authority by adopting “more ‘universal’ modes of dress.”23 The Furusiyya dagger is a manifestation of this strategic self-presentation. Suspended from a baldric—a type of belt worn across the chest and favoured by Franks, Ayyubids, and Seljuks alike—and exhibiting an unusual blend of Christian and Islamic elements, the dagger was a visible and eyecatching accoutrement.24 The synthesis of different artistic languages admits the dagger to a corpus of artifacts made for local elites, whose tastes, intellectual culture, and social mores were shaped through longstanding contact and interchange between Christian and Islamicate cultures. These artifacts are epitomized by a group of Ayyubid metalwork objects and enamelled glass that combine motifs of princely leisure pursuits with images of Christian religious igures, holy sites, or rituals.25 The objects, which include a canteen, incense burners, candlesticks, basins, lasks, and cups, have been variously interpreted as diplomatic gifts, souvenirs, and liturgical objects, as well as general af irmations of a shared culture that emerged in the thirteenth century.26 The variety of interpretations calls attention to the multivalent resonances of heterogeneous artifacts, illuminating their capacity to generate simultaneous and overlapping meanings. The dagger differs from these wares in its clearly non-liturgical and aggressive function; yet, its multivalent iconography generates similar ambiguities. Dragons, for example, were potentially heraldic, astrological, mythological, hagiographic, astrological, and talismanic.27 Furthermore, aspects of the dagger appeal to popular beliefs: Arabic inscriptions and depictions of warrior saints appear in sacred, secular, and magical contexts. Neither wholly religious nor completely secular, neither exclusively Christian nor Islamic, neither distinctly Eastern nor Western, the dagger exhibits semantic lexibility and multiple resonances, as opposed to tight and internally consistent references. Its themes of animal combat and victory point to the hunt as an actual practice and a political construct that provided a lexible source of cultural, political, and religious signi icance for elite patrons and viewers. Taking my cue from its imagery, I focus on the meaning of the object within the performative context of the hunt, though the dagger was surely used for the closely related activity of feasting as well.

23 Flood, Objects of Translation, 74. 24 Nicolle, Medieval, 126; Alexander, Arts of War, 14–19. 25 Baer, Ayyubid Metalwork. 26 For bibliography and a summary of the issues, see Hillenbrand, “Art of the Ayyubids,” 31–32. 27 Kuehn, Dragon; Pancaroǧlu, “Itinerant Dragon-Slayer:”; Berlekamp, “Symmetry, Sympathy, and Sensation.”



Mobile Political Theatre In the medieval era, Eurasian rulers sponsored festivals, sporting events, banquets, drinking parties, and hunts to display power, enforce existing social hierarchies, and signify competitiveness in the international arena. The hunt stands out from these, owing to its explicit use of violence and dominance to establish legitimacy. To kill a wild beast was to dramatize the existence of “natural” hierarchies.28 In royal rhetoric, the hunt functioned as a metaphor of conquest, and, in royal practice, as an instrument of intimidation. Commanding numerous retainers, animal handlers, and huntsmen—many from distant lands—it advertised the ruler’s ability “to refashion social worlds in order to create physical landscapes suited to royal status and power.”29 A medieval chase required an enormous outlay of wealth and organization, which presented an obvious parallel to the resources needed for a military expedition. 30 In Greater Syria, hunts led by minor rulers evoked the glory of the caliphal and Byzantine empires, along with their predecessors, Persia and Rome. For all the aspiring powers of the Mediterranean, indeed, the hunt was an established means of articulating imperial ambitions, and rulers vied with one another for the largest and most fantastic menageries, the greatest numbers of kills, the highest quality hunting animals, and the inest weapons.31 Motivated by “imperial envy,” elites in northwestern Europe copied elements of the hunt from their southern counterparts.32 For instance, Count Robert II of Artois (1267–1302) assembled his own menagerie for the garden park of Hesdin after spending years in Sicily, where the residue of the earlier Norman–Sicilian empire included stunning examples of Islamo-Norman architecture, hunting parks, and lodges. 33 A member of the French royal family, he borrowed and transformed aspects of the Mediterranean models, participating in a globalizing process of co-adaptation that minimized the external differences between polities. Constituted through competition among vying states, the royal hunt was also an institution that fostered multiple forms of mobility. Frederick II, Holy Roman Emperor and king of Sicily (1194–1250), customarily travelled with a menagerie 28 Allsen, Royal Hunt, 157. 29 Farmer, “Aristocratic Power,” 64; Allsen, Royal Hunt. 30 Allsen, Royal Hunt, 213–28. 31 Ibid., 37–41, 134, 204. 32 I borrow this concept from Maclean (Looking East, 22), who proposes it over “otherness,” since it “involves identi ication as well as differentiation, of sameness of well as otherness, of desire and attraction as well as revulsion.” 33 Farmer, “Aristocratic Power.” I thank Carol Symes for bringing this to my attention.


157 of elephants, camels, giraffes, apes, lions, leopards, bears, and birds. The animal entourage elicited wonder, but also functioned as a display of political capital, documenting contacts with distant, fabled lands.34 Rulers sought out prized hunting animals and attracted notable animal trainers, sending specialists in multiple directions. Frederick II employed Muslim handlers for his menageries, while the Byzantine emperor Isaac I Komnenos (r. 1057–1059) employed an eleventhcentury Norman noble and military of icer famed for training hunting birds.35 Polities could calibrate their relations with each other through such agents, as well as through other media. For example, Frederick II’s manual on falconry enabled the expansion of hunting and animal training techniques beyond the Mediterranean, inspiring the creation of pleasure parks in northern Europe.36 The translation of technologies and techniques, the transportation of animals and huntsmen, relied on far- lung trading contacts and coordinate economies, intensifying the interdependence of rival polities and fostering a degree of homogenization among warrior elites. As part of this princely lingua franca, hunting was also a force that set diplomacy in motion. The historical record teems with episodes documenting the exchange of hunting animals, expeditions, and game in political negotiations. For instance, Richard the Lionheart of England (r. 1189–1199) sent falcons to Salah ad-Din (1137–1193) in the hopes of initiating talks,37 while the Egyptian sultan Baybars (r. 1260–1277) sent a giraffe to Michael VIII (r. 1259–1282), emperor of Byzantium, negotiating for slave trade routes on the Black Sea.38 These episodes were part of the regular exchange of diplomatic gifts across cultural and political frontiers, which often included the material accoutrements of the hunt as well.39 The chase was itself an occasion for cementing personal bonds of loyalty and political alliances, as witnessed by the efforts of the Frankish baron Reginald of Sidon (1130–1202) to secure the friendship and favour of Al-Adil, the emir of Damascus (r. 1200–1218).40 On a more formal level, diplomatic receptions often involved invitations to the hunt, sometimes to celebrate the formation of wider political

34 Allsen, Royal Hunt, 204; cf. Ševčenko, “Wild Animals.” 35 Allsen, Royal Hunt, 262–63. 36 Farmer, “Aristocratic Power,” 668. 37 Ibn Shaddad, Rare and Excellent History, trans. Richards, 215. 38 Ševčenko, “Wild Animals,” 78. 39 La Continuation, 68; trans. Edbury in Conquest of Jerusalem, 71. 40 Steven Runciman, History, 3:60. See also Usama Ibn Munqidh’s account of King Fulk of Jerusalem (r. 1131–1143) hunting with the amir Mu’in ad-Din (d. 1149): Book of Contemplation, 205–6.


158 alliances.41 In the twelfth century, the Georgian queen Tamar (r. 1184–1213) and her consort, David Soslan, concluded a military agreement with a minor Muslim prince by heading to the countryside, where they spent a week “feasting and carousing, exchanging presents, hunting and watching games.”42 As rulers used the hunt to consolidate power and negotiate the hierarchical relations between polities, they af irmed its centrality to the exercise of power, acting as agents of its diffusion. Luxurious hunting gear and objects bearing hunting imagery were thus made and consumed by the many, often competing, courts across the Mediterranean. Artifacts like the oliphant, an ivory horn for hunting and battle, demonstrate how the material culture of the hunt could mediate multiple encounters. As scholarship by Eva Hoffman, Antony Eastmond, and Avinoam Shalem has shown, the materials, facture, and decoration of oliphants point to the trans-hemispheric connections that linked Africa, Asia, and Europe.43 Extant examples are decorated with an international visual language, which facilitated their migration from east to west, and often from secular to sacred contexts.44 On the Walters horn, for instance, the carved decoration consists of a medallion interlace that frames lions, birds, rabbits, antelopes, and deer, while a pair of twining serpents undulates along its inner curve (Figures 7.3a–b). In his analysis, Shalem highlights how hunting imagery transmits values of courage and power, appealing to Christian and Muslim ideals of the warrior.45 This horn belongs to what Oleg Grabar has called a “shared culture of objects,” referring to luxury commodities that circulated in the Mediterranean, characterized by an international style whose courtly motifs could cross confessional boundaries in ways religious iconography could not. 46 Yet Michelle Warren has shown how the circulation of oliphants in medieval contact zones could also undermine the shared values and aspirations assumed by this approach. The sound produced by the oliphant in the epic Chanson de Roland, she argues, communicated multiple, even contradictory, messages to the warring Franks and Saracens who heard it, at once transmitting and transcending ideologies of religious difference.47 Warren points to the contingency of meaning produced by intersections of 41 Niẓam al-Mulk, Book of Government, trans. Darke, 94–98. 42 Vivian, trans., Georgian Chronicle, 127–28. 43 Hoffman, “Pathways of Portability”; Eastmond, “Byzantine Oliphants?”; Shalem, Oliphant. I thank Alicia Walker for bringing Eastmond’s article to my attention. 44 Shalem, Oliphant. 45 Ibid., 64–66, 76–77, 99–100, 104–5. See also Sarah Guérin’s article in this collection. 46 Grabar, “Shared Culture of Objects.” 47 Warren, “Noise of Roland.” I thank Carol Symes for bringing this article to my attention.



Figure 7.3a–b. Ivory horn carved with animals in vine scrolls: eleventh century, 23 56 10.3 cm. Baltimore, The Walters Art Museum (71.234). Images courtesy of The Walters Art Museum.

materiality, sound, and political engagements, with implications for the Furusiyya dagger. It captures a moment when warrior saints were increasingly becoming part of a shared vocabulary between various Christian groups and Muslim, especially Seljuk, communities.48 Like Roland’s noisy oliphant, the dagger’s decoration suggests that the commonalities created through the mobility of hunting culture do not merely indicate underlying unities. They also signify political engagements and tensions, setting the stage for messages that disrupt narratives, both of transcendent values and of intractable enmity.

48 Pancaroǧlu, “Itinerant Dragon-Slayer.”



Visual Contraposition and the Expression of Power A closer examination of the Furusiyya dagger can help to clarify the ways that material culture could both register and challenge the political engagements and tensions that characterized interactions among the Christian and Muslim courts of the Mediterranean. As an instrument of status, the principal function of the dagger was to ennoble its princely owner through display during the elite pursuits of banqueting, poetry gatherings, drinking parties, and the hunt. As noted above, rulers invested in palaces, hunting lodges, parks, and banqueting halls to serve as stages for the display of their skill, wealth, ethical conduct, and sophistication.49 Even a dagger could serve as a prop in these performances, as seen in an account furnished by the Arab chronicler Mas’udi (896–956), in which the Abbasid caliph Al-Amin (r. 809–813) vanquished a lion in hand-to-hand combat, armed only with a dagger.50 Fighting large cats—and surviving to tell the tale—was a dramatic display of courage and strength, designed to titillate the audience with the thrill of physical violence and display the ruler’s dominance over the animal world. The greatest glory accrued to those who defeated animals in close combat, armed only with hand weapons.51 In defeating the lion, Al-Amin employed a visual strategy for articulating royal power that supported existing power hierarchies by naturalizing claims in which might equals right. Through this feat, hunting culture becomes a source of in lated male self-fashioning, revealing the real and symbolic violence that underlies the maintenance of hierarchical relationships, both within and between polities. Such power politics are also the catalyst for the Furusiyya dagger’s aggressive animal motifs. In the Mediterranean, grif ins, dragon-slayers, and scenes of animal combat all carried connotations of victory and dominance.52 The application of these motifs to a hunting accoutrement, as opposed to a casket or ceramic vessel, ampli ies the force of their message, alluding to the hunt’s status as a concrete symbol of sovereignty and dominion. The iconography, along with its style, exploits the way beholders transfer the properties of dress to their wearers. Rendered in dynamic poses, the animals move across the scabbard in leaping bounds or unfurl their wings in attack, attributing masculine qualities of speed, strength, and aggression to the owner.53 The Arabic inscription constitutes the 49 Anderson, Islamic Villa, 172–76; Normore, Feast for the Eyes, 67–72; Allsen, Royal Hunt, 197, 201. 50 Mas’udi, Meadows of Gold, 6:432–33 §2637. 51 Cf. Ševčenko, “Wild Animals,” 70. 52 Hoffman, “Pathways of Portability,” 22. 53 Cf. Shalem, Oliphant, 97–100.


161 epigraphic parallel to the images, comprising supplications ( ad’iya), royal qualities, and virtues that were typically invoked min allāh (“from God”). This one cites the ubiquitous good wishes, “glory” and “good fortune,” cultivating a persona of power and piety for its elite owner.54 This message of power and prestige is further underscored by the lustrous material and exquisite craftsmanship of the dagger. In the premodern era, elites demonstrated status by adhering to the codes of behaviour, rules of external appearance, standards of re inement, and cultural values that were deemed appropriate to aristocrats. Nizam al-Mulk (1018/1019–1092), advisor to the Seljuks, pointed to the importance of luxury accoutrements in crafting international messages of status. He encouraged rulers to keep weapons of “incomparable magni icence” made of gold and silver, studded with jewels and ornaments to impress visiting dignitaries with their “exalted position and lofty ambition.”55 The passage alludes to a cultural milieu that valourized the display of wealth over discretion and locates the Furusiyya dagger within complex sartorial codes in which material value and re inement of accoutrements indicated rank and status.56 Dazzlingly beautiful and unique, the Furusiyya dagger captures the quality of incomparability Nizam al-Mulk describes. It spells out power and prestige, manifesting the innate qualities of manliness, nobility, piety, and glory that were believed to be externalized in the hunt.57 By depicting a warrior saint, moreover, the Furusiyya dagger in lects this generalized message of power with religious connotations. In the eastern Mediterranean, devotion to the warrior saints was practised from late antiquity onward, sustained and transformed through the constantly evolving networks of medieval period. From the eleventh through the fourteenth centuries, warrior saints became state symbols through processes of competitive borrowings and adaptations in the rival Christian courts of the eastern Mediterranean. During this period, Byzantium adopted representations of saints subduing dragons as state symbols, engraving them on coins and emblazoning them on battle standards.58 The images symbolized victory and strategically evoked miracle accounts in which the warrior saints fought alongside the living to defend the empire’s borders against enemy incursions. By

54 Blair, Islamic Inscriptions, 102–5, 199–203. 55 Nizam al-Mulk, Book of Government, trans. Darke, 94, 97. On “incomparability” as an imperial aesthetic, see Walker, Emperor and the World, 144–64. 56 On the notion of display versus discretion, see Braudel, Civilization and Capitalism, vol. 2, 49. 57 Participation in the hunt was, itself, thought to be ennobling. 58 Walter, Warrior Saints in Byzantine Art, 46. See also Walker’s article in this collection.


