Byzantine Things in the World


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Edited by Glenn Peers; With essays by Charles Barber, Henri Franses, Richard Shiff, and Susan Sutton; With contributions by Stephen Caffey, Caitlin Haskell, James Rodriguez, Shannon Steiner, and Robin K. Williams

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How did Byzantine culture understand its own objects we now call “art”? This enlightening publication proposes that they saw and experienced clay pilgrim tokens, relief stamps, and icons of saints as dynamic and fully active and alive in the world. The materials used and the sensory impressions they created were an integral part of the Byzantine God-saturated world. Gold was considered a living material and tokens from locations associated with a saint’s physical life extended his or her presence into pilgrims' lives.

This book attempts to overturn conventional art historical thought through a combination of material investigation, historical recovery, and hermeneutic clearing. Distinguished authors argue that categorizing these objects made for Medieval Greek Christians as art is incorrect, instead suggesting that they were rooted in a world with an animistic view of living things.

Provocatively interweaving Byzantine material culture and art with analogs like Kongo nkondi figures and works by James Lee Byars, Donald Judd, and Yves Klein, this volume features the Menil Collection’s superb holdings and fresh perspectives by a range of art historians.

Distributed for The Menil Collection

Exhibition Schedule:

The Menil Collection


Glenn Peers is a professor of early medieval and Byzantine art at the University of Texas at Austin.


The Menil Collection


"Weaving historiography with history, the Byzantine Things in the World catalogue provides potent glimpses into the ways in which the modern makes us intimately aware of how we often fail our Byzantine objects."—Roland Betancourt, Exemplaria
ISBN: 9780300191783
Publication Date: June 18, 2013
Publishing Partner: Distributed for The Menil Collection
192 pages, 10 1/2 x 8 1/2
100 color illus.
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