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Spring Seminars

HA229: The Art of Byzantium, 843-1261

Spring Term Seminars

week 11

Lecture: Earthly poverty or divine wealth?

Seminar: slide test

week 12

Lecture: Gender and chaos in the eleventh century

Seminar: church programmes

    The classical system of Byzantine church decoration

    This was described [invented?] by Otto Demus in his book of 1948.

      He established the idea of the 'ideal' 'classical' Byzantine mosaic church. And he argued that Hosios Loukas was it.

      • was there ever an 'ideal' programme?
      • or are there just general principles?
      • how important were the differing functions of individual churches?
      • how important were the differing statuses of individual churches [monastic, parish, private funerary etc.]?
      • how important was the differing patronage of individual churches?
      • is it possible to generalise from what survives?

        Everyone must read Demus [I will Xerox it, but copies are available in the library], and look at Hosios Loukas [I will put slides out] to see how/whether it matches Demus's scheme]

        week 13

        Lecture: Patronage and the Komnenoi

        Seminar: gender & power and the manipulation of images

        Zoe and Constantine IX panel in the south Gallery of H Sophia:

        • demonstrate the evidence for the changes in the panel
        • compare the image to other known images of Zoe
        • outline the various hypotheses that have been put forward for the changes
        • argue in favour of your preferred interpretation

        to prepare:


        Jessica Prior (1)

        Alexa Kempton (2)


        Joanne Mepham (1)

        Sarah Burnett (2)

        Nikephoros III Botaneiates and Maria of Alania in Paris BN Coislin 79 [Homilies of John Chrysostom]

        • What is the evidence for change in the manuscript?
        • why were the changes made?
        • what do the sequence of four images in the manuscript tell us about the perception of power in the 1070s and 1080s?

        to prepare


        Thomas Sheppard (1)

        Bryony Mines (2)


        Michelle Greaves (1)

        Roberta Wright (2)

        Andronikos I Komnenos and the manipulation of images

        [the chronicle of Niketas Choniates: see Mango, Art of the Byzantine Empire, 234-5; H. Magoulias, O City of Byzantium, 182-4]

        • what can we learn from this passage in Niketas Choniates about why imperial images should be altered or destroyed?
        • are the aims here the same as for the Zoe panel and Coislin 79?
        • what does this example tell us about the ways in which these imperial images functioned and how they were perceived to work?

        to prepare


        Claire Barnard (2)

        Bethany Bennett (2)


        Sara Lewin (1)

        Sally Brownlow (2)

        For Bibliography look under:

        Imperial Art Eleventh / Twelfth century

        Remember to consult Glory of Byzantium for MSS and enamels

        Look at Cormack, 'Interpreting the mosaics of S Sophia' in Art History 1981 for an overview of the mosaics in H Sophia.

        Additional items [in xerox box]

        On Coislin 79 see: I. Spatharakis, The Portrait in Byzantine illuminated Manuscripts, 107-118

        A. Eastmond, 'Between Icon and Idol: the uncertainty of imperial images', in A. Eastmond, L. James eds., Icon and Word. The Power of Images in Byzantium (Aldershot, 2003), 73-85

        week 14

        Lecture: Icons and their viewers

        Seminar: Life and Death in Byzantium: the Pantokrator monastery

        In this seminar we will examine the Pantokrator monastery of John II Komnenos through its surviving fabric, and, more importantly, through its typikon, foundation charter.

          The essential question to consider is what we can learn from the Pantokrator monastery about the functioning of the church, about imperial ritual in the twelfth century and the role of art in the celebration of the liturgy.

          Each group will need to read the typikon in great detail to learn what they can from it about the area outlined below. There is some brief supplementary literature which will help to provide an introduction to the church:

          • overview: the institutions and churches in the complex (the architecture)


              Alex Bailey

              Clare Barnard


              Laura Sourbutts

              Amandine Stone

              • the principal services in the complex (who is allowed where, and when); what images are brought to the church, and from where?


                  Clare Faulkes

                  Tom Sheppard


                  Adam Balogh

                  Kathryn Johnson

                  • the decoration and lighting of the main church (what images are recorded, where are they; how well lit are they?)