162 the thirteenth century, their images had become symbols of militarized piety and Christian sovereignty common to the Crusader polities,59 the Byzantine successor states,60 and Eastern Christian communities.61 Their new importance was fuelled by a potent mix of imperial aspirations, militarized piety, and binary ideologies of religious difference. Among the Crusaders, for instance, they gained traction as victors over Islamic, often Ayyubid, armies. Applied to the dagger, the warrior saint articulates Christian authority in a violent and hierarchical idiom. In its contraposition of animal and military motifs, the Furusiyya dagger also highlights conceptual links between hunting, warfare, and sovereignty, which were common themes of royal and imperial rhetoric. Byzantine imperial encomia provide a telling example, con lating triumph in war with triumph in the hunt, using both to express the conquest of imperial adversaries. 62 Texts that praise the emperor as a hunter and military hero circulated alongside imagery that compared him to the warrior saints, casting the ruler as the defender of Greek Orthodox territories.63 The emperors of Trebizond took these overlapping metaphors to their logical conclusion. From the thirteenth through ifteenth centuries, the Trapezuntine Empire was a Byzantine successor state whose rulers fashioned themselves as emperors in exile. Styling themselves as dragon- slayers, they drew parallels between victory over the ferocious beast and over their Turkic adversaries, presenting both triumphs as divinely sanctioned.64 These rhetorical strategies were pervasive, facilitated by the channels of exchange I described earlier, and can also be seen in Islamicate, especially Seljuk, visual culture.65 They underlie the decoration of the Furusiyya dagger. In its synthesis of sacred and secular iconography, the dagger constitutes a powerful assertion of Christian conquest and dominion, reinforced by the function of the dagger as an instrument of the hunt. The dagger’s employment of Christian and courtly imagery reinforces its message of dominance. In the monuments of the Mediterranean, the contraposition of visual forms was an ef icacious visual strategy for articulating power, as seen in the twelfth-century Norman royal chapel, the Cappella Palatina, in Palermo. To herald their status as a political power within the Mediterranean, the Sicilian Normans 59 Folda, “Warrior Saints,” 87–108. 60 Eastmond, Art and Identity, 146; Schrade, “Byzantium,” at 171–77. 61 Immerzeel, “Holy Horsemen,” 29–60; Snelders and Jeudy, “Guarding the Entrances,” 105–42. 62 These metaphors are visualized in elite objects, as Alicia Walker has shown; Emperor and the World, 67–69. 63 Kazhdan and Epstein, Change in Byzantine Culture, 111–19. 64 Olenqvist, “Pilgrimage,” 199–200, 208–9. 65 Pancaroǧlu, “Itinerant Dragon-Slayer,” 156–61.


163 deliberately appropriated cultural forms associated with Fatimid, Byzantine, and Roman court culture. The Capella Palatina accordingly combines Byzantine church mosaics, a Fatimid muqarnas ceiling decorated with images from the Islamic princely cycle, and trilingual inscriptions (Arabic, Latin, and Greek) to create a uniied royal program.66 As Jeremy Johns argues, this contraposition of linguistic and visual forms is “no attempt to reconcile Christianity and Islam, but rather a masterful act of appropriation intended to enhance the image of the king.”67 It is signi icant that all the motifs on the Furusiyya dagger can be found on the muqarnas ceiling, since the chapel was designed as a space for the display of royal rhetoric to diverse audiences. The similarities suggest that the dagger presupposes a similarly diverse audience, and perhaps a similarly intercultural architectural space. In such settings, the dagger and its owner would have conformed to the prevalent practices of the physical and social space where it was used. The Capella Palatina provides a model for interpreting the dagger as message of Christian power over its foreign adversaries and, perhaps, over an internally diverse population.

Visual Mirroring and Cultural Difference With its depiction of a haloed saint receiving a blessing from God and bearing a cross-emblazoned shield, the warrior saint presents a clear message of Christian power. Nevertheless, its combination of iconography and aesthetic forms distracts from any assertion of absolute difference, pointing to cultural histories that its visual rhetoric seems designed to disguise. A focus on the warrior saint, in particular, reveals longstanding histories of contact and exchange in the eastern Mediterranean, shaped by successive and layered histories of conquest and coexistence. The militarized saint is essential to the Furusiyya dagger’s performance of power and masculinity, locating it within an elite culture that cultivated the imitation of heroic exemplars as a means of enhancing personal charisma.68 From its prominent position near the mouth of the scabbard, it draws a parallel between the human hunter pursuing his prey and the divine saint subduing the world’s most ferocious beast. It is important to note that the warrior saints were depicted according to a variety of iconographic types, including standing portraits, bust portraits, equestrians, and riders rescuing captives.69 These types are all attested in the eastern Mediterranean, indicating a deliberate choice to depict the saint as a

66 Tronzo, Cultures of His Kingdom. 67 Johns, “Arabic Inscriptions,” 130. 68 On charisma, see Jaeger, Enchantment, 22–27. 69 Haubrichs, Georgslied, 214–14, n. 24.


164 dragon-slayer. On one level, the visual formula suits the function of the dagger as a hunting accoutrement, reinforcing themes of human–animal combat. On another level, it points to an awareness of other cultural and religious groups in the region, and to their cultivation of parallel dragon-slayer traditions. Dragon-slayers are so common in the medieval Christian and Islamic worlds that scholars have only begun to track their movements and transformations. From the eleventh century on, tales of dragon-slayings proliferated in the eastern Mediterranean, becoming the mark of the greatest heroes. 70 Numerous epic, historic, and saintly igures accrued dragon-slaying miracles, forging links among otherwise unconnected heroic and sacred igures. The heroic feat of St. George slaying a dragon to rescue a princess is a case in point. It irst appears in an eleventh-century manuscript from Georgia, suggesting a familiarity with the heroes of Persian epics, who routinely saved maidens from the sinuous serpents that terrorized the land.71 St. George the dragon-slayer resonated with the heroes of epics and romances, engaging the chivalric imagination of western Europe and propelling him to universal fame.72 The resonance of values across Christian and Muslim boundaries can also be seen in epic cycles from the opposing sides of the Byzantine–Muslim frontier in Anatolia. In the Byzantine epic Digenis Akritis, the eponymous hero defeats a three-headed dragon to rescue his wife, a feat echoed and transformed in the Turkish epic Battalname, whose hero, Malik Danishmend, slays a dragon menacing a monastery.73 In each case, the dragon-slayer is reissued, adapted to local circumstances, generic forms, and cultural values. Yet these exemplars (holy, mythic, historic) all provide moral instruction for warriors and models for legitimacy, dramatizing an ethos of resistance to outside forces. The mobility of this narrative, in combination with its capacity to cross religious and cultural boundaries, suggests that it afforded instrumentalities of many kinds. Its political utility is readily apparent in the state symbols of medieval Anatolia, where rulers strategically melded epic and historic time, and kingly and heroic igures. A lithograph of a lost fresco from the church of Hagia Sophia, Trebizond, shows the Trapezuntine emperor Manuel I Megas Komnenos (r. 1238–1263) in state robes, wearing a fur-trimmed cloak, embroidered with medallions containing eagles and a band of pseudo-Arabic or arabesque decoration at chest level (Figure 7.4). The under-robe features a large central medallion which depicts

70 Allsen, Royal Hunt, 180. 71 On Persian dragon-slayers, see Kuehn, Dragon, 91. 72 On the reinventions of St. George, see Riches, St. George, 28–68. 73 Digenis Akritis, trans. Elizabeth Jeffreys, 155–56; Mélikoff, La Geste de Melik Dānişmend, 1:206–62, 2:75–77. See also Pancaroǧlu, “Itinerant Dragon-Slayer,” 157.



Figure 7.4. State robes of Manual I Grand Komnenos (r. 1238–1263), from a (now lost) wall painting in Hagia Sophia, Trebizond. Engraving by Grigorii Grigorevich, Freska tserkvi sv. So ii v Trapezunde. Manuil III, Imperator Trebizonskii (St. Petersburg, 1897–1903). Photo: New York Public Library.


166 St. Eugenios, the patron of Trebizond, on horseback, twisting back to thrust his spear into the gaping maws of a serpent. The robes synthesize features of Byzantine and Islamic (particularly Seljuk), visual languages, creating an imperial image that spoke to local perceptions of power.74 St. Eugenios was a local martyr, transformed into an imperial symbol in the thirteenth century following his miraculous defence of Trebizond against invading Turkish armies.75 Placed on the chest of the ruler, the medallion fosters an identi ication between the divine warrior and human ruler, presenting the saint as patron, model, and equal in glory. In foregrounding a warrior saint, the robes depart signi icantly from conventional Byzantine images of imperial power, which draw links between Christ and the emperor. In so doing, they project an image of Manuel I as the earthly counterpart to the divine, charismatic champion of the faith. In all likelihood, this expression of power was strategically designed to resonate with those of local Muslim rulers. As Oya Pancaroǧlu has shown, minor Muslim rulers in Anatolia and the Caucasus fostered identi ications between themselves and an array of historic, epic, and hagiographic dragon-slayers. For instance, Nasir alDin Muhammad, the last Danishmendid ruler of Malatya (r. 1162–1170 and 1175– 1178), placed an image of a dragon-slayer on his coinage, a medium emblematic of sovereignty.76 Its iconographic ambiguity fosters identi ications between the living ruler, his ancestor, and other heroes; it also evokes the ghazi warriors who waged jihad at the Anatolian frontier. When viewed together, the Christian and Islamic heroes constitute resonant visions of the ruler as defender of the faith, formed through processes of co-adaptation and borrowing like those already seen in hunting culture. But the similarities in images should not be taken as a sign of interfaith harmony. On one level, the image of St. Eugenios helped mobilize sentiments of Christian superiority in support of military expeditions against Turkic armies. On another level, it employed a shared language of heroism to convey threatening messages to Trapezuntine’s rivals. The image of St. Eugenios is meant to bridge cultural, linguistic, and religious differences on the one hand, and, on the other, to reaf irm and reinscribe them.

Ambiguous Images and Converging Beliefs On the Furusiyya dagger, the depiction of the warrior saint dramatizes resistance to outside threats, whether of a military, supernatural, or religious kind. Yet, at the

74 Eastmond, Art and Identity, 146. 75 Olenqvist, “Pilgrimage,” 199–200, 208–9. 76 Ibid., 156–57.


167 same time, the dagger employs talismanic devices that illustrate the convergence of practices and beliefs across diverse Christian and Muslim communities. The Furusiyya dagger provided personal defence not only through its material properties, but also through its apotropaic ef icacy, which derived from the combined powers invested in inscriptions, materials, and iconography. These potent devices underscore the message of the dagger, signalling the superior prowess and authority of the man who wields it. Designed to engage a plural audience, talismans and apotropaia belong to what Antony Eastmond has described as a “world of popular, semi-of icial beliefs and ideas that lay outside the mainstream religious practices of the Christian and Islamic worlds.”77 For instance, the inscription on the Furusiyya dagger resonates with diverse traditions regarding the capacity of texts to channel power. When applied to portable objects, Arabic texts had an amuletic quality that derived from the status of the language as the medium of divine revelation.78 The du’ā placed at the mouth of the scabbard has formal and epigraphic analogues with those on thirteenth-century belt plaques, weapons, and horse trappings, as well as textiles like the mantle of Roger II.79 These articles of dress have innate protective properties, which may have been enhanced by the prayers of praise proclaimed by the inscriptions.80 Given the diverse society of Greater Syria, it is worth noting that Arabic-speaking Christians could likely ascertain the meanings of the texts. Those who could not may still have regarded it as apotropaic, based on a tradition that illegible texts had magical potency.81 The dragon-head quillons exhibit a similar tendency towards intercultural resonance. Across the medieval world, dragons were seen as forces of chaos that lurked at the physical and symbolic thresholds between order and disorder, good and evil. In the eastern Mediterranean, Christian and Muslim rulers employed dragon talismans to bolster civic defences, based on the common belief that certain iconographic forms could imbue sculptures with the power to attract favourable celestial in luences.82 The quillons’ shape and symmetrical arrangement evoke the talismans on city gates and church exteriors, and also on portable objects of

77 Eastmond, “Other Encounters,” 184. 78 Ettinghausen, “Arabic Epigraphy,” 307; Porter, “Islamic Seals,” 138–40. 79 Mohamed, Arts of the Muslim Knight, cat. nos. 9, 77, 91, 117, 133, 143, 234. For a general discussion of inscriptions on weapons, with bibliography, see Blair, Islamic Inscriptions, 199–203. 80 Hoffman, “Pathways of Portability,” 33; Johns, “Arabic Inscriptions,” 135. 81 Ettinghausen, “Kufesque,” 43–45; Nagel, “Pseudoscript,” 235. 82 For the meanings of dragons in this region, see Kuehn, Dragon.



Figure 7.5. Gateway to the caravansaray of Badr al-Din Lu’lu’ (detail), west of Mosul (Iraq). In the upper right-hand corner, a hero is slaying a dragon. Image courtesy of the Gertrude Bell Archive, Newcastle University (R_070).

protection. In particular, they elicit comparison with the dragon swords favoured by Muslim warriors, so-called because of their amuletic dragon-shaped handguards.83 They position the warrior as a hero who subdues dragons and unleashes their power against the adversary. In the hands of a Christian elite, the Furusiyya dagger might be seen to appropriate aspects of the rival’s defences, broadening the scope of its apotropaic resonances. The warrior saint achieves a similar effect through iconographic ambiguities. Employed on weapons, amulets, and church walls, sacred images had apotropaic properties derived from their links to divine beings. Mounted saints slaying enemies appear as exterior relief sculptures on Armenian, Syrian Orthodox, Byzantine, and Georgian churches.84 These images have iconographic and formal analogues in the Islamic world, as can be seen from the imagery in the entryway of the caravansaray of the Atabeg Badr al-Din Lu’lu’ (1211–1259), located west of Mosul (Figure 7.5). Positioned above the entrance, a haloed hero thrusts his spear into the open jaws of a sinuous dragon. As Persis Berlekamp has shown, the image draws on cosmological powers and cultural expectations of symmetry (in which threat is met with

83 Alexander, Islamic Arms and Armor, 150–51. 84 Kuehn, Dragon.


169 counter-threat).85 The knotted dragon also has astrological associations, believed to make the enemy’s way dif icult instead of straightforward and easy.86 Though the Furusiyya dagger’s warrior saint is an equestrian, it shares formal qualities such as the omission of an identifying inscription and use of a knotted dragon to enhance its potency. The dagger’s image combines aspects of sacred and talismanic images, inviting recognition of its ef icacious power by religiously diverse viewers. The Syrian Orthodox monastery of Mar Behnam/Deir al-Khidr, located southeast of Mosul, makes the links between iconographic ambiguities and intercultural resonance explicit. In the main church, the sanctuary entrance employs a combination of apotropaia, including Syriac inscriptions, crosses, knotted serpents breathing ire, lions, and cavalier saints slaying a demon and a dragon (Figures 7.6a–b).87 While the saints lack inscriptions, scholars generally identify them as the titular saint of the monastery, Mar Behnam, and St. George. The dragonslayer is remarkably similar to the image on the Furusiyya dagger, which shares its knotted, open-mouthed dragon and leaping steed. Located at the entrance to the church, it signals potent defence and forms part of a regional message of Christian power. Yet, the history of the site points to multicultural and religious connections that complicate this message. From the medieval era on, Mar Behnam had ties to the Islamic holy man al-Khidr, making it a renowned site of healing and veneration for both Christians and Muslims.88 Muslim artisans adapted the visual formula employed for warrior saints to represent al-Khidr as a mounted dragon-slayer, pointing to layered syncretistic practices. Writing about Seville, Tom Nickson has noted “the capacity of charismatic sites and objects to generate and attract meanings that transcend social, political, and religious circumstances.”89 His observation is relevant to Mar Behnam, where joint Christian and Muslim devotions continued well past the Middle Ages, generating a range of syncretic beliefs. Given the diversity of viewers at the site, the images of the riders might have been regarded as sacred icons or talismans, nameless riders or some combination of Mar Behnam, St. George, and al-Khidr. At Mar Behnam, the Christian saint and Islamic holy man became interchangeable, to some extent undermining the assertions of absolute religious difference made by this iconographic form in other contexts—such as the Furusiyya dagger. 85 Berlekamp, “Symmetry.” 86 Ibid., 80. 87 Gierlichs, Mittelalterliche Tierreliefs, plate 59, igs. 1–3. 88 Snelders, Identity, 552–62; Wolper, “Changing Frontiers,” 139–43. 89 Nickson, “Text, Ornament, and Magic,” 856.



