IMC 2020: Sessions

Session 326: Byzantine Alchemy between Art and Science

Monday 6 July 2020, 16.30-18.00

Sponsor:Mary Jaharis Center for Byzantine Art & Culture
Organiser:Alexandre Roberts, Department of Classics University of Southern California
Moderator/Chair:Charles Burnett, Warburg Institute, University of London
Paper 326-aTerms, Concepts, and Perceptions of Alchemy in Byzantium
(Language: English)
Gerasimos Merianos, Department of Byzantine Research, National Hellenic Research Foundation (NHRF), Athens
Index terms: Byzantine Studies, Philosophy, Science
Paper 326-bPhilosophers, Chemists, and the Sacred Art: The Greco-Arabic Intellectual Context of Byzantine Alchemy
(Language: English)
Alexandre Roberts, Department of Classics University of Southern California
Index terms: Byzantine Studies, Islamic and Arabic Studies, Philosophy, Science
Paper 326-cAlchemy in Medieval Byzantium: An Artisanal Turn
(Language: English)
Shannon Steiner, Department of History of Art, Bryn Mawr College, Pennsylvania
Index terms: Art History - General, Art History - Decorative Arts, Byzantine Studies
Abstract

The study of Byzantine alchemy is in its infancy. The present session investigates it on its own terms as a vibrant field of medieval knowledge-production poised at the boundary between art (manipulating the world) and science (understanding it). The papers argue that: (1) alchemical terminology in alchemical and non-alchemical literature reveals alchemy’s diverse resonances among different Byzantine scholars; (2) alchemy was intimately related to other domains of Byzantine and Arabic science; and (3) manuscripts encompassing detailed artisanal treatises alongside theoretical alchemical texts reveal a Byzantine ‘artisanal turn’ in which art-making was deliberately reframed as epistemologically significant for investigating nature.