                      Charlotte de Lotbiniere

                      Bryony Mines


                      Emily Pemberton

                      Findlay Broadbent

                      • respondents should ensure that everything in the presentations is clear, and that they understand it. They should also check and query anything that they do not understand


                          Alexa Kempton

                          Bethany Bennett


                          Sally Brownlow

                          Sara Lewin

                          Each group should prepare a handout with relevant chapter references in the typikon [no more than one side of A4] and a marked up groundplan of the complex [where relevant]. Do not go into too great detail on the organisational side of the monastery [eg numbers of people, what you eat etc.] but give the essence – how often services in honour of the imperial family are said; which icons are lit; which groups of people are allowed in which church etc. he important thing to consider with your presentations is to provide a clear outline

                          We will then use this information to work out what we can about the functioning and purpose of the Pantokrator – why it was built and how it was perceived by John II Komnenos and his family.


                          typikon: [online]

                          Cormack R., Writing in Gold. Byzantine Society and its Icons, (London, 1985), chap 5 [library / SRC / xerox box]

                          Congdon E.A., "Imperial Commemoration and Ritual in the Typikon of the Monastery of Christ Pantokrator", Revue des Etudes Byzantines 54, (1996), 161-99 [SRC]

                          week 15

                          Lecture: Ekphrasis: Text and image in Byzantium

                          Seminar: Icons and ritual

                            Icons lie at the heart of modern perceptions of Byzantine art. In this seminar we will look at various examples of icons from the eleventh and twelfth century, and consider the ways in which they were understood by their first viewers. We will examine function, reception and response to icons, consider their iconographic and theological meanings and the ways in which they changed during this period.


                              Everyone to read Belting Likeness and presence chapter 13 (pp.261-96, xeroxes available) and to look at the icons in Glory of Byzantium (cats. 65-77; 244-250)

                              Questions to consider:

                              • What is 'living painting', and how does it affect how you look at an icon?
                              • What role do icons have in Byzantium?
                              • Is there a difference between the ways in which icons function in public and in private?

                              week 16

                              Lecture: reading week

                              Seminar: reading week / Paris trip

                              week 17

                              Lecture: Cyprus & the twelfth century

                              Seminar: Ekphraseis

                                This seminar will explore ekphraseis – the literary evocations of Byzantine works of art – in order to study how viewers responded to images.

                                We will concentrate on one famous ekphrasis, Nikolaos Mesarites' Description of the Church of the Holy Apostles, written c.1200 [xerox available, copy in SRC].

                                5 minute presentations: Each speaker is to read the relevant section of the poem, find an example of a comparable image to that discussed, and explain what the description attempts to evoke in the reader, and potentially how close the text is to surviving images:

                                1. chapter xiv Pantokrator

                                Monday: Jessica Prior Wednesday: Michelle Greaves

                                2. chapter xvi Transfiguration

                                Monday: Thomas Sheppard Wednesday: Laura Sourbutts

                                3. chapter xxvi the raising of Lazarus

                                Monday: Alex Bailey Wednesday: Adam Balogh

                                4. chapter xxvii the betrayal

                                  Monday: Claire Barnard Wednesday: Amandine Stone

                                  5. chapter xxviii the women at the tomb

                                  Monday: Charlotte de Lotbiniere Wednesday: Sarah Burnett

                                  6. chapter xxxiv Christ appears to Thomas

                                  Monday: Alexa Kempton Wednesday: Kathryn Johnson


                                  Monday: Bryony Mines Wednesday: Roberta Wright

                                  Consider what Mesarites is most concern to convey in his description of each scene, and how much this depends on the iconography of known images.

                                  Everyone else should read background on ekphrasis (at least one of the following):

                                  James L., R. Webb, "To Understand Ultimate Things and Enter Secret Places: Ekphrasis and Art in Byzantium", Art History 14, (1991), 1-17
                                  H., Art and Eloquence in Byzantium, (Princeton, 1981), eg chap 2.
                                  H., "The art of comparing in Byzantium", Art Bulletin 70, (1988), 88-103

                                  week 18

                                  Lecture: The view from outside III: Venice

                                  Seminar: Neophytos the Recluse

                                  This seminar will examine the paintings of the Enkleistra, near Paphos on Cyprus, a hermitage built for the reclusive monk called Neophytos.

                                  We will look at the decoration of the Enkleistra (which was carried out in two phases), and consider what we can learn from it about the self-perception of Neophytos.


                                  read: Cormack, Writing in Gold, chapter 6.

