Author(s): Cecily J. Hilsdale
The Late Byzantine period (1261-1453) is marked by a paradoxical discrepancy between economic weakness and cultural strength. The apparent enigma can be resolved by recognizing that later Byzantine diplomatic strategies, despite or because of diminishing political advantage, relied on an increasingly desirable cultural and artistic heritage. This book reassesses the role of the visual arts in this era by examining the imperial image and the gift as reconceived in the final two centuries of the Byzantine Empire. In particular it traces a series of luxury objects created specifically for diplomatic exchange with such courts as Genoa, Paris and Moscow alongside key examples of imperial imagery and ritual. By questioning how political decline refigured the visual culture of empire, Cecily J. Hilsdale offers a more nuanced and dynamic account of medieval cultural exchange that considers the temporal dimensions of power and the changing fates of empires.
Cecily J. Hilsdale is Associate Professor in the Department of Art History and Communication Studies at McGill University, Montreal. Her research concerns cultural exchange in the medieval Mediterranean, in particular the circulation of Byzantine luxury objects as diplomatic gifts as well as the related dissemination of eastern styles, techniques, and iconographies and ideologies of imperium.
Introduction: the Imperial image as gift; Part I. Adventus: the Emperor and the City: 1. The imperial image and the end of exile; 2. Imperial thanksgiving: the commemoration of the Byzantine restoration of Constantinople; 3. Imperial instrumentality: the serially struck Palaiologan image; Part II. 'Atoms of Epicurus': the Imperial Image as a Gift in an Age of Decline: 4. Rhetoric as diplomacy: imperial word, image and presence; 5. Wearing allegiances and the construction of a visual oikoumene; Conclusion: the ends of empire.