by Matthew P. Canepa
Washington D.C.: Smithsonian Inst. [published as Ars Orientalis 38] (September 2010)
Ars Orientalis 38. Washington D.C.: Freer Gallery of Art, Smithsonian Inst., 2010.
SCHOLARSHIP ON THE VISUAL CULTURES of ancient and early medieval Eurasia has recently benefited from art history’s renewed interest in questions that transcend political and cultural boundaries.1 Issues of cross-cultural interaction, however, have not enjoyed from art historians working on the ancient and early medieval worlds a level of critical attention commensurate with the number of problems arising from the material. As a result, many of those who work in the arts and cultures of the Mediterranean, Near East, and Asia have found themselves drawn closer together, but without a common vocabulary or debate with which to engage.
The organizing goal of this volume is to highlight these theoretical considerations and provide a forum where art historians of the ancient and medieval worlds can explore these problems of cross-cultural interaction with greater rigor. It does not intend to provide a comprehensive theoretical overview or art historical survey of Eurasian artistic interchange, nor an overarching theory. Rather, it aims to contribute critical perspectives drawn from premodern visual cultures to the wider theoretical conversation. The papers contained herein critically evaluate some of the most important problems encountered in the material: the cross-continental movement and selective appropriation of objects and motifs through trade; the impact of new ways of seeing, being seen, and acting introduced by these objects; the role of art and ritual in negotiations of power among empires; and representations and self-portrayals of ethnicity and gender within and beyond dominant visual cultures.