                                  Mango, The Hermitage of St. Neophytos and its Wall Paintings [SRC]

                                  how do they depart from the middle Byzantine system and why?

                                  Presentation Group

                                  Monday: Jessica Prior Claire Barnard Bryony Mines

                                  Wednesday: Sara Lewin Michelle Greaves Joanne Mepham

                                  Each group should bring its own slides and a handout marking locations of scenes in the cave.

                                  You should structure your presentations around the following:

                                  • outline of life of St Neophytos [5 mins]
                                  • the first phase of painting in the cave [5 mins]
                                  • the second phase of painting in the cave [5 mins]
                                  • Neophytos's self-perception of his position and its reflection in the art of the Enkleistra


                                  Monday: Thomas Sheppard

                                  Wednesday: Sarah Burnett

                                  week 19

                                  Lecture: The view from outside IV: Sicily

                                  Seminar: Venice and the Pala d'Oro

                                  The Pala d'Oro, the Golden altarpiece of San Marco in Venice was commissioned by doge Ordelafo Falier in 1105, its was expanded by doge Pietro Ziani in 1209, and further altered in 1345 by doge Andrea Dandolo.

                                  In this seminar we will look at the iconography and politics of the first two phases of the Pala d'Oro.

                                    [For the sake of simplicity assume that:

                                    phase 1 = the lower 2/3 of the pala [ie all the small enamels] and that

                                    phase 2 = the addition of the top row of enamels; plus alteration of donor figures]

                                    Presentation Group

                                    Monday: Thomas Sheppard Charlotte de Lotbiniere Bethany Bennett

                                    Wednesday: Laura Sourbutts Adam Balogh Emily Pemberton

                                    You should structure your presentations around the following:

                                    • what was the arrangement of phase I of the Pala d'oro?
                                    • what was its programmatic meaning?
                                    • what was the likely original arrangement of donors?
                                    • what was added and altered in phase 2, and with what purpose?
                                    • What we can learn from the changes about the changing status of Venice between 1105 and 1209.


                                    Monday: Alexa Kempton

                                    Wednesday: Kathryn Johnson

                                    Reading. Everyone to read at least one article on the Pala d'Oro plus the sections in general surveys on Venice:

                                    Bettini S., 'Venice, the Pala d'Oro, and Constantinople', in D. Buckton ed., The Treasury of San Marco, Venice (Milan, 1984), 35-64 [xerox]

                                    Frazer M.E., "The Pala d'Oro and the cult of St Mark in Venice", Jahrbuch Der Osterreichischen Byzantinistik 32, (1982), 273-79 [xerox]

                                    Hahnloser H.R., La Pala d'Oro, (Venice, 1994) [for images]

                                    Buckton D., J. Osborne, "The Enamel of Ordelaffo Falier on the Pala d'Oro in Venice", Gesta 39, (2000), 43-49

                                    week 20

                                    Lecture: The view from outside V: The East

                                    Seminar: Sicily? imitation or innovation

                                    Norman Sicly has the largest ensemble of surviving mosaic churches, from Cefalù and the Martorana in the 1140s to Monreale in the 1190s.

                                    We will look at some of the work associated with king Roger II:

                                    - his portrait in the Martorana church

                                    - his decoration of the Cappella Palatina – the royal chapel

                                    Presentation Group

                                    Monday: Alex Bailey Alexa Kempton Clare Faulkes

                                    Wednesday: Amandine Stone Findlay Broadbent Sally Brownlow

                                    You should structure your presentations around the following:

                                    • what we can learn about Roger and George the Admiral from their portraits in the Martorana church
                                    • an overall view of the arrangement of scenes in the Cappella Palatina [v. brief – with handout]
                                    • the nature of the royal box and its view into the south transept [provide handout]
                                    • how we should reconcile the decoration of the ceiling with that of the rest of the church


                                    Monday: Jessica Prior

                                    Wednesday: Roberta Wright


                                    see bibliography for Sicily: Everyone read the relevant sections of the main survey texts and Glory of Byzantium. Aim also to read at least one article on the Cappella Palatina

                                    On the Martorana see Kitzinger's book

                                    On the Cappella Palatina see especially Kitzinger's 1949 article in Art Bulletin 1949 [reprinted in 1976] and Tronzo's article in Word & Image and subsequent book the Cultures of his Kingdom.

                                    Succinct overviews on all the Sicilian churches are in Borsook E., Messages in Mosaic.