English Bodies, Imported Silks: Byzantine Textiles in Thirteenth-century England

Date: Nov 13, 2018 Time: 6:15 PM–7:45 PM Location: Harvard Faculty Club Address: 20 Quincy Street Cambridge, MA 02138

Amanda Luyster discusses her project exploring the medieval English fascination with Byzantine and Islamic silks.

My project offers an innovative perspective on medieval England through the marshalling and analysis of evidence that attests to a strong trend of English fascination with the textile production of the eastern Mediterranean. Focusing on the thirteenth century, I document and analyze a largely overlooked body of both Byzantine and Islamic silks held in English treasuries and displayed in courtly interiors, which I in turn link to local production of textiles, wall-paintings, and floor tiles informed by these imported textiles.

I show that both Byzantine and related objects and the English works of art they inspired were actively incorporated into rituals of church and state, visually accessible to a broad audience, and therefore came to be associated with the very nature of royal and ecclesiastical power. By tracing the significance and circulation of textiles and textile motifs, my project expands our knowledge of the long lives of Byzantine silks and reframes the history and heritage of medieval England.

Sponsored by the Mary Jaharis Center for Byzantine Art and Culture and Harvard University Standing Committee on Medieval Studies.

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