Figure 7.6a–b. Entrance to the sanctuary (“Royal Gate”) of the Syrian Orthodox monastery of Mar Behnam/Deir al-Khidr, southeast of Mosul (Iraq), with detail showing a dragonslaying warrior-saint. Photo: Yasser Tabbaa, 1979, reproduced courtesy of Aga Khan Documentation Center at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Boston.


171 As Elizabeth Key Fowden has shown in relation to the early Islamic period, sites of shared devotion led to the dynamic blurring of some boundaries and the reassertion of others.90 Her work suggests that the distinctly Christian warrior saint on the Furusiyya dagger might be conceptualized as an attempt to reassert and maintain difference in the face of extreme religious luidity. Nevertheless, its owner likely pro ited from multicultural syncretisms that enabled diverse elite viewers to recognize the dagger’s ef icacy. Employing a common language of power and protection, the dagger displays mastery over cosmological and heavenly powers, projecting an ef icacious image of the man who wields it as powerful hero and hunter.

Conclusion By investigating the intercultural resonances of the Furusiyya dagger, this study has shown how global approaches to medieval art can help to decentre persistent and misleading narratives, particularly those that divide the medieval globe into East and West, Islamic and Christian. In its synthesis of Christian and Islamic visual languages, the dagger challenges popular and scholarly conceptions of the medieval period as an era of clashing religions, revealing instead a period of sustained engagements, catalyzed by military, religious, and political encounters. Even convenient categories like “Christianity” and “Islam” appear inadequate to the task of describing the religious and cultural communities of the eastern Mediterranean, masking their considerable internal diversities. The dagger’s message of Christian power and preeminence only gains traction against a background of overlapping and competing traditions. By fostering intercultural resonance, the dagger underlines how mobility in the premodern globe could disrupt messages, both of mutual aspirations and of absolute difference. In doing so, it invites us to develop new narratives of exchange—ones that can account for contradictory messages, ambivalent practices, and cultural tensions.

90 Fowden, “Sharing Holy Places.”



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176 Heather Badamo ([email protected]) is an assistant professor at the University of California, Santa Barbara. Her research focuses on visual manifestations of interfaith contact and exchange between the Eastern Christian and Islamic worlds. Her forthcoming book examines warrior saints and ideals of spiritualized warfare in the medieval eastern Mediterranean during the Crusader era. Abstract Among the holdings of the Furusiyya Art Foundation in Vaduz, Liechtenstein, a dagger datable to the twelfth or thirteenth century combines motifs from the Islamic princely cycle with an icon of a Christian warrior saint. It can be located within the thriving luxury industries of the eastern Mediterranean, where numerous objects combined styles, inscriptions, and iconography from the Christian and Islamic worlds. Despite much recent work on these cross-cultural objects, the Furusiyya dagger remains largely unstudied; this paper accordingly considers the dagger in relation to elite, transcultural practices of hunting, feasting, and self-presentation. It suggests that such mixed imagery was designed to convey messages of power and personal protection in a Christian idiom legible to diverse audiences. Keywords medieval weapons, jihad, Crusade, saints, warriors, dragon-slayers, hunting, feasting, apotropaia, multiculturalism



There is no museum of antiquities in the world, so far as I know, half so instructive to the European as this rare collection at Nara. … Where else could we see these strange connecting links between the arts of Egypt, India, China, and Japan, that we ind here?1 (1834–1904), Scottish designer and theorist, travelled to Japan in 1876 as a representative of the South Kensington Museum in London (later to become the Victoria & Albert Museum), little prepared him for what the ancient Japanese capital of Nara held in store. His tour of “the Mikado’s treasures” preserved at the repository at the Shōsō-in 正倉院 illed him with awe and disbelief (Figure 8.1). This repository, irst assembled in the mid-eighth century, encompasses artifacts that were created, traded, and (in some cases) made to order along the Silk Road. It was hardly known outside Japan at the time of Dresser’s writing. It would take the work of Ernest Fenollosa (1853–1908), the irst curator of Oriental Art at the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston, for the Shōsō-in to be properly introduced to readers and museum-goers in the West.2 By his reckoning, the repository proves that “the seeds of civilization in Japan were sowed during Alexander’s conquest of Asia, and were in turn imparted to Japan via China and Korea.”3 This language of “globalism” continues to inform both public and scholarly discourses on the Shōsō-in to the present day. Within Japan, the collection has been customarily labelled as the “ inal destination of the Silk Road.”4 The Lithuania-born

1 Dresser, Japan, 101. 2 The modern discoveries of the Shōsō-in in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries are beyond the scope of this essay and merit a study of their own, not least because Fenollosa and Dresser’s universalizing discourse of “art” quickly became strained by a highly charged language of nationalism in the works of Japanese scholars. For the larger historical backdrop, especially institutional changes, which gave rise to the modern notion of “art” and “national treasure” in Japan in this period, see Guth, “Kokuhō,” 313–22. 3 Fenollosa, “Nara,” 156. The discussion of the Shōsō-in in his Epochs (110–15) is illed with speculations about the Persian, Greek, and Chinese origins of the objects. 4 Yoneda, Kiseki no Shōsōin hōmotsu.


178 Figure 8.1. “Sketch of a glass ewer … undoubtedly an early Arabian work.” Reproduced from Dresser, Japan, 100, Figure 29.

Fluxus artist George Maciunas (1931–1978), who took classes on Asian art at the Institute of Fine Arts in New York, recuperated the Shōsō- in as a token of artistic catholicism and exquisite craftsmanship when he named the group’s irst mailorder set the “Shosoin warehouse of today” in 1965.5 Less acknowledged is the fact that this prodigious collection of global art irst came into existence owing to concerns that were ultimately local, religious, and maritorious. As the various routes these objects travelled converged in Japan, their collective identity as an ensemble also became signi icant. This essay focuses on the beginning of this contingent history of the Shōsō-in collection within Japan, when the personal collection of Emperor Shōmu 聖武 (r. 724–749) was irst donated posthumously to the Buddha Vairocana at Tōdai-ji Monastery in 756. I argue that the global nature of the collection was circumscribed by the emphatically local construction of the religious, imperial, and personal identities of this Japanese emperor: identities whose apparent tension was at once articulated and safely contained in the language of the collection’s inventory and dedication.

The Shˉosoˉ in: An Overview The Shōsō-in collection irst took shape at a time when Buddhism was being embraced in Japan, both at the court and beyond. This is a period that culminated in the completion of the Tōdai-ji Monastery in Nara in the mid-eighth century, roughly two centuries after Buddhism had been irst introduced to Japan 5 Kellein, Dream of Fluxus, 109.




via the Korean peninsula.6 The Great Buddha Hall of this monastery housed a seated bronze statue 52 feet (16 metres) in height, which took more than three years to cast.7 A project of this stature required perseverance and un lagging faith in equal measure. Both qualities were found in the Great Buddha’s imperial patrons, two larger-than-life characters who ensured Buddhism its place in the cultural history of Japan: Emperor Shōmu and his consort Kōmyō 光明 (701– 760). Shōmu was the irst Japanese emperor to join the monastic order. Like him, Empress Dowager Kōmyō was a devout Buddhist believer.8 Both played fundamental roles in the history of the Shōsō-in, as did their daughter Abe, who was to reign twice as emperor, irst as Kōken 孝謙 (749–758) and again as Shotōku 稱德 (764–770). Many of the instruments and paraphernalia used during the consecration ceremony for the Great Buddha became part of the Shōsō-in collection and survive in good condition today. But what irst brought the collection into being was a gift of a personal nature. When Shōmu passed away in 756, Kōmyō donated a large number of artifacts that were treasured by the emperor to the Tō dai-ji Monastery, for the spiritual deliverance of Shōmu and his subjects.9 A timber structure (Figure 8.2), the Shōsō-in itself had been built shortly before, most likely to house Kōmyō’s anticipated gift.10 While the objects have since been moved to storage buildings constructed in the 1950s and ’60s, the original structure still stands within the precincts of the Tōdai-ji Monastery today.11 More donations were made after Kōmyō’s time, and the inventory came to span a millennium of artistic endeavour. The earliest of many dated artifacts is an 6 Yoshida, “Revisioning Religion,” 1–26. 7 The structure was burned down twice. Of the statue, only the original pedestal survives. The current building is an eighteenth-century restoration. For this monumental project, see Piggott, “Tōdaiji,” especially 126–65. 8 Mikoshiba, “Empress Kōmyōshi,” 21–37. On Kōmyō’s sponsorship of scripture-copying projects, see Lowe, “Texts and Textures,” 9–36, and Ritualized Writing. 9 The language of Kōmyō’s vow and the inventory it preceded will be discussed later in this essay. 10 The generic terms Shōsō (“main repository building”) and In (“a precinct”) have come to refer, in modern parlance, to this speci ic structure. In fact, most major monasteries would have had a Shōsō. For a history of such log cabins in Japan, see Shimizu, “Azekura.” 11 Dendrochronological studies spanning over a decade (in three phases between 2002 and 2014), during which timber samples from all three chambers inside the current structure were taken and analyzed, produced conclusive evidence that the Shōsō-in was built between 752 and 756: that is, between the consecration of the main Buddha Hall and Kōmyō’s donation. Despite repairs made to the building over the centuries, no substantial structural change was introduced. See Mitsutani, “Nenrin nendaihō (3),” 81–88.




Figure 8.2. Shōsō-in repository building, Tōdai-ji Monastery, Nara (Japan). First constructed ca. 756 CE. The Shōsō-in Shōsō, courtesy of the Imperial Household Agency.

anthology of works by the Chinese poet Wang Bo 王勃 (ca. 650–ca. 676) that bears an inscription from 707; the last is a wooden cabinet dated to 1693.12 An inventory from the 1950s lists 794 objects. The total number of artifacts in the collection far exceeds this number, however, as some objects were singled out in the inventory while others such as folding screens or bronze mirrors that pertain to the same function were counted as a single item.13 Together, they span the media of painting, calligraphy, lacquerware, ceramics, metalwork, glass, and textile. Their origins were equally varied, with examples coming from Byzantium, Persia, China, and the Korean peninsula. The Shōsō-in collection attests that, at the end of the trade routes collectively labelled “the Silk Road,” Japan enjoyed the relay effects of this “global” material culture, even if its participation was largely mediated through China. The four examples to be discussed below constitute only a small sample of this tremendous wealth of artifacts. Together, they showcase the range of media and techniques of production that the collection encompasses. For each, there is a range of comparanda to locate Shōmu and his court within a broad circle of shared artistic preferences. However, it is important to note that this globalism was conditioned by

12 See Matsushima, ed., Shōsōin, 1:3, 154. Some undated artifacts may have much more ancient pedigrees: see below. 13 Hayashi, Silk Road, 154.




modalities of acquisition, exchange, and appropriation that were both diverse and deeply local in nature. Some of these artifacts may have arrived in Japan as accessories to religious implements, as wrappers of Buddhist scriptures or containers of relics; others came through formal diplomatic channels, brought to Shōmu’s court as gifts from Tang China or Silla Korea. The routes these objects travelled were as diverse as the places that produced them. Hence, this article pushes back on earlier efforts to ascribe a singular function or motive to the establishment of the repository, either by framing it—as Fenollosa and Dresser did, in the nineteenth century—as a precocious museum of global art14 or writing it into a political history of incursions on imperial power, as when it was established as a weapons depot by Fujiwara no Nakamaro 藤原仲麻呂 (706–764) or when it was later deemed a talisman by Oda Nobunaga 織田信長 (1534–1582) and Tokugawa Ieyasu 徳川家康 (1543–1616) during the Warring States period.15 As tempting as the ensuing certainty may be, I choose not to draw a line in the sand between art and politics, or even between art and religion. Doing so, as the argument goes below, would certainly reduce the complexity and multivalence of the collection and its initial donation. Instead, I embrace the collection’s diversity and acknowledges that we still know woefully little about when and how most of its artifacts arrived in Japan. The textual and epigraphic records, for the most part, document only the inal leg of their journeys, leaving out all the stops and gaps that preceded it. In some cases, the material context of an artifact helps us chart its possible trajectory, as the four examples demonstrate below. However, as contingent and heterogeneous as the collection is, it is equally rewarding to look at these discrete artifacts as an ensemble, to understand how their collective identity underwent change when the Shōsō-in was established by Kōmyō in 756.

“Outside-In” Nothing better illustrates the relay effects of the Silk Road than silk itself.16 There are currently more than ive thousand pieces of silk in the Sh ōsō-in collection, according to one recent study, though they mostly survive in fragments; and the number continues to rise as more specimens come to light, thus presenting

14 See Hayashi, Silk Road. 15 Yoshimizu, “Shōsōin.” 16 The term Seidenstrasse, “silk routes,” irst coined by the German geographer/geologist Baron Ferdinand von Richthofen in 1877, was as much a igment of imperialist imagination as the baron’s charged task of building a railroad to connect Germany and Shandong in China. See Waugh, “Richthofen’s ‘Silk Roads’”; Bloom, “Silk Road or Paper Road.”



182 Figure 8.3. Detail of brocade with hunting motif on blue ground silk, eighth century: Shōsō-in, Nara (Japan). The Shōsō-in Treasures, courtesy of the Imperial Household Agency.

scholars with both an accounting and a jigsaw problem.17 Many were part of the original donation by Kōmyō in 756, and a considerable number were made especially for occasions associated with Shōmu and the Tōdai-ji.18 Not all were locally manufactured, and even among those made by local artists, many of the designs were inspired by those from afar. On one well-preserved brocade (Figure 8.3), a mounted archer is seen turning to aim his arrow at a prancing tiger. This same scene is repeated four times within an area enclosed by a pearl roundel. Hugging the fringe of the roundel, an acanthus scroll completes the design. A motif known as the “Parthian Shot,” this hunting scene is also found on such exotic vessels as a silver goblet uncovered from an eighth-century hoard in central China,19 and a large silver jar in the Shōsō-in repository.20 These echoes of what was originally a Persian royal symbol resonated with ruling elites across Eurasia.21 Further to the west, the emperor Justinian (r. 527–548) can be seen donning a robe displaying the same pearl roundels (enclosing birds) on the mosaic program of San Vitale in 17 Ogata, Shōsōin senshokuhin, 7. If one counts individual fragments, then the number amounts to almost twenty thousand. 18 Ogata, Shōsōin senshokuhin, 17. 19 Shaanxi Lishi bowuguan, Hua wu da Tang chun, 59. 20 It was donated by the then reigning emperor of Japan, Shōmu’s daughter Kōken, in 767. See Shōsō-in jimusho, ed., Shōsōin no hōmotsu, vol. 2, plate 63. 21 Canepa, Two Eyes. See also the articles by Alicia Walker and Heather Badamo in this collection.




Figure 8.4. Detail of ceiling slope, Mogao Cave 249, ca. 500 CE: Dunhuang (China). Courtesy of the Dunhuang Academy.

Ravenna. In East Asia, the same motif also became imbricated in larger religious mural programs, as at Dunhuang in northwestern China, inside an early sixth-century Buddhist cave temple (Figure 8.4); on the ceiling of a ifth-century tomb on the Korean peninsula;22 and as late as in the thirteenth century on the ceiling plank of a temple building in Ladakh in West Himalaya.23 The motif’s ubiquity attests to the luidity of meaning and the resilient power of such images to retain their association with power over the longue durée, although we do not know how such a motif was interpreted in eighth-century Japan. If silk is a shorthand for (the illusion of) an unbroken thoroughfare connecting China and Rome,24 the “Parthian Shot” is an emblem woven into the rich fabric of an interconnected medieval globe, a world in which the emperors Justinian and Shōmu, almost exactly two centuries apart, could have shared the same taste for medallion-studded robes. On the lip side (and literally so), these designs of foreign origin had to adapt to local needs. An eighth-century Buddhist sutra wrapper recovered from Dunhuang in northwestern China (Figure 8.5) presents a parallel that sheds light on the

22 Kim, ed., Koguryo Tomb Murals, 79. For a discussion of a North Asian corridor through which such images spread during the post-Han period (206 BCE– 220 CE), see Steinhardt, “Changchuan Tomb No. 1,” 225–92; see also the article by Bonnie Cheng in this collection. 23 Papa-Kalantari, “Art of the Court,” plate 18. 24 On the piecemeal and regional nature of trade, see Hansen, Silk Road.



