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IMC 2023: Sessions

Session 506: The Origins, Life, and Afterlife of Byzantine Artistic Formulae

Tuesday 4 July 2023, 09.00-10.30

Moderator/Chair:Eva Cersovsky, Abteilung für Mittelalterliche Geschichte, Universität zu Köln
Paper 506-aModels and Themes of Norman-Byzantine Visual Culture in Late Gothic Sicily
(Language: English)
Licia Buttà, Departement Història i Història de l'Art, Universitat Rovira i Virgili, Tarragona
Index terms: Art History - Painting, Byzantine Studies
Paper 506-bContainment, Marmar, and Margarita: Bringing the Sea into the Basilica Eufrasiana in Poreč, Istria
(Language: English)
Emilia Cottignoli, Department of Art & Art History, Stanford University
Index terms: Archaeology - Sites, Art History - General, Byzantine Studies, Performance Arts - General

Paper -a:
Genevieve Bresc Bautier in 1978 indicated the Byzantine substratum as one of the most important components of Gothic painting in Sicily. She found evidence for this assertion in the numerous documents that scrupulously relate the presence of 'yconas de romania' or 'more grecorum' icons among the goods of wealthy citizens of the island. Recent studies have again drawn attention to the copious presence in Sicily of Byzantine and post-Byzantine icons, which are dated mainly from the 12th century up to the 17th century. The heritage of Norman-Byzantine visual culture, however, can be better detected in a few fragments of mural painting, dated back to the 15th century, which reproduce the Pantocrator and the Theory of saints, taken almost verbatim from the well-known Norman decoration of the Cathedral of Cefalù. This paper will deal with the context as well as the religious and political meaning of these medieval copies.

Paper -b:
Just a few paces from the Adriatic sea, in the Istrian town of Poreč, lies the sacred oceanic cosmos of the Basilica Eufrasiana. This interdisciplinary study reinscribes the basilica with the aesthetics of water, a topic developed by Fabio Barry and Bissera Pentcheva, and connects it to monuments in Ravenna and Venice, creating a new line of continuity between these Byzantine spaces. Massive margarita, mother-of-pearl, adorn the main apse of the Eufrasiana alongside gently undulating mosaic waves and organic forms that recall the plump, levitating, luminous bodies of jellyfish. Corinthian columns of Proconnesian marble, imported from the Sea of Marmara, line the central nave and side aisles, their striations blue-gray and white, their material flux evoking the ripples of waves and the movement of water, divining liquid wetness from impenetrable stone. From within the basilica can be heard the gentle lapping of waves against the complex wall, the murmuring of the tides as they roll in and out. The basilica becomes a containing seashell that stimulates acoustic reverberance, like a seashell that captures the sounds of the ocean when pressed to the ear. This highlights the slippage between marmar, to murmur, like marble, and to glitter, and margar, the containing pearl in the mollusk, Christ in the containing shell of the Virgin. I argue that the oceanic elements within the basilica invite in the adjacent sea, enabling this multisensory experience where the elements of the internal evoke the external, and the two are reunited in one sacred space. Through my own audiovisual footage, I map the acoustic soundscape of the Eufrasiana, and bring voice to it through recorded Ambrosian chant that melds with the sounds of the adjacent sea, transporting us back to the 6th century.