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December 16, 2017


Marvellous pictures and text,Beth. I hadn't seen these Sicilian mosaics before but am familiar with (and love) those in Ravenna and Venice. You'll have to go there on your next trip to Italy!

What appeals to me about the Byzantine style is the pared-down simplicity of its imagery (like that tree and the figures) along with the opulence of the surfaces: gold etc. all of which create an other-worldly effect, nothing to do with realism. Some people find Byzantine art rigid but I don't at all - it was intended as a language to talk about things that "are not of this world" and evolved structures for this language. From the Renaissance onward religious art became 'realistic' - to me this make no sense!

Wow. I remember stumbling across the Arab-Norman exhibit at the Met with T.C. a few years ago and being gobsmacked (as was he, I think). It was an interesting meeting of northern and southern aesthetic sensibilities, wasn't it? Both sharing a love of intricate ornamentation, deriving I suppose from a common late Iron Age sensibility that had been a bit overshadowed by Hellenistic aesthetics.

Astonishing, both a feast and a portal into those times. I can see why you had to sit down. And I agree with Natalie; "realism" often does not serve the message of religious art.

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Who was Cassandra?

  • In the Iliad, she is described as the loveliest of the daughters of Priam (King of Troy), and gifted with prophecy. The god Apollo loved her, but she spurned him. As a punishment, he decreed that no one would ever believe her. So when she told her fellow Trojans that the Greeks were hiding inside the wooden horse...well, you know what happened.