184 Figure 8.5. Sutra wrapper of woven silk backed with paper, originally from Mogao Cave 17, eighth century: Dunhuang (China). Currently in the Stein Collection, British Museum, courtesy of the British Museum.

possible trajectory by which many of the textiles arrived in Japan. It displays the same pearl roundels as the contemporaneous Shōsō-in fragment, cut up to form a pearl border. In place of the mounted archer is a dismembered lion whose head, torso, and tail are found on different parts of the wrapper. Textiles must have arrived in Japan through the mediation of local networks. We might imagine them changing hands between merchants and/or Buddhist missionaries. As the example from Dunhuang suggests, sometimes such changes also led to physical alterations. The large quantity of fabrics in the Shōsō-in collection—the largely fragmentary nature of which are signaled by the fact that they are collectively referred to as Shōsō-in gire 裂 (Shōsō-in rend)—may have been as much a fashion statement as the result of creative tailoring work. Other examples within the Shōsō-in corpus, however, suggest fewer degrees of separation and indicate direct traf ic between imperial courts through diplomacy. A biwa lute (Figures 8.6a–b)—the only extant example from this period with ive strings and once thought to have been manufactured locally—may have been brought back from China as a diplomatic gift. A bronze mirror with very similar mother-of-pearl inlay was found in a Tang-period tomb (Figure 8.7). The inlay was embedded in a thick layer of lacquer on the bronze surface, and a similar method




Figure 8.6a–b. Two sides of a ive-string biwa made of chestnut wood with mother-ofpearl inlay, eighth century: Shōsō-in, Nara (Japan). The Shōsō-in Treasures, courtesy of the Imperial Household Agency.

would have been used to create the biwa’s ostentatious texture.25 The instrument’s associations with both the Tang court and Buddhism made it, in many ways, an exemplar of the kind of material culture that Shōmu tried to amass in Japan: for although this instrument may have originated in Persia, through its travel across South and Central Asia, it gradually became associated with Buddhism.26 In late

25 This tomb was excavated between 2001 and 2002. The owner has been identi ied according to an inscription as Princess Li Chui 李倕 (d. 736), a ifth-generation descendant of Li Yuan 李淵 (r. 618–626), the founder of the Tang. For a preliminary report of the excavation, see Shaanxi sheng kaogu yanjiuyuan, “Tang Li Chui mu fajue jianbao.” Some of the artifacts recovered from Li Chui’s tomb are discussed in Greiff et al., Tomb of Li Chui. 26 Kishibe, “Origin of the P’i P’a.”



186 Figure 8.7. Bronze mirror with mother-of-pearl inlay, lacquer, and turquoise from the tomb of Princess Li Chui (d. 736): near Xi’an, Shaanxi Province (China). Reproduced from Kaogu yu wenwu no. 6 (2015), pl. 1.

ifth-century murals at Ajanta in India, it is rendered together with a half-bird, half-human creature called Kinnara, one of the eight classes of beings that originated from Indian mythology but became protectors of the Dharma in Buddhist cosmology. 27 By the seventh century, the biwa lute was a regular fixture in large musical ensembles that represent the role of divine music heard in a Pure Land, repeatedly identified in scriptural descriptions and in mural paintings found at Dunhuang. 28 In the meantime, it also became a staple in Tang court music, and musicians of Central Asian origins were often coveted for their talents.29 It is unclear exactly how the instrument came into Shōmu’s possession. Naitō Sakae has speculated that it may have been brought back from China by Kibi no Makibi 吉備真備 (695–775), who was part of a Japanese embassy to Tang China in 716 and spent nineteen years there before returning in 735. 30 Historical records indicate that a musical performance of Tang and Silla (Korean) music was held to entertain the returned ambassadors, with the emperor Shōmu in attendance. The

27 One famous example can be found on the late ifth-century mural program at Cave 1, Ajanta. See Behl, Ajanta Caves, 71. 28 Gómez, Land of Bliss, 181. 29 Schafer, Golden Peach of Samarkand, 52–55. 30 For a history of Japanese embassies to China before the tenth century, see Wang, Ambassadors.




biwa may have been presented to the emperor on this occasion. 31 While it is dificult to substantiate the speci ics of Naitō‘s argument, other evidence indicates that such gifts were indeed a major source of Shōmu’s collection. One of the most reproduced objects in the Shōsō-in collection is an eight- lobed, petal-shaped, bronze mirror, which may have followed a similar trajectory. Its back is furnished with exquisitely carved and gilded designs of landscape, vine scrolls, and divinatory symbols (Plate 8.1). These designs have close counterparts in other bronze mirrors produced in Tang China in the same period.32 What is striking about this example from the Shōsō-in, and what seems to offer irmer ground for speculation about its provenance, is a poem inscribed on the outer rim of the mirror: A lonesome igure cut by the visitor from a foreign land, Alas, singing without a companion, how many more  springs to come? This mirror that re lects my visage, freshly forged, I think of my fair lady from afar. The Prancing Phoenix returns to the forest, homebound, The Coiling Dragon crosses the sea, refreshed; To be sealed and cast aside for the day of return, This mirror I now hold and brush clean, my thoughts  touched by true affections.

[隻影嗟為客,孤鳴復幾春。初成照瞻鏡,遙憶畫眉人。 舞鳳歸林近,盤龍渡海 新。緘封待還日,披拂鑑情親。] The irst couplet expresses the sentiments of a traveller whose journey home may still be years in the future. Such longing then becomes encapsulated in the object that bears this poem, in the form of a play on the re lective surface of the mirror— it at once intensi ies these emotions (“re lects my innermost feelings”) and allows the author to project the visage of a lover (“my fair lady from afar”). The third couplet continues to take the mirror as its subject: in this case, the dragon and phoenix refer to the two pairs of these mythic animals found close to the centre of the mirror, interspersed, as they are, between mountains and immortals. And yet, as in the previous lines, they serve only as foils to help articulate the poet’s homesickness: as dragons and phoenix are bound for their natural habitats, so will he one day. This mirror will thus be put away until that day arrives.

31 Naitō, “Hokusō no gakki,” 8–9. 32 The forms and placements of the dragons and phoenixes within the inner circle bear a close resemblance to those on a contemporaneous example now in the Sengoku Tadashi collection in Japan. The mountains displayed here are also similar to those on another bronze mirror in the same collection. See von Falkenhausen, ed., Lloyd Cotsen Study Collection, 2:29, igs. 9 and 10. I thank Kin Sum (Sammy) Li for the references to these mirrors.




Figure 8.8. Glass bowl with wheel-cut facets, sixth century: Shōsō- in, Nara (Japan). The Shōsō-in Treasures, courtesy of the Imperial Household Agency.

Poetic inscriptions on Tang bronze mirrors tend to be formulaic, at most slightly modi ied from pre-composed verses.33 This inscription, by contrast, not only engages the speci ic aesthetics of the bronze mirror—its re lective surface and the designs on its back—but also transforms them into poetic motifs to express the author’s longing for home. Such sentiments suggest that the owner of this bronze mirror was, like Kibi no Makibi, a member of the Japanese embassy to China. We might also be able to postulate the following commissioning process in which the textual and pictorial had to be coordinated (a rare case at that). Placing a custom order at a workshop in the Tang capital, our unnamed ambassador-poet would have picked out the designs irst (probably from a number of template books), made decisions about where to place the inscription, and composed the poem to be incorporated into the design. If the biwa and the bronze mirror are reminders of a taste for luxurious exuberance shared by the courts of Tang China and Nara Japan—connections that were fostered by the visible and ostensively managed channel of diplomatic missions— the glass wares (Figure 8.8) preserved at the Shōsō-in hint at connections forged by other means. In China, Roman glass drinking vessels were collected as early as the third century for their translucent clarity.34 Sasanian vessels soon followed.

33 Li, “Tangdai tongjing mingwen chutan,” 354. 34 An, “Art of Glass,” 59.




Figure 8.9. Glass bowl with wheel-cut facets, sixth or seventh century: Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York. Image in the public domain.

A wine cup with a laring opening and wheel-cut facets similar to those on the surface of the Shōsō-in example has been excavated from a tomb in southern China dated to the early fourth century.35 In Japan, as elsewhere in East Asia, glass vessels often turn up in mortuary contexts that speak to their exalted status as prized utensils.36 A glass bowl now in the collection of the Tokyo National Museum was reportedly found in the sixth-century tomb of Emperor Ankan 安閑, located near Osaka, during the Edo period.37 A close cousin of the Shōsō-in glass bowl now at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York (Figure 8.9) suggests that the possible mechanism through which it became incorporated into the royal collection may have been the religion of Buddhism. A painted banner from Dunhuang, now in the British Museum and dated to the ninth century, shows a Bodhisattva holding a bowl almost identical to it in both shape and design (Plate 8.2). While it 35 Ibid., 61, reproduced as ig. 51. Brigitte Borell (“Travels of Glass Vessels”) has speculated that such vessels may have arrived in southern China through maritime trade, having been transported from Red Sea ports to India and East Asia. 36 An, “Art of Glass,” 57–66; Lee, “Of Glass and Gold,” 114–31. 37 Harada, ed., Shōsōin no garasu, 5. The author also makes the argument that both glass bowls may have arrived in Japan at the same time, as early as the sixth century. While the Ankan vessel was interred, the Shōsō-in bowl was passed on as an heirloom until it entered the repository.



190 falls short of con irming Buddhist connections forged at the time of its making, the painted banner implies that a glass bowl like the one at Shōs ō-in had, around two centuries later, become part of a Bodhisattva’s accoutrements. Archaeological contexts in which glass vessels are found in China hint at the possibility that, at least in some cases, they may have been used as reliquaries.38 In 753, only three years before Kōmyō dedicated Shōmu’s personal collection to the Tōdai-ji, the Chinese monk Jianzhen 鑒真 (688–763), or Ganjin as he is known in Japanese, brought thirty pellets of Shakyamuni’s relics to Nara contained inside a glass bottle likely of Sasanian origin.39 While little evidence other than the objects themselves survives, it is likely that some of the glass vessels now in the Shōsō -in may have found their ways to Japan through this demonstrable connection to Buddhism. Objects travel through time in strange ways, and at different paces. The trajectories through which the above examples arrived in Japan are haphazard at best. Each of them gained its own “biography” in that process. As such, they lend themselves to recent methodological interventions which emphasize the identities of objects, and how their movement across physical space often precipitates modulations of meaning.40 Even within the small group of objects discussed here, the identities of some seem to be more stable than others. The biwa lute, for instance, conjures up a striking impression of contemporaneity, of shared tastes for music and dazzling surface décor that joined the Tang and the Nara courts. This sense of immediacy is further underscored by the fact that Kibi no Makibi, who possibly brought the instrument back as a diplomatic gift, may have been the only degree of separation between Shōmu and his Chinese counterpart Xuanzong 玄宗 (r. 713– 756). Meanwhile, the instrument’s exotic status and its documented link to the Buddhist Pure Lands in the religious imagination of the period should alert us to the entangled relationships between religion, international diplomacy, and court culture. On the one hand, the meanings of the Shōsō-in artifacts were often contingent on what was done to or with them. The bronze mirror was brought back by another returnee from China. While in shape and form it may resemble the best examples of its kind produced in the Tang capital Chang’an at the time, the unusually close

38 Sen, “Relic Worship.” For example, a glass bottle was found in the rear chamber of a crypt underneath a pagoda at the Famen Temple west of Xi’an, which was last sealed in 874. It contained a slip of paper, of which only fragments remain and on which two characters are still legible: “lotus, true,” or “Lotus [blossom]; True [Body] 蓮[華]真[身],” a common period reference to relics of the Buddha. See Shaanxi sheng kaogu yanjiuyuan et al., eds., Famen si, 1:213. 39 See Wong, “An Agent,” 78 and ig. 18. 40 Appadurai, “Introduction”; Gerritsen and Riello, eds., Global Lives of Things.




correspondence between the design and the inscription was likely an intervention made by its Japanese owner to transform the otherwise conventional images into his own expressions of longing. Textiles that bear similar designs seem to have been equally adaptable to asserting a shared ideology of rulership and undercutting that message, or at least rendering it iconographically impotent. The glass vessels, on the other hand, demonstrate how objects may move in and out of different contexts over the longue durée. We do not know when and where the glass bowl became incorporated into a Buddhist iconography; nor can we explain why one bowl would be interred with an emperor in the sixth century, while another remained above ground and appeared in the Shōsō-in collection two centuries later. In all likelihood, despite their shared origin, these two glass bowls arrived in Japan at very different times. The gap in time—and hence difference in distances travelled and meanings accrued—as well as functional shifts may also account for where each ended up.

“Inside-Out” Their prior “lives” and the various routes that took them to Japan notwithstanding, many of the artifacts now in the Shōsō-in collection were united to serve a singular purpose when they were donated by Kōmyō to Vairocana in the sixth month of 756, forty-nine days after the death of Shōmu.41 A new layer of meaning was, as it were, added to the palimpsests that they were already. Moreover, a document accompanying Kōmyō’s donation affords us a language through which to understand these objects as an ensemble whose collective meaning extends to more than the sum of its parts. Together with the myriad objects in Shōmu’s personal collection was a long text written on Kōmyō’s behalf. Bracketed by a preface and prayers in her voice is an itemized inventory of the donation. A personal tone permeates the preface, which describes, among other things, the circumstances under which the objects were donated. The inventory, by contrast, is characterized by a bookkeeper’s attention to detail, listing the artifacts item by item, often with their dimensions, materials, and provenances. A close reading of both preface and inventory will shed light on how this ensemble of artifacts is connected to the imperial and religious identities of Shōmu. The entire text was written out on a scroll constituting of eighteen sheets of paper, each 26 cm in height and between 81 and 89 cm in width (Figure 8.10).

41 It used to be a signi icant part of Buddhist ritual practice in East Asia to perform a memorial service on the forty-ninth day after a person’s death, during which merit is gained through ceremonial offerings and then transferred to the deceased.




Figure 8.10. Last section of the inventory of the initial donation showing Kōmyō’s prayer: ink on paper, dated the 21st day of the 6th month, 756. The Sh ōsō-in Treasures, courtesy of the Imperial Household Agency.

Imperial authority is asserted emphatically in the shape of a large square seal that was impressed 489 times on its surface. In a modern collated edition, this list translates to a hefty ifty pages.42 The document was written by an accomplished hand in the style of the Chinese master Wang Xizhi 王羲之 (303–361). As was the case in the Tang court, Wang’s style seemingly enjoyed considerable popularity within Shōmu’s circle, as twenty scrolls of rubbings of Wang’s calligraphy were also included in the 756 donation.43 In the inventory, artifacts are loosely categorized according to medium/material, some with annotations in smaller script detailing their dimensions, accessories with which they were associated, and their place(s) of origin. For instance, the biwa (Figures 8.6a–b) is listed as the sum of its parts: “Five-String Sandalwood Biwa Lute with Mother-of-Pearl Inlay, One: [in smaller script] plectrum guard with turtle shell inlay, wrapped in a purple twill with light green wax-resisting dye patterns.”44

42 The text can be found in Dai Nihon komonjo (hereafter DNK), 4:121–71. A donation of medicine was dedicated on the same day, its items listed in a separate inventory. More donations followed in that same year. At least two more documented donations took place in 758, one of which expressly names Kōken as the donor. 43 Two years later one more scroll of calligraphy—this time the “authentic work” of Wang and his son Wang Xianzhi 王獻之 (344–386)—was gifted by Kōmyō to the Tōdai-ji. 44 DNK 4:131.




