Thursday, 23 May 2019

Maria Lidova: Rome and Byzantium: Migration in Light of Art Exchange in Late Antiquity

This paper explores various attestations of migration in late antiquity as they are reflected in works of art. The constant exchange of objects, diplomatic gifts and luxury items was an integral element of communication and interaction between different states, social groups and religious entities. Migrating artefacts not only attest to the movement of people and the existence of well-established channels of communication, but also act as important transmitters of knowledge, tastes and foreign habits. The topic of migration, when studied through the prism of material culture, can be analysed from a number of possible perspectives. The perspectives explored in this paper focuses on the individuals that were responsible for the transportation of artworks and goods exchange. Diplomats, private owners, merchants and refugees carried with them objects of particular monetary, artistic or simply personal value. The destiny of these artefacts varied depending on the context of use, intended recipient, or subsequent appropriation. A second category within migrating groups is that of artists. Craftsmen, master builders, mosaicists, and painters not only actively travelled in late antiquity but often accompanied their artworks on long-distance journeys. The results of their activity can still be seen across large territories, serving as a spectacular attestation of movement and of moments of encounter. Finally, the wide range of objects found in Rome which had been brought to the city from Constantinople or Christian East can, itself, be treated as a manifestation of migration, reflective of numerous instances of people’s movement otherwise not attested in written sources.   

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