First Annual Carl Sheppard Memorial Lecture in Medieval Studies, Thursday, October 25, 7:30 p.m.
Professor Robert S. Nelson, Yale University: "'Lords of One Quarter and One Half Quarter of the Empire of Romania': Byzantine Art and State Authority in Venice"
Part of the James Ford Bell Library "Celebrating Venice!" series
"Once did she hold the gorgeous East in fee And was the safeguard of the West..." Wordsworth thus begins a sonnet, titled "On the Extinction of the Venetian Republic," written in 1802 after the city had fallen to Napoleon. The English poet had learned well an insistent theme of Venetian political propaganda. Although the historical reality was more complex, the message was essential to Venetian identity, and art and spoils of victory over Byzantium played an important role in maintaining this and other myths of the city. This lecture will examine the Venetians use and adaptation of Byzantine artifacts during and after the Middle Ages.
Robert Nelson is a professor of the History of Art at Yale University, where he studies and teaches medieval art, mainly in the Eastern Mediterranean, and the history and methods of art history. He was the co-curator of Holy Image, Hallowed Ground: Icons from Sinai at the J. Paul Getty Museum in 2006-2007. His book, Hagia Sophia, 1850-1950 (2004), asks how the cathedral of Constantinople, once ignored or despised, came to be regarded as one of the great monuments of world architecture. Current projects involve art and the ideology of war, the social lives of illuminated Greek manuscripts in Byzantium and their reception in Renaissance Italy, the artistic perception of light in the Middle Ages, and the collecting of Byzantine art in twentieth-century Europe and America.
Among Professor Nelson's many other publications are Later Byzantine Painting: Art, Agency, and Appreciation (2007) and, as co-editor, The Old Testament in Byzantium (with Paul Magdalino, 2010); San Marco, Byzantium and the Myths of Venice (with Henry Maguire, 2010); and Approaching the Holy Mountain: Art and Liturgy at St. Catherine's Monastery in the Sinai (with Sharon Gerstel, 2011).