Other itemized descriptions bespeak concerns beyond the materiality of the objects. Like patterns on a mandala tapestry, they weave together names and places of the world known to Shōmu and his court. They also speak to the fact that Shōmu and his associates were clearly conscious of the distance that some of these artifacts had travelled. Connections to this larger world meant a great deal to them, as did connections to the local past. Close to the beginning of the list is a red lacquer cabinet with a most exalted pedigree—the indented annotation traces it all the way back to Tenmu 天武 (r. 673–685) and through four subsequent rulers to the present day, when Shōmu’s daughter and the present emperor Kōken was gifted the cabinet by her father the retired emperor.45 This description’s formulaic language—reminiscent of a royal genealogy—underscores the legitimacy of the object’s successive imperial owners.46 Another such cabinet is listed as a gift from King Uija 義慈王 (r. 641–660) of Paekche (in southwestern Korea) to Fujiwara no Kamatari 藤原鎌足 (614–669), Kōmyō’s grandfather.47 The eighth-century Nihon shoki records that Paekche embassies to Japan took place almost annually during the twenty years of Uijia’s reign. The cabinet may have been gifted on one of such occasions to appease Kamatari, who held sway at the court.48 Similar descriptions also emphasize geopolitical signi icance: further down the inventory we ind descriptions of two Silla kin (Chinese: qin) zithers with gold engravings (金鏤新羅琴), a large gilt bronze blade from Tang China (金銅莊唐大刀) wrapped in a “Goryeo” brocade of white ground, and a large blade with silver ornament in the “Goryeo” style (銀莊高麗樣大刀). In both cases, the term “Goryeo” is used to refer to the regime of Koguryo on the northern half of the Korean peninsula, which had lost its geopolitical signi icance after Silla uni ied the peninsula in 668. The language used to decouple provenance (Tang or Goryeo) from style (“in the Goryeo style”) hints at an emerging paradigm of artistic imitation that was driven by increasing cultural exchange and immigration.49 At the same time, the inscriptions

45 DNK 4:123. 46 For a discussion of controversies surrounding imperial succession in the eighth century, see Ooms, Imperial Politics, 1–27. 47 DNK 4:130. 48 Somewhat striking is the almost complete silence on such exchanges in the (much later, twelfth-century) Korean source Samguk sagi, which only mentions one embassy dispatched in 653 (the irst for over two centuries). See Best, History, 192–93. It is also likely that it was Kamatari who irst converted the clan to Buddhism; previous generations had served primarily as court ritual specialists. See Mikoshiba, “Empress Kōmyōshi,” 22–37. 49 On immigrants from the continent and the Korean peninsula and their impact on Japanese culture of this period, see Como, Weaving and Binding.



194 also allow us to trace more local connections across time. If the irst cabinet was the heirloom of the imperial line of Tenmu, a fact expressly underscored in the itemization, the second cabinet most likely represented Kōmyō’s own lineage, a token of the once formidable presence of the Fujiwara clan at the court, whose surname was irst conferred to Kamatari by Tenji 天智 (r. 661–671) in 669.50 These personal and politically potent ties are further forged and articulated in Kōmyō’s prayers, which precede the inventory. These prayers generally conform to contemporary discursive practices which tap into the Buddhist soteriology of merit: good deeds (material gifts to the Buddha included) would lead to rewards in this life or the next.51 Kōmyō’s donation of these precious artifacts was therefore expected to translate into positive karmic merit that could be transferred to bene it not only the deceased Shōmu but, by extension, his subjects and all sentient beings: I have heard that ierce ires low constantly through the vastness of the Three Realms; Poisonous nets ensnare all in the depth of the Five Paths [of Rebirth]. The august heavenly teacher, the Buddha, suspends the Dharma hook to bene it all sentient beings, opens the mirror of wisdom to save the world. Thus the clamorous multitude are led to enter in to the realm of tranquility; All moving creatures hastened to the garden of perpetual bliss …52

To begin a prayer with an encomium of the Buddha conforms to the format of similar liturgical texts in both China and Japan at this time. This opening passage of Kōmyō’s text is composed in the Chinese style of parallel prose. Yet like the collection of artifacts that it precedes, the various images evoked here are drawn from a variety of sources (Indic, Chinese, Buddhist) and other literary genres.53 Following

50 Only Tenmu’s cabinet survives today, however. The Paekche cabinet was lost during the Meiji period, under circumstances that are not well understood. See Nishikawa, “Sekishitsubun kanboku.’” 51 For an introduction to practices that were performed to earn karmic merit in China, see Kieschnick, The Impact of Buddhism, 157–219. 52 The full text of the prayer is in DNK 4:121–22; translations here and below are adapted with some substantial changes from Harada, A Glimpse, 97–99. 53 Lowe, Ritualized Writing, 57–79.




this “praise of the Buddha,” Kōmyō goes on to describe the ritual intent of her donation, which prompts her to re lect on the virtues of Shōmu. In a language that clearly parallels that of the previous passage, Kōmyō lauds the great prosperity of his reign, highlighting Shōmu’s devotion to Buddhism and claiming that the fame of his devotion even reached India and China and drew such enlightened monks as Jianzhen to Japan. And yet: To our great sorrow, there is no prolongation of his hallowed presence. I became unaware of the passage of time … Bitterness weighing more heavily on my mind; My grief was growing ever deeper. Opening the earth would reveal no sign; Appealing to heaven brought me no solace. So I desire to give succour to his august spirit by the performance of this good deed, and therefore, for the sake of the late emperor, I donate these rare treasures of this realm, these various articles which once gave him great pleasure … to the Tōdai-ji, as a votive offering to Vairocana Buddha, various other Buddhas, Bodhisattvas … [italics mine]

Dedicatory prayers like this are often personal; indeed, Kōmyō had, on various other occasions, made similar prayers intended to bring salvation to her family members, both living and departed.54 Rarely, however, do we see such an outpouring of emotions; indeed, Kōmyō mourns Shōmu again in her conclusion to the inventory. Twice Kōmyō underscores Shōmu’s personal attachment to these artifacts, which “once gave him great pleasure,” calling them “treasures which were handled by the deceased emperor” towards the end of the text. 55 Such an emphasis on personal attachment may also be an indication of the pathos that these artifacts collectively embodied for Kōmyō . They reminded her of days gone by, and the mere sight of them was enough to strike her down with grief.56 In a broader soteriological context, the celebration of attachment to worldly possessions was meant to make the act of renunciation all the more compelling, and to increase the merit being transferred to Shōmu and, by extension, to his heir and daughter, her subjects, and all sentient creatures. Read between the lines, however, Kōmyō’s prayer suggests deeper anxieties and betrays the more personal concerns of a recently bereaved widow and mother. For Kōken, who had

54 Lowe, “Texts and Textures,” 18; Mikoshiba, “Empress Kōmyōshi,” 31. 55 DNK 4:171. 56 Ibid.



196 succeeded Shōmu in 749, was by no means secure in her rule. To make matters worse, Kōmyō’s own Fujiwara clan, which had enjoyed great prestige and power at the Nara court, was wiped out by a smallpox epidemic in 737, leaving her the only member with any power.57 Now with Shōmu gone, Kōmyō beseeches the Buddha to extend his benevolence to Kōken. Through the ritual of offering, these exquisite artifacts were meant to summon protective forces to the aid of her precarious reign.58 Finally, both Kōmyō’s prayers and the inventory list employ the same rhetorical structure, in each case placing Shōmu at the centre of a soteriological scheme warranted by the donation and accompanying prayers. The inventory is reminiscent of Jorge Luis Borges’s ictional Chinese encyclopedia, with great leaps in the “wonderment of [it]s taxonomy” and its purpose of listing things “belonging to the Emperor”;59 it also seems to abide by a subtler logic. It has been noted recently that the inventory’s items are ordered according to their distance from the physical body of Shōmu.60 The inventory proceeds from the monastic kāṣāya vestments that Shōmu once donned, to the red lacquer cabinet discussed above, which held not only some of his most prized items but also those that were most intimate (calligraphic exercises by him and Kōmyō), and inally to large quantities of court and martial paraphernalia that were donated by ministers and other close members of the court. The text of the inventory therefore conjures up a carefully constructed space which emanates from and envelopes the deceased emperor. Moreover, by repeatedly underscoring how the objects were treasured by the emperor, Kōmyō frames the ritual offering of them to Vairocana Buddha as an ultimate act of world-renunciation on Shōmu’s part, the act of “giving” translated into “giving up.” As Reiko Ohnuma has put it, “Every gift is de ined as a moment of cultivating nonattachment, the culmination of which is the monk’s renunciation of the world.”61 The order in which they were enumerated in the inventory, in which they seem to unfold from the physical body of Shōmu, suggests that more than just riches were being given up. The physical connection—“treasures which were handled by the deceased emperor”—may be understood to mean that they are also consecrated objects, once touched by the Buddha-like Shō mu. By extension, the emperor’s hallowed presence is now encapsulated in these objects, construed not only as an extension of the deceased Shōmu’s body, but also as constituting the gift of the body: classi ied as one of the “superior gifts” in the Da zhi du lun

57 Piggott, Emergence of Japanese Kingship, 251–55. 58 Lowe, Ritualized Writing, 171–208; Piggott, “Last Classical Female Sovereign.” 59 Foucault, Order of Things, xvi. 60 Kita, “Kenmotsuchō kanken,” 138–68. 61 Ohnuma, Head, Eyes, Flesh, and Blood, 164.




大智度論 (Treatise on the Great Perfection Wisdom) attributed to Nāgârjuna ( l. second–third century).62 This “superior gift” was designed not only to bring about the salvation of the deceased, but also close members of his family, his subjects, and all sentient beings, strictly in that order. Thus, on the twenty- irst day of the sixth month of 756, Shōmu’s collection of artifacts, of diverse and distant origins, became subsumed into local history, tied to the well-being of his afterlife and to the safekeeping of Kōken’s reign and the welfare of her subjects. But the same benediction was also extended to “all sentient beings in Ten Directions and Three Realms, Four Kinds of Births in the Six Paths”: to the entire world of the Buddhist Dharma. Even if we grant that this is a liturgical language which had, by that point, become formulaic,63 it still begs the question: what was this “world” like to Shōmu and Kōmyō? What did they ind so compelling about this “world” for them to seek assurance at a time of uncertainties, and for them to bank on the soteriological promises of a religion founded in a distant land, more than a millennium before?64 There are no simple answers to these questions. Reading the prayer and the inventory together—two texts which share the same material space even when in language and intent they seem rather disparate—reveals that thinking about these artifacts is basic to the conception of this world.65 The meticulously labelled items in the inventory were not only records of Japan’s geopolitical ties, they were also meant to represent segments of a much larger religious landscape and its material abundance. The artifacts they describe allowed Shōmu and his associates to imagine themselves projected well beyond the boundaries of their country, into a world of which Japan was only a small part.66 The emperor’s medallion-studded robe, resplendent biwa, gilt bronze mirror, and translucent glass bowls became powerful synecdoches of that world by virtue of their scarcity, exoticism, and their association with the great global religion of Buddhism. The identity of Shōmu, the Buddhist ruler of Japan, is inextricably bound to his global collection of artifacts. 62 Kingdom, riches, wife, and children are also included under the category of “superior gifts”: ibid., 354–55. 63 Lowe, Ritualized Writing, 66. 64 No Japanese pilgrim made their way beyond China in the early medieval period, even though from the ninth century onwards, Japan became increasingly discussed in a “three countries” schema within which it is compared and contrasted with India and China. See Toby, “Three Realms,” 18. See also Blum, “Sangoku-Mappō Construct.” 65 Here I am reversing the phrasing of Alexander Nagel when he describes how “the conception of a world is basic to thinking about art” in the context of Christian art in the late antique world. See Flood et al., “Roundtable,” 9. 66 On how such artifacts continued to inform how those in Japan imagined others into the early modern period, see Watsky, “Locating ‘China’.”




A Sobering Note If this discussion leaves the reader with the impression that the world of the eighth century bears a certain resemblance to the world we live in today, in its unfettered globalization, its interconnected economy and religions, mediated by unmitigated circulation of goods, that impression has a lot of truth to it. However, these artifacts also arrived at the Nara court against the grain, despite the harsh conditions of travel in the eighth century. Japan, Korea, China, and their neighbours in Central Asia and further west belonged to a world system that still operated on horse-, camel-, and mule-backs, on skiffs and barges. The economy on the Silk Road is a trickle-down economy, and a whimsical one at that. Belied by the romantic image of a straight line connecting the Roman Empire and China on its ends, the reality of these routes was constituted of small caravans, merchants, craftsmen, and clerics who travelled short distances.67 It is therefore hard for us to imagine the journeys that brought these artifacts to Shōmu and to the Shōsō-in; harder still to speculate how many such journeys were cut short, and journeymen and their goods buried in the sands of time. Consider an alternative tale of the trials and tribulation surrounding a journey that almost did not happen, from the same time that the construction of the Tōdai-ji monastery and the casting of the monumental Buddha image were about to break the coffers of the Nara state. In 742, a Japanese embassy was sent to Tang China. One of their designated missions was to invite an eminent monk to travel to Japan to spread the Buddhist Dharma. Jianzhen, whose name was mentioned in Kōmyō’s prayer, not only agreed but also began preparations for the voyage the following summer.68 In the next decade, he made ive attempts, each time thwarted by either natural disasters or government prohibition. When Jianzhen inally reached Nara in late 753, more than eleven years had elapsed since the initial request. During the interim, Jianzhen had lost his sight due to an infection he contracted during his ifth attempted voyage. Is there a moral to this story? In Jianzhen and Kōmyō’s time, some of the most unimaginable adversities were overcome by faith in an interconnected world. That such a large number of artifacts made their way to the islands of Japan, and that they managed to survive the vagaries of time, remains testimony to that faith, even as a powerful exception to the rule.

67 Hansen, Silk Road, 10. 68 On Jianzhen’s trepidations and the Buddhist material culture of his time, see Wong, “An Agent.”




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Jun Hu ([email protected]) is Assistant Professor of East Asian art at Northwestern University in Evanston, Illinois. In addition to his work on Nara, he has a forthcoming publication on Buddhist mural painting in early medieval China and is currently completing a book manuscript, tentatively entitled “The Perturbed Circle: Chinese Architecture and Its Periphery.” Abstract This article focuses on the Shōsō-in repository in Nara, a collection of artifacts that were fashioned in various media along the Silk Road. The repository irst took shape in the mid-eighth century, when the personal collection of Emperor Shōmu (r. 724–749) was posthumously dedicated to the Buddha Vairocana. While the precocious globalism of this collection has been celebrated in previous literature, I examine some of the local and intercontinental mechanisms that brought these artifacts to Japan. Through a close reading of the original dedication in 756, I argue that this global collection of art, along with the religion of Buddhism, sustained the belief in an interconnected world, and allowed Shōmu and his associates to imagine themselves projected well beyond the boundaries of their country. Keywords Shōsō-in, silk road, Shōmu, Kōmyō, Nara, Japan, Tang, China, Buddhism, merit soteriology, globalism, East Asia, religion and exchange


RESPONSE: MEDIEVALISTS AND EARLY MODERNISTS— A WORLD DIVIDED? JESSICA KEATING AND LIA MARKEY early modern European art, the articles in this collection in The Medieval Globe fascinate us with new approaches to objects, teach us about zones of cultural interactions that are little known outside specialist circles, and invite us to consider some of the themes they share and the larger questions they raise about current trends in premodern art historical scholarship. The essays collected here draw on artifacts dating from the ifth to the ifteenth centuries which circulated around Africa, Asia, and Europe. As such, they provide an expanded view of medieval art history beyond its traditional European focus, and enrich earlier interpretations of artworks as diverse as ivory sculpture, illuminated manuscripts, ceremonial vessels, and weaponry. As a whole, this collection of essays makes clear the ways in which current medieval and early modern histories of art are considering similar issues from multiple and, at times, compatible points of view. Both ields share an interest in the relationship between the local and the global, the complexities of identity, and the methodological challenges posed by considering objects within a global network. At the same time, reading these pieces has reminded us of some crucial differences between the global medieval world and the global early modern world, and they have thrown into relief the diversity of art historical concerns on both sides of the period divide, however arti icial that divide may seem.

