Byzantium Sails West: Eastern Heralds to the Italian Renaissance
Jeffrey Hoover, Howard Hall Professor of Philosophy
September 8, 15, 22, 29
The art of medieval Byzantine culture, recognizable by the abstract stylized forms seen in icons of Christ and the saints, often appears to modern eyes to contrast with the more humanistic art forms associated with the European Renaissance.Yet Byzantine art had an enormous influence on the Renaissance. In this four-week forum, Howard Hall Professor of Philosophy Jeffrey Hoover will trace artistic innovations within Byzantine art that ultimately found their way to northern Italy, where they inspired a new generation of medieval artists and provided an impetus for the Italian Renaissance. Those influences arrived via a circuitous route, leaving their marks first in Greece and Sicily and then flowing north to Pisa, Siena and Florence. In week one, we will introduce the tradition of Byzantine icons and trace the resurgence of this tradition after the iconoclastic purge from Constantinople to Greece. The second session will explore the westward advance of the Byzantine style by examining the traces of it that can still be found on the southern shores of the Italian peninsula. The third week will turn to the western Mediterranean, where Byzantine artistic expression influenced the art that came to adorn buildings in the Sicilian towns of Palermo, Monreale and Cefalu. The series will conclude with a discussion of proto-Renaissance developments in fourteenth-century northern Italy, where Tuscan artists newly exposed to Byzantine art adopted its Maniera Greca (“Greek Style”) and a humanistic form that presaged the Renaissance.