Middle East Studies

St. George and the Princely Banquet: Courtly Art between Byzantium, the Islamic World, and the West

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

5:30 p.m. – 7 p.m.

Speaker:  Alicia Walker, Bryn Mawr College

In the twelfth century, male military saints, such as George, became intercultural heroic figures. Appearing in works of art across western European, Byzantine, and Islamic cultural spheres, these holy heroes sometimes featured in contexts and objects that modern taxonomies would classify as “secular.” This talk focuses on a particularly intriguing example of this phenomenon: a middle Byzantine metal vessel that displays on its exterior a program of so-called princely cycle imagery derived from medieval Islamic courtly iconography, but contrasts these decidedly non-religious motifs with a portrait of St. George on the interior bottom of the vessel. What was the logic behind inviting George to this banquet? How might we overcome the insufficiency of conventional, modern terminology and taxonomies to engage with the transcultural complexity of elite leisure culture in the medieval world?