The Importance of the Local One of the most prominent themes of this volume is the emphasis on the diversity of local adaptations and interpretations of objects and texts that were shuttled across remarkable distances and terrain, traversing (modern) political, social, religious, and linguistic borders. In each case, exegetical strategies were mobilized to signal either local religious or political ideology. For example, Cecily Hilsdale takes up Byzantine monastic iterations of the tales of Barlaam and Ioasaph—a narrative that emerged in Buddhist India and that moved through the Byzantine Empire to the Latin West over the course of the tenth, eleventh, and twelfth centuries. Hilsdale makes clear that translations of Barlaam and Ioasaph in monastic contexts stressed the ascetic dimensions of the narrative, while at the same time


204 ascetic monastic centres created textual objects that would have been valued, in part, for their sumptuous illuminations. Such local appropriation, manipulation, emulation, and display of foreign images and objects is a shared interest among early modern art historians who focus on Europe, Colonial Latin America, as well as East and South Asia. For instance, Ebba Koch and Yael Rice have examined Mughal paintings, produced by the court artists Bichtir and Abul’Hasan, which incorporated European mythological and religious imagery familiar from the work of artists like the German printmaker Albrecht Dürer and the English painter John de Critz.1 Likewise, Alessandra Russo, Diana Fane, and Gerhard Wolf have turned their attention to objects that reproduced and reinterpreted European Christological imagery in indigenous media—in this case, the feather paintings that were painstakingly crafted by amenteca artists in New Spain.2 And the display of exotic objects and the representations of exotic peoples at courts in the Italian- and German-speaking worlds is being taken up by a number of scholars, among them Mark Meadow and Joaneath Spicer, who have found common ground between two traditionally divided ields of “Northern” and “Southern” early modern art history.3

Intersectional Identity But how might the local appropriation of objects and images from distant locations and other religions have impacted medieval society and culture more broadly? One could perhaps imagine an Orthodox member of the Byzantine court in Constantinople recognizing “Islamic” imagery and forms on precious vessels, while at the same time associating those images and forms with Byzantine culture or cultural identity. For the Byzantine court was a place where objects from around the world were given, collected, and displayed, and where elites of different ethnicities, religions, and political allegiances mingled, dined, and conversed with one another regardless of political and religious tensions beyond the walls of the palace. How are we to understand the formation and maintenance of religious, ethnic, or social identities in contexts like this? Alicia Walker takes up this question in her case study of the category-defying Beryozovo cup. Walker examines not only the oscillations of identities among Byzantine elites who may have used this vessel (and others like it) and the identi ication of certain aspects of the vessel’s Islamic origin, but also what she recognizes as an expansive terrain of cultural reference. In her assessment

1 Koch, Mughal Art; Rice, “Lines of Perception.” 2 Russo et al., Images. 3 Meadow, “Introduction”; Spicer, Revealing the African.


205 of the Furusiyya dagger, Heather Badamo interrogates how this prestige object, which was worn on the body during the hunt or handled at courtly feasts, “performed for diverse audiences.” Badamo argues that objects like the dagger, remarkable for its Arabic inscription and icon of a Christian warrior-saint, helped mediate cross-cultural interactions in regions that were characterized by religious, ethnic, and linguistic differences. Both Walker and Badamo are concerned with luxury objects that were used by those on the highest rungs of the social ladder in the pursuit of leisure and power. Together, their essays alert us to the extreme religious and ethnic diversity that was one of the characteristics of elite social spheres in the medieval world, and show us that objects played a vital role in negotiating difference and sameness in these contexts. Elite cultural identity can be of two or more kinds, yet religious doctrine endlessly spells out the distinctions between identities. It insists in explicit terms on the alterity of other belief systems in dogma and practice. This insistence on religious difference in both Islamic and Christian theologies has fostered the presupposition of an essential binary between “East and West” and “Muslim and “Christian” in the medieval and early modern periods. Jennifer Pruitt, though, makes clear that inter-confessional concord between Muslims, Orthodox Christians, and Latin Christians can be found beyond the con ines of the court, and she does so by looking to the architectural history of Jerusalem during the Abbasid and Fatimid eras. The zones of mutuality shared between Muslims and Christians in the years preceding the Crusades throw light on the complex local dynamics in the Holy City, while at the same time reminding us that the rhetoric of religious difference is not always representative of the lived experience of medieval peoples. These essays are a testimony to the fact that global art history is beginning to move beyond mapping the circuitous routes in which Western or Eastern images emerged in different parts of the globe, or determining the subtle transformations that images (like that of warrior saints) underwent on account of their global mobility. When examining objects like the silver dagger and the Beryozovo cup, we must adjust how we circumscribe their intended audience because they were not subject to the gaze of one individual or culture, but a multiplicity of mutual gazes. These are also the concerns of early modern art historians. Take, for example, the work that is being done by Christina Cruz González, Elsa Arroyo Lemus, Aaron Hyman, and others on sixteenth- and seventeenth-century Flemish prints that were transported to the Americas and used to aid in religious conversion and in the fabrication of new altarpieces seen by both European colonizers and indigenous communities alike.4

4 González, “Circulation”; Arroyo Lemus, “Cómo pintar”; Hyman, “Inventing Painting.”



Rethinking Models of Globalization This collection in The Medieval Globe has brought together papers that, in the past, would have been atomized in journals for scholars in specialized ields such as Byzantine, Islamic, African, or East Asian art history. Placed here side by side, they reveal the authors’ mutual interest in questioning disciplinary assumptions, practices, and methods. As a result, this volume questions the Eurocentric perspective that continues to dominate non-specialist views of the period in order to depict a global medieval world. Taken together, they show how medieval identities were shaped by constant negotiations, that borders were crossed, and that cultures were interacting with each both paci ically and militarily. Like their counterparts in the history of early modern art, the authors in this volume call for and propose new approaches to understanding medieval objects in a global context. Inspired by the pioneering work of scholars such as Arjun Appadurai and Craig Clunas, art history’s global turn in both medieval and early modern studies is intertwined with a renewed attention to the mobility of objects and the various meanings they acquired as a result of their social lives.5 All the authors here are not only interested in the trajectories of peoples and things but also explore mobility’s transformative impact on culture, knowledge, religion, and art-making. As Sarah Guérin’s study shows, paying attention to the very materials available to artists is extraordinarily productive and revealing of global processes. Objects from other lands could provide insights into foreign places and inspire cultural and artistic transformations, and the study of mobile materials makes clear the permeability of artistic traditions. Hilsdale, for instance, asks us to take seriously the “routes” (instead of the “roots”) of Barlaam and Ioasaph by examining the various versions of the tale and its movement through space and time, rather than attempting to ind its point of origin. In this way, her essay is in kinship with current scholarship in early modern art and cultural history which focuses on the mobility of raw materials, crafted objects, knowledge, and the agents that orchestrated the complex circulation of global goods and information—particularly essays in Daniela Bleichmar and Meredith Martin’s September 2015 special edition of Art History, “Objects in Motion,” and in Anne Gerritsen and Giorgio Riello’s 2015 edited volume, The Global Lives of Things. Following a theme that permeates The Medieval Globe series, several of the authors question whether modern and postmodern notions of the globe have any explanatory force when applied to the medieval or the early modern world: an

5 Appadurai, Social Life; Clunas, Super luous Things.


207 issue at heart of Carol Symes’ seminal study “When We Talk about Modernity.”6 For Bonnie Cheng, certain popular models of the global risk collapsing crucial distinctions among patrons, materials, techniques, and exchange networks; at the same time, she recognizes that ideas fashionable in global art history circles can help to destabilize both older Eurocentric narratives and the current nationalistic narratives still prevalent in contemporary China. Hu sounds a similar note of caution about con lating modern supply chains with the much more dangerous and episodic exchanges of the eighth century. Hilsdale, on the other hand, draws on models of connected history in medieval literature derived from the scholarship of early modernists such as Sanjay Subrahmanyam.7 At this date, and to our knowledge, the historical relevance of postmodern theories of globalization does not appear to be a live question in art historical discussion of the European early modern globe. But the issues raised here, we hope, will prompt early modernists to begin to think about the explanatory force of certain concepts, such as network theory, that have been discussed implicitly and explicitly in some early modern art historical scholarship. When such networks are evoked, it is often assumed that objects and ideas travelled across the early modern globe instantaneously; rarely are delays or challenges to cargo discussed. Though she primarily focuses on the late eighteenth century, Jennifer Roberts’s work on objects arriving and departing the American colonies has begun to reveal that the transmission of objects and information across the Atlantic Ocean was rarely successful and ef icacious.8 Perhaps, with more attention to the physical conditions of global mobility in the early modern world, early modern art historians will begin to more closely interrogate the language and concepts we have borrowed from scholars writing in and thinking about the twentieth and twenty- irst centuries.

The Early Modern Period: What’s the Difference? Thus far, we have highlighted some of the af inities between the global medieval and early modern worlds, and within the art historical scholarship that attempts to come to terms with them. There are, however, some cleavages between the two periods, which might be de ined by some distinctions in the roles that objects and images played in cross-cultural interactions. One such image, the earliest known representation of the Americas produced by Europeans, visualizes the

6 Symes, “When We Talk,” 717–18. 7 Subrahmanyam, “Connected Histories.” 8 Roberts, Transporting Visions.


208 seismic cultural shock of this encounter and its imagined potential: a woodcut (Figure 9.1) that appeared in an edition of Christopher Columbus’s Epistola de insulis nuper inventis, published in Basel in 1493. Here, from an elevated site, we observe Europeans and Native Americans approaching each other for the irst time, a titanic galleon in the foreground. The geometric precision of this product of European technology is an emblem of the sophistication that the print is meant to project: isosceles triangles, squares, and circles characterize the vessel that carried Columbus and his crew of sailors across the Atlantic. Although the deck is empty, the presence of the crew is signalled by the thirty-four oars that rest upon the placid water, while the maintenance of social hierarchies is evoked not just by the banners of an absent sovereign but also in the way the ship itself is designed and equipped. The covered captain’s quarters are prominently on display; the oars suggest the hidden social structures that built and power the ship; and the barrelled provisions and penned livestock point to a society that is organized with an eye to the future. This depiction of a complex European world stands in stark contrast to the presentation of the indigenous society that Europeans are seen witnessing for the irst time, just beyond the ship’s mast. According to the unknown artist, the natives of the Indies are to be envisioned as two bands of naked igures ensconced in a rolling landscape. For some of the inhabitants of this new land, their nudity is unremarkable; for others, like the woman who crosses her arms to cover her breasts, it is something to shield. Through this gesture she indicates a new and sudden awareness of the difference between herself and the clothed Europeans approaching by boat. Conceivably, it was the act of veiling herself that precipitated the gaze of the male native, who holds in his hand a shell: for he now, too, recognizes her nakedness and perhaps this epiphany stokes his lust. Surrounded by uncultivated nature, these naked igures invite comparison to Adam and Eve. (This kinship, we would venture to say, is made explicit not just to the intended European viewer outside of the image, but also to the audience inside the woodcut.) The landscape that hems in the natives on the left side of the picture appears unused. This recognizable terrain meets the sea, and it is at this con luence of land and water that two distinct social, cultural, religious, and ethnic worlds converge. This convergence is mediated by an exchange of objects. Inner- pictorial attention to the exchange—by all the igures in the image who witness its centrality— corresponds to our extra-pictorial interest. The same male igure who recognizes his female companion’s nudity stands at the head of a group of men, grasping a shell and lunging forward to hand it over to the turbaned igure on the boat. The shell is a natural artifact that has been improvised to serve as the object of exchange. The repurposing of the shell through native expediency thus transforms



Figure 9.1. Woodcut from an edition of Christopher Columbus’s Epistola de insulis nuper inventis: Basel, 1493.


210 it into a commodity. (A shell like it, artfully placed on the shore, keys us into the improvisation.) But its difference from the worked vessel that extends from the hand of the bearded and clothed European marks how this exchange diverges from those that typically occurred between Europeans and non-Europeans during the medieval period, when both sides were seen as equally likely to manufacture high-quality goods and where there was often a mutual understanding of an object’s material worth and cultural value. The artist constructs the disparity in material value by emphasizing the found-object quality of the native artifact, in order to expose a perceived disparity between the cultural level of Europeans and that of Native Americans. Here, then, one aspect of early modern alterity rests on this seemingly asymmetrical exchange: not crudely rendered ethnic otherness, or idol worship, or savagery, as would soon become the case. But there are also signs of the desire for assimilation and homogenization that would also characterize European colonial encounters with the peoples of the New World. By engaging in the transaction, the natives show that they are capable of civility, that outsiders can become insiders and that a potentially hostile situation could be converted into a situation of amity. Given that the woodcut associates the New World with biblical notions of paradise—through the naked native bodies, unworked land, and the recognition of shame and potential lust—it subtly suggests that this foundational engagement could bring forth a cornucopia of possibilities for objects whose origin point is somewhere outside the world’s fringe. Some art historical studies focused on the years after 1492 have begun to engage with this radically expanded post-Columbian world; but, like the 1493 print, they have predominately interrogated the European powers that sought to dominate it. Early modern global art historical studies have been trained on the explorations of the Portuguese and Spanish crowns in the late ifteenth through the sixteenth century; the relationship of different regions of Christendom—such as the Italian- and the German-speaking states—to the Islamic East; and the Dutch and English trading companies in the Asian seas and on the Atlantic. Such research has made clear that, by the late sixteenth century, the global systems of trade had shifted substantially from those of the medieval world, both in scope and in structure. Two centres now dominated extraordinarily vast expanses: Habsburg Spain, which encompassed the New World and much of Asia, and late Ming and early Qing China. This rather different global system, as well as other accompanying technological and social changes, have encouraged art historians to attend to diverse issues in the early modern period. Here we very brie ly bring to the forefront ive major factors that affected the conditions of global early modern art production and which also condition current art historical scholarship, all of which diverge from the themes and issues foregrounded in this collection.



1. The Print and the Copy The European print revolution is commonly de ined as a main catalyst for cultural and political change in the ifteenth century. Signi icantly for the history of art, the development of the woodcut and the engraving allowed for the mass production of images and in turn led to intellectual property issues that had not been documented previously. Most famously, as Lisa Pon has explored in depth, Marcantonio Raimondi was brought to trial in Venice for reproducing engraved versions of Albrecht Dürer’s “Life of the Virgin” woodcut series, even including Dürer’s monograph.9 This moment signalled both the rise of the artist as endowed with intellectual invention and the power of the printed image to disseminate not only the artist’s imagery but also his name. In turn, engravings rose in prominence throughout the sixteenth century and became the central form of artistic production to disseminate style and subject matter across the globe. For instance, the prints designed by the Flemish artist Giovanni Stradano, who lived in Florence, made their way to Mexico and South America within a few years of their production in Antwerp. A basic search on the “Project on the Engraved Sources of Spanish Colonial Art” (PESSCA) reveals some ifty-four paintings in colonial contexts based on Stradano prints.10 Produced in multiples and disseminated throughout the world, these small-scale portable images inspired artists, religious converters and converts, collectors, and various other members of society. In turn, iconographies of art became standardized and a global style of art developed on a scale beyond the “International Gothic style.”

2. More Goods in Abundance, a Changing Demographic, and New Artistic Media While the medieval luxury market was still thriving in the early modern period, a larger demographic became able to acquire exotic objects and commodities—and so a greater diversity of goods entered common circulation than had been typical in the medieval world. Gerritsen and Riello have inspired the scholarship of early modern art historians by showing how, after the late sixteenth century, “evergrowing regular lows of commodities traded in bulk across vast distances.”11 Indeed a study of the documents recording the low of goods entering the new Medici port of Livorno in the late sixteenth century reveals a gradual increase 9 Pon, Raphael, Dürer, and Marcantonio Raimondi. 10 PESSCA functions as an incredible repository of engraved sources for paintings produced in the New World: 11 Gerritsen and Riello, Global Lives, 3–4.


212 in large quantities of goods such as cochineal, sugar, pearls, and guaiacum being distributed to the middle and upper classes. Along with this came new materials and methods that were dif icult to de ine or at times were “untranslatable” between cultures, according to Alessandra Russo.12 Europeans now struggled to comprehend a painting made of feathers just those in the New World adapted to learn from a print. Florentines endeavoured to emulate Chinese blue and white porcelain, while “mannerist” art irst developed in Europe was produced in the Philippines.

3. New Genres The exchange of novel goods among diverse populations inspired the production of new goods and new genres. In the early modern period, exotic images, motifs, and objects were not just freely incorporated into longstanding pictorial traditions, but also contributed to the development of new pictorial genres. Two new genres emerged prominently in sixteenth-century Europe and the Americas: the still life and the landscape. While the subjects of these two genres appeared in illuminated manuscripts and details within paintings during the Middle Ages, it was in the early modern period that they developed into autonomous forms in conjunction with economic factors. Dutch still life painting in the seventeenth century, which was extremely popular at the height of the Dutch trading empire, is a case in point. As Dutch ships brought back more and more goods from Asia and the Americas, still lives became increasingly more lavish in content and complex in composition. Like the commodities from around the world they pictured, still life paintings became commodities that were fervently bought up by individuals on all rungs of the social ladder. This entanglement of the artistic and the economic was also importantly political. Through their ubiquity, as Julie Hochstrasser has shown, still life paintings were one of several mechanisms that naturalized the Dutch presence throughout the world.13 And Claudia Swan has demonstrated that the prominence of exotica in Dutch homes and in Dutch painting was paradoxically seminal to the creation of a Dutch national identity.14 Similarly, landscape painting emerged in the sixteenth century from cartographic views inspired by early modern travel and became a favourite subject matter for middle and elite classes of collectors. A recent panel entitled “Nature, Landscape, and Sacredness in the Era of the Missionary,” presented by members of the Getty-funded research project on Spanish Italy and the Iberian Americas, has 12 Russo, The Untranslatable Image. 13 Hochstrasser, Still Life and Trade. 14 Swan, “Lost in Translation.”


213 explored the lexibility of the new genre that could communicate complex sacred, political, and scienti ic signi icance to all layers of society between Europe and the New World.15 Thus, as we see it, new genres whose content was in large part dependent on the picturing of non-European goods, places, and people were in heavy circulation by the turn of the seventeenth century; their visibility and pervasiveness contributed to the crystallization of the modern nation-state, and the nation-state’s existential reliance on the cultivation of difference between other nation-states in Europe and beyond.

4. The Rise of Systematic Collecting Systematic collecting remains a major topic in global early modern art historical scholarship. While treasuries acted as important spaces for controlling, displaying, and categorizing precious objects in the medieval period, they remained intimate spaces of the religious and princely elite. Though essays in this volume, such as Jun Hu’s, consider artistic patronage and collecting, medievalists have only just begun to address the history of collecting and the ways in which collections offered up spaces for individuals to vicariously experience far- lung lands.16 In contrast, early modern art history is replete with collecting studies: the Journal of the History of Collecting and early modern collecting research groups and conferences lourish and continue to produce scholarship. The following questions are at the crux of this research: What was the place or status of non-European objects in Europe’s collections? Why were these objects pictured, utilized, and transformed by European artists? How was European art altered as a result of the encounter with radically different visual practices, materials, and techniques? Finally, how can art history, a European discipline that studies works of art according to a linear history of periodization and hard geographic boundaries (e.g., French Gothic architecture, Italian Renaissance sculpture, Dutch Baroque painting) understand objects that transcend these categories? These questions have driven art historical scholarship devoted to understanding the formation and circulation of knowledge in the early modern world, as well as the development of the modern aesthetic and art historical categories that have become the keystone of European art historical practice. By revealing the historically determined assumptions of the discipline, and the ways in which early modern globalization was integral to their formation, early

15 The meeting took place on 2–3 September 2017 at Columbia University and panelists included Luisa Elena Alcalá, Maria Vittoria Spissu, Ramón Mujica Pinilla, and Isabella Lores-Chavez. 16 See e.g. Kennedy, “Gripping It by the Husk.”


214 modern art historical studies have begun to re-examine the time-honoured questions of the discipline of art history. And we are certain that medievalists can make important contributions to our knowledge of the acquisition, organization, and maintenance of the medieval collections that may have inspired these practices.

5. Colonization and Ethnographic Interests Several of these developments in early modern art history stem from the culture shock of 1492 and the European colonization that ensued. Early modern global art history is intimately tied to Colonial Latin American studies. Thanks to Walter Mignolo, Serge Gruzinski, Claire Farago, Thomas Cummins, and others, early modern art history can no longer be separated from the European colonization of Asia, Africa, and North and South America. For example, Renaissance art historical studies are shifting from a focus on humanist learning and the revival of antiquity to examine how transatlantic travel, novelty, and violence impacted artistic production, particularly in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. This shift is creating a scholarly gap between the medieval and early modern global art history and, in a sense, is reviving an examination of Greco-Roman models of empire in early modern art historical scholarship in new and unexpected ways. The recent books by Stephanie Leitch and Surekha Davies have made clear that the travels of explorers and colonizers in the years following 1492 provoked an “ethnographic impulse” quite different from anything previously experienced. While Leitch focuses on peoples depicted in single-sheet prints and books to demonstrate how difference was represented, Davies examines representations of peoples and monsters on maps to explain that, not only is ethnic difference de ined by place, but also that the category of the human was newly invented through cartographic representations. While earlier texts such as the Nuremberg chronicle made reference to diverse people throughout the globe, its images did not articulate alterity in the way as did Cesare Vecellio’s late sixteenth-century Venetian costume book Degli habiti antichi et moderni di diverse parti del mondo (1590, 1598), with page after page of detailed woodcuts of peoples from around the world dressed in their indigenous clothing. By helping us understand how early modern exploration challenged ancient views of the world, and how early modern individuals attempted to understand humanity through the practice of image-making, work on the early modern European ethnographic impulse has forced us to rethink how the Renaissance notion of the individual came about.

Conclusion In tracing these trends, we are concerned with making clear that artistic production and reception were not just bound within a particular location or culture, but also


215 that works of art were created upon the shared foundations of a variety of places, peoples, and beliefs. And this concern is fundamentally shared by the studies in this collection, making it clear that medievalists and early modernists have even more incentives to share methodologies and to communicate the indings of their research. What we can say with certainty, at present, is that when we take on images and objects that lourish among individuals who spoke different languages, who prayed to different gods, who fought for different causes, and who bowed down to different sovereigns, we are witnessing the visual making apparent cultural contact in a way that languages and texts cannot. While we have endeavoured to trace some critical distinctions between art historical concerns relevant to the medieval and early modern globes, we must note that, at a practical level, the global turn has begun to coalesce medieval, early modern, and colonial studies into “premodern” art history. Departments are often unable to hire both a medievalist and an early modernist, for example, in part because faculty lines once dedicated to these ields are being reallocated to increase the number of positions in non-European specialties. Notably, much of the most provocative writing in early modern global art history, as evidenced in just some of the examples cited above, is not being produced by scholars in art history departments. Divisions between the two periods and the Vasarian notion of decay and rebirth are thankfully disappearing and the “darker side” of the Renaissance is coming to light in art history, even as earlier generations dispelled the myth of a medieval “Dark Ages.”17 While differences can, and in some respects should, remain in the ways that we study and understand the medieval and early modern eras, the global turn has brought those who study the world from 300 to 1800 closer together.

17 Mignolo, Darker Side. Most recently on Vasari, see Mundy and Hyman, “Out of the Shadow.”



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Jessica Keating ([email protected]) is Assistant Professor of Early Modern Art and Architecture at Carleton College. She has held fellowships at the Zentralinstitute für Kunstgeschichte in Munich, The Institute for Research in the Humanities at the University of Wisconsin–Madison, and the Early Modern Studies Institute and Visual Studies Institute at the Huntington Library and the University of Southern California. Her book, Animating Empire: Automata, the Holy Roman Empire, and the Early Modern World, is forthcoming in 2018. Lia Markey ([email protected]) is the Director of the Center for Renaissance Studies at the Newberry Library. She has taught at the University of Pennsylvania and Princeton University and worked in curatorial departments at the Art Institute of Chicago, the Morgan Library and Museum, and the Princeton University Art Museum. She has held fellowships at the Kunsthistorisches Institut in Florence, the Folger Library, the Warburg Institute, Harvard University’s Villa I Tatti, and the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Her book Imagining the Americas in Medici Florence was published in 2016, and The New World in Early Modern Italy, 1492–1750, coedited with Elizabeth Horodowich, is forthcoming in 2017. Abstract In this response essay, two early modernists consider some of the major themes and topics examined in this collection on new trends in medieval art history, such as the importance of the local, intersectional identity, and the role of postmodern conceptions of globalization. The article reveals many of the continuities between medieval and early modern global art histories while at the same time demonstrating the divide between the periods through analysis of an early woodcut frontispiece and through the de inition of ive major differences in artistic production, reception, and transmission. Keywords medieval, early modern, periodization, global, local, intersectional identity, printing, collecting, material culture, ethnography, colonialism



Abbasids, 35–39, 41, 44, 45, 51, 56, 59, 60, 160, 205 acculturation, 22, 136 adaptation, 12, 27, 58, 61, 80, 156, 161, 166, 203 aesthetics, 38, 48, 58, 109, 161, 163, 188, 213 Africa, 2, 5, 7, 10, 12, 72, 97–115, 123, 158, 203, 206, 214 allegory, 66, 69, 76, 78, 89. See also symbols Americas, 205, 207, 212 anachronism, 12–15, 17, 22, 30, 127. See also teleology Anatolia, 132–36, 141–42, 152, 164, 166 animals, 23, 67, 70–74, 76, 79, 82, 104, 126–27, 129–30, 132, 137, 155–57, 160, 162–64, 187 apotropaia, 167, 169, 176. See also talismans Appadurai, Arjun, 6, 99, 206 appropriation, 26, 163, 181, 204 Aqsa Mosque, 44, 45, 48–51 archaeology, 2, 11, 13, 19, 24, 25, 27 architecture, 30, 36, 39, 45, 48, 125, 131–32, 156, 213 area studies, 4, 16, 25 art history, 2–3, 7–8, 25, 57, 205–6, 211, 214; comparative, 11–13, 16, 28–30; world 7–8, 11, 14 artisans, 17, 28, 89, 169. See also craftsmanship ascension (miʿrāj) of the Prophet, 36, 44, 47, 49–50, 56 asceticism, 60, 80–81

Asia, 4, 5, 17, 21, 27, 30, 72, 96, 103, 158, 177–78, 183, 185–86, 189, 191, 198, 203–6, 210, 212, 214 assimilation, 20, 22–23, 25, 27, 135, 210. See also identities Atlantic, 14, 105, 207–8, 210; trans-Atlantic, 4, 7, 99, 214 audience(s), 7, 60, 71, 83, 136, 142, 151, 160, 163, 167, 176, 205, 208 Ayyubids, 149–50, 152, 155, 163 Balavariani, 59, 60, 72 banqueting, 27, 64, 85–86, 127–30, 132, 134–37, 140, 148, 160. See also dining; feasting Barlaam and Ioasaph, 7, 57–73, 76, 80, 89, 96, 203, 206 Beryozovo cup, 7, 125–42 birds, 27, 126, 137, 154, 157–58, 182, 186 Biwa lute, 184, 186, 190, 192 borders, 2, 4, 22, 89, 128, 134, 135, 161, 203, 206 bronze, 17, 38, 110, 113, 179–80, 184–85, 187–88, 190, 193, 197 Buddha, 57, 59, 89, 178–79, 190, 194–96, 202 Buddhism, 26, 96, 178–79, 185, 189–90, 193, 195, 197, 202 Burgundian arts, 197, 114 burials, 27, 30, 38, 107–08, 110–11. See also tombs Byzantine arts, 2, 3, 5, 7, 10, 40–44, 51, 58, 61–63, 68, 72, 81–88, 103, 125, 127–42, 148, 156–57, 162–68, 203–4, 206


220 Byzantium, 35, 40, 42–43, 57–62, 76, 80, 125, 128, 132–34, 137–39, 141, 148, 157, 161, 180 camels, 6, 11, 25–26, 74, 99, 157, 198 canon, 13, 17, 30, 34 capitalism, 14–15, 25, 98 Cappadocia, 132–34 categories, 4–5, 15–16, 21, 24, 26–28, 34, 127, 142, 171, 213 Central Kingdom (China), 20–22 ceramics, 17, 103, 133, 154, 180 Charlemagne, 39, 56 China, 6, 7, 11–13, 17, 21–27, 30–31, 34, 98, 103, 177, 180–82, 187–98, 207, 210 Chinese painting, 17–18, 26, 30, 194, 212 Christians, 3, 7, 35, 39–40, 42, 47, 51, 59–63, 66, 72, 89, 96, 112, 125, 130–42, 148–71 Christianity, 39–40, 42, 60, 96, 134–35, 138–40, 163, 171 circulation (of goods), 96, 128, 158, 206, 211, 213 civilization, 11, 20, 23, 29, 99, 177 class, social, 17, 212 Clifford, James, 6, 27 collaboration, 4, 6, 30, 31 collecting, 1, 204, 213–14. See also inventories; repositories colonization, 5, 204, 210, 214–15. See also empire combat, 129, 133, 151, 152, 155, 160, 164. See also warfare commodities, 99, 210 competition, 37, 39, 40, 131, 156 conquest, 2, 22, 41, 141, 156, 162–63, 177. See also empire Constantinople, 43, 61, 69, 80, 87, 83, 87, 103, 125, 128, 133, 134, 136, 137, 139, 142, 204

copper, 1, 7, 99, 102, 107, 108, 110, 112–15, 138 courts, 7, 17, 21, 24, 68, 81, 83, 97–98, 126–28, 130–32, 134, 136–37, 139–42, 148, 151, 158, 160–63, 178, 181, 186, 190, 193–94, 196, 198, 204–5 craftsmanship, 17, 152, 161, 178, 198. See also artisans Crusades / Crusader states, 35, 39, 45, 51, 61, 128, 133, 134, 137–42, 148–50, 151, 152, 154, 162, 205 cultures, 4, 6, 11–13, 16, 19–22, 25–27, 34, 57–59, 89, 98–99, 107, 109, 125, 128, 135, 142, 149, 151, 154–55, 157, 161, 163–64, 166, 168, 179, 193, 203–4, 206, 208, 210, 215. See also exchanges cups, 129, 155, 125–42, 155, 189, 204, 205. See also banqueting; dining daggers, 149, 151–55, 160–71, 176, 205 Danishmendids, 135, 139, 166 decorative arts, 7, 17. See also banqueting; daggers; dining; textiles deer, 154, 158. See also animals destruction, 18, 35, 41–43 digital technology, 14, 31 dining and dining ware, 127–130, 136, 140, 141. See also banqueting diplomacy, 2, 7, 22, 26, 125, 132, 137, 139, 142, 149, 155, 157, 181, 184, 188, 190 discourses, 7, 16, 25, 43, 177, 194 diversity, 12, 22, 26, 31, 81, 108, 129, 130, 149, 181, 203, 205, 211. See also exchanges; identities Dome of the Rock, 35, 37, 43–46, 48 dragons, 63–64, 70, 73, 76, 79, 83, 85, 133–35, 152–55, 160–62, 164,


221 166–67, 169; dragon-slayers, 152, 160, 162, 164, 166, 169 dress, 68, 85, 151, 154, 155, 160, 167 Druze, 42, 43, 44, 50, 51, 52 Dunhuang, 186, 189 Durbi Takusheyi, 107–12, 114 early modern, 57, 204–206, 210–212, 215 ecclesiastics, 81, 125 economics, 8, 15, 81, 98, 99, 102, 107, 113, 123, 128, 149, 212 elephants, 39, 70–74. See also ivory empire(s), 25, 41, 44, 51, 60, 105–6, 126, 128, 134, 161, 212, 214; Byzantine, 43, 125, 132, 133, 156, 203; Carolingian, 39; Fatimid, 7, 46; Han, 22; of Mali, 99–100, 103–4, 107, 110, 112, 115, 123; Roman, 2, 35, 58, 198; Tang, 13, 17, 21–22, 25, 181, 185–88, 190, 192–93, 198; Trapezuntine, 162 epigraphy, 161, 167, 181 epistemic shifts, 11, 12, 18–19 equestrians, 152, 163, 169. See also horses ethnicity, 13, 15, 21, 23, 154, 204. See also identities ethnography, 108, 214 etiquette, 127, 151. See also courts Eurasia, 7, 10, 128, 133, 142, 156, 182 Eurocentrism, 12, 19, 21, 206, 207 Europe, 2, 7, 14, 16, 31, 58, 79, 97, 103, 107, 112, 114, 128, 138, 156, 157, 158, 164, 204, 213 Euthymios, 60, 83 exchanges: artistic, cultural, intermedial, 2, 4–7, 13–14, 17, 21, 25–29, 57, 97, 99, 102, 104, 111, 113–15, 142, 151–52, 157, 162, 163, 171, 176, 181, 193, 207, 208,

210, 212; transcultural, 14–15, 26, 127–28, 132, 136–37, 140, 142, 148, 176 exegesis, 66, 113 Fatimids, 35, 41–51, 103, 163, 205 feasting, 85, 126, 127, 130, 137, 154, 155, 158. See also banqueting featherwork, 204, 212 France, 1, 2, 97, 107, 112 Franks, 39, 136, 149–50, 152, 154–55, 157–58 funerary practices. See burials, tombs Furusiyya dagger, 151, 154–55, 159–60, 163, 166, 168–69, 171, 205 genealogy, 63, 193 genres, 18, 76, 134, 194, 212, 213. See also categories geopolitics, 26, 133, 142, 193, 197 Georgia, 59–62, 72, 134, 154, 158, 164, 168 Ghazanavids, 131–33 Ghurids, 131–32 gifts and gift-giving, 132, 152, 157, 179, 181, 184, 187, 190, 193–94, 196–97 glass, 1, 17, 47, 76, 103, 107, 110, 155, 180, 190, 191, 197 globalization, 1–3, 5–7, 10–17, 19–21, 25–26, 29–31, 34–35, 52, 57– 59, 72, 80, 87, 89, 96, 109, 128, 149, 156, 171, 177–78, 180–81, 197–98, 202–3, 205–7, 210–11, 213–15, 218 glory, 18, 46, 67, 154–56, 160–61, 166 gold, 1, 7, 37–40, 48, 98, 100, 102, 104–7, 114–15, 161, 193 Gothic style, 5, 112 grains of Paradise, 97, 101, 104, 106–7, 114


222 Greeks, 1, 57–63, 70, 72, 83, 87, 96, 126, 134, 136, 140–41, 151, 154, 162–63 grif ins, 129, 154, 160 Guillaume de Lorris, 97, 104 hajj, 36, 47 Han dynasty, 20–21, 23, 25 Haram al-Sharif (Temple Mount), 35–36, 38–40, 44–51, 56 harpies, 126, 137, 141 heresy, 44, 50, 51 heroes and heroism, 128, 130, 132, 142, 148, 162–64, 166, 171. See also warrior-saints historiography, 2, 6, 11, 13, 16, 18, 24, 26, 31, 34 Hoffman, Eva, 152, 158 Holy Land, 137, 142. See also Jerusalem Holy Sepulchre, 37, 39–43, 51 Holy War, 43. See also jihad homogenization, 15, 22, 157, 210 horses, 105, 106, 107, 126, 166, 167, 198. See also equestrians Hu, 21, 24, 207 hunting, 27, 104, 127, 130, 151–164, 166, 171, 176, 205. See also animals iconography, 24, 26, 58, 63, 82, 125, 128, 130–33, 135–36, 138–39, 141, 151, 155, 158, 160, 162–63, 167, 176, 191 identities, 15, 21, 23, 39, 109, 134, 136, 142, 145, 152, 178, 181, 197, 203–5, 212, 218; intersectional, 204–5, 218. See also exchanges ideology, 24, 41, 191, 203 imam of the age, 41 India(n), 12, 17, 26, 30, 59, 61, 62, 70, 72, 76, 82, 89, 97, 127, 186, 189, 195, 197, 203 Indian Ocean, 4, 102, 103, 107

interaction (artistic, cultural), 4, 13, 17, 25, 26, 28, 160, 203, 205, 207 intercultural, 141, 148, 163, 167, 171 interfaith dialogues, 6, 149. See also exchanges interpretations, 7, 11, 12, 72, 113, 134, 155, 203 inventories, 204, 218. See also collecting Iran, 131–32, 152. See also Persia Islam, 3, 5, 10, 12, 35–38, 40–52, 60, 98, 102, 106, 107, 127, 128, 130–36, 140–42, 148, 149, 154–56, 162–71, 204–6, 210 Ismaili Fatimid dynasty, 35, 41 isrāʾ (night journey), 36, 44, 49, 52, 56 Italy, 1, 79 Iviron Monastery and codex, 60–63, 80–83 ivory, elephant, 7, 70–71, 74, 97–98, 100–104, 107–10, 112, 114, 115, 123, 154, 157–58, 203 Japan, 7, 17, 30, 31, 177, 179, 181, 183–98 Jerusalem, 7, 35, 44, 47, 52, 56, 60, 138, 205. See also Holy Land Jews, 35, 40, 42, 47 jihad, 149, 166. See also Holy War John VI Kantakouzenos, 87–88 Kalila wa Dimna, 60, 72–75 Al-Khidr, 135, 169–70 Kitab Bilawhar wa Budasf Klimakos, John knights, 59, 72, 82, 84. See equestrians, warriors Kōken, Shotōku, 179, 193, 195–97 Kōmyō, 179, 181–82, 190–98 Korea, 30, 177, 179–81, 186, 193, 198 lacquer, 17, 28, 180, 185–86, 193, 196 landscape(s), 26, 39, 106, 136, 141, 156, 187, 197, 208, 212


223 leisure, 148, 155, 205 linearity, 20, 27, 213 lions, 101, 152, 157, 160, 169, 184 localization, 1–2, 6–7, 12, 15–16, 21–22, 25, 27–29, 35, 39–42, 51, 56, 58, 61, 75, 81, 97–99, 102, 105–15, 123, 131, 133, 152, 154–55, 164, 166, 178, 181–84, 193–94, 197, 202–5, 218 Mali, 99–100, 103–4, 107, 110, 112, 115, 123 “Man in the Well,” 70–71 Manchu dynasty, 22–23 mansa (king or emperor), 105–6 Manuel I Komnenos, 136, 140, 164 manuscripts, 57, 58, 62–65, 72, 80, 82, 88, 96, 164, 212; illuminated, 58, 62, 72, 76, 80, 88, 20, 212. See also texts maqṣūra, 44, 45, 47, 49–52 markets, 14, 15, 98, 100, 106, 211. See also trade masculinity, 152, 163 masjid, 46–47. See also mosques mastery, 16, 17, 30, 135, 171, 192. See also artisans, craftsmanship material culture, materiality, materials, 1–2, 5–7, 11, 15, 29–31, 57, 59, 114, 152, 158–60, 180–81, 185, 192–93, 210 Mecca, 42, 47, 49 media, mediation, 17, 31, 115, 133, 157, 158, 180, 184, 198, 204–5, 208, 211. See also exchanges; material culture Mediterranean, 1, 4, 70, 98–99, 101–103, 114–15, 123, 130, 152, 154, 156–58, 160–64, 167, 171 merchants, 22, 27, 89, 98, 100, 150, 184, 198. See also markets; traders metalwork, 17, 28, 107, 132, 154, 155, 180

methodology, methods, 3, 8, 14, 16, 18, 25, 27, 30–31, 57, 185, 190, 203, 206, 212, 215 migrations, 10, 25, 58, 158, 193 miniatures, 52, 62–65, 70–76 minzu ronghe, 22–23. See also assimilation; ethnicity mirrors, mirroring, 80, 83, 88, 136, 180, 184, 187–88, 190, 194, 197 miʿrāj, 36, 44, 49, 50, 52 mobility, 63, 89, 101, 151–52, 156, 159, 164, 171, 205–7. See also exchanges modern, modernity, 2, 5, 7, 13, 15, 22–24, 42, 59, 100–5, 108, 110, 123, 125–26, 148, 177, 179, 192, 207, 213, 214. See also periodization monasteries, monasticism, 1, 7, 60–62, 69, 72, 80–84, 86–87, 140, 164, 169, 178–79, 196, 198, 203–4 mondialisation, 15, 28, 58 mosaics, 44–48, 50–51, 125, 149, 163, 182 mosques, 36–38, 43–51 Mount Athos, 60, 62, 83, 87 Muslims, 7, 35–42, 47, 49, 59, 106, 133, 138, 141, 149–50, 152, 154, 157–60, 164, 166–69, 205. See also Islam myths, mythology, 16, 20, 25, 72, 105, 137, 155, 164, 186–87, 204, 215 Nara, 7, 177–78, 180, 184, 188, 190, 198 nationalism, 2, 6, 7, 11, 13, 15, 20, 21, 22, 25, 34, 212–13. See also identities Native Americans, 208, 210 networks, 2, 4, 7, 13–15, 17, 21, 26, 57, 81, 97–101, 107, 110, 113, 114, 123, 142, 161, 184, 203, 207. See also exchanges; routes


224 Nigeria, 99, 103, 107–14, 123 North America, 14, 16 Northern and Southern Dynasties, 13, 20, 24, 26 Northern Wei, 24, 28

Prophet, the, 36, 41, 43–44, 46–47, 49–50, 56 Psalter, 68–70, 72

oliphant. See also ivory, 158–59 orality, 12, 71, 105 origins, 3, 14, 23, 24, 27, 57, 58, 152, 180, 186, 197 Orthodox Church, 36, 50, 52, 56, 60–61, 65–66, 81, 125, 127, 134, 136, 138–41, 152, 162, 168–70, 204–5

repositories, 177, 179, 181–82, 189, 202. See also collecting restoration, 36–39, 41, 44–46, 179 routes, trade and travel, 4, 6, 7, 27, 57, 58, 63, 89, 97–98, 103, 105, 107, 123, 157, 178, 180–81, 191, 198, 205–6 Rus’, 1, 125

paradigms, 12, 13, 15, 16, 19, 20, 25, 193 paradise, 97, 101, 104–7, 114, 210 Parthian Shot, 182–83 patronage, 7, 26, 36, 38, 39, 42, 44, 48, 52, 56, 152, 213 performance, 30, 71, 127, 154, 160, 163, 186 periodization, 5, 13, 213. See also modernity Persia, 21, 47, 59, 74, 156, 164, 180, 182, 185 Physiologos, 66–68, 82 pictorial traditions, pictures, 10, 27, 57–58, 62–63, 71, 80–84, 98, 107, 115, 188, 208, 212–13 piety, 61, 154, 161, 162. See also spirituality pilgrimage, 2, 47 politics, 7, 142, 160, 181 postmodernism, 19, 206, 207, 218. See also modernity; periodization premodernity, 11–12, 26, 29, 34, 151, 161, 171. See also modernity; periodization prestige, 101, 109, 149, 161, 196, 205 princely cycle, 131–32, 141, 148–49, 154, 163, 176 print(s), 17, 204–5, 208, 210–12, 214

Qing dynasty, 21–23, 30, 210

sacrality, 35–36, 38, 42, 44, 48, 49–52, 56, 85, 112, 125–26, 142, 155, 158, 162, 164, 168–69, 212–13. See also piety; spirituality Sahara, 100, 102–3; sub-Saharan, 2, 5, 99, 114; trans-Saharan, 97–98, 101, 104–5, 107, 110, 115, 123 Saint George, 87, 126–28, 130, 132–36, 138, 141, 148, 152, 164, 169 Saint Theodore, 68–70, 129, 135–36, 139, 148, 152–53 Sarbi, 23, 26 secularism, 9, 81, 85, 126–27, 142, 148, 155, 158, 162 Seljuq Sultanate of Rum, 131–33, 135, 139 serpents, 71, 158, 164, 169. See also dragons Shogunate, 17 Shōmu (Emperor), 178–87, 190–98, 202 Shōsō-in, 7, 177–81, 184, 187, 189–91, 198, 202 Silk Road, 4, 7, 13, 26, 59, 177, 180–81, 198. See also routes silver, 1, 37, 48, 125, 128–29, 139, 141, 148–49, 161, 182, 193, 205 Song dynasty, 5, 24, 25, 30


225 soteriology, merit, 194, 202 spirituality, 59, 81, 82, 86, 87, 102, 115, 179. See also piety; sacrality spices. See grains of Paradise status, 17, 31, 36–38, 51, 100, 107, 109, 110, 132, 136, 152, 154, 155, 156, 160–62, 167, 189, 190, 213. See also class; prestige symbols, 42, 70, 72, 83, 127, 130, 152, 160–62, 164, 166, 167, 182, 187 Syria, 45, 138, 152, 168–69 Tada, 107, 111–15 Taiping Rebellion, 22 talismans, 167, 169. See also apotropaia Tang. See also empire, Tang, 21, 25 teleology. See also anachronism Temple Mount, 2, 20, 58, 35–36, 38–40, 44–51, 56 texts, textuality, 2–3, 12–13, 17–18, 21, 30–31, 58–60, 62, 64, 66, 71–72, 81, 96, 98–99, 137, 162, 167, 194–97, 203, 214, 215. See also manuscripts textiles, 102, 180–81, 184, 188, 191, 204 Theophilus, 1, 2, 6 Tōdai-ji Monastery, 7, 178, 180, 198 tombs, 6, 13, 17, 26, 27, 28, 30, 107–9, 183, 185, 189. See also burials trade, 13, 17, 22, 26, 28, 99, 100, 102–11, 113–15, 125, 132, 149, 152, 177, 210, 211. See also markets; routes,

translation, 57, 60, 61, 72, 76, 88, 126, 157, 203. See also exchanges transmission, 58, 87, 89, 96, 207, 218. See also exchanges Umayyads, 35–36, 38, 41, 45–46, 48–49, 51, 56 unicorns, 72–73, 75–76, 80, 82–83, 86 value, 1–2, 607, 57, 81, 99, 102, 107, 109, 115, 139, 149, 158–59, 161, 164, 204, 210. See also prestige Vatopedi Monastery, 84, 86–87 warfare, 151, 162. See also combat warrior saints, 126, 135, 138, 141, 149, 152, 154, 155, 158–71, 205 weapons, 102, 106, 151, 152, 156, 160, 161, 167, 168, 181. See also daggers West Africa, 7, 97–114, 123 witnesses, 38–39, 57, 80, 87, 98, 110, 157, 208, 215 world system, 98–99, 103, 107, 114–15, 123 world, worlding, worldly, 1, 2, 6–8, 10–12, 14–15, 19, 21, 31, 35, 43, 57–65, 72, 80–82, 86, 88–89, 97–103, 107, 114–15, 123, 126, 131, 141–42, 151, 156, 160, 163–64, 167–68, 177, 183, 193–98, 202–15 Zhongguo (Central Kingdon), 21, 22 Zoroastrian, 27