Download Cutler a., «From Loot to Scholarship, Changing Modes in the Italian Response to Byzantine Artifacts, CA.1200-1750» DOP49 PDF

TitleCutler a., «From Loot to Scholarship, Changing Modes in the Italian Response to Byzantine Artifacts, CA.1200-1750» DOP49
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Total Pages43
Table of Contents
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		Front Matter [pp. i-vi]
		Introduction [pp. vii-x]
		The Italian and Late Byzantine City [pp. 1-22]
		The Greeks of Crimea under Genoese Rule in the XIVth and XVth Centuries [pp. 23-32]
		New Documents on the Relations between the Latins and the Local Populations in the Black Sea Area (1392-1462) [pp. 33-41]
		Rialto Businessmen and Constantinople, 1204-61 [pp. 43-58]
		The Notaras Family and Its Italian Connections [pp. 59-72]
		Italy and the Italians in the Political Geography of the Byzantines (14th Century) [pp. 73-98]
		Demetrios Kydones and Italy [pp. 99-110]
		Renaissance Crusaders: Humanist Crusade Literature in the Age of Mehmed II [pp. 111-207]
		The Italian Appreciation and Appropriation of Illuminated Byzantine Manuscripts, ca. 1200-1450 [pp. 209-235]
		From Loot to Scholarship: Changing Modes in the Italian Response to Byzantine Artifacts, ca. 1200-1750 [pp. 237-267]
		Byzantine "consuetudines" in Venetian Crete [pp. 269-280]
		The Italian Background of Early Cretan Literature [pp. 281-323]
		Greek Magnates in Venetian Cyprus: The Case of the Synglitico Family [pp. 325-337]
		Byzantines and Italians on Cyprus: Images from Art [pp. 339-357]
		Back Matter [pp. 359-364]
                        
Document Text Contents
Page 1

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Page 2

From Loot to Scholarship: Changing Modes
in the Italian Response to Byzantine Artifacts,

ca. 1200-1750
ANTHONY CUTLER

n a post-colonial world one pervasive response to the possession and display of objects
made by other peoples is to see them all as ill-gotten gains, pieces torn from their

"original" setting by ruthless individuals representing unsympathetic, even predatory
societies; in short, to regard them as loot. On this view, as far as Byzantium is concerned,
the arch-villains were the Venetians and the prime exhibit their treasury in the ducal
church of San Marco. Unaware of how most of the objects on exhibit ended up in this
situation, we generally assume that they are booty, pathetic evidence of acts of rapine,
committed in 1204 against the involuntary victim that was Constantinople, in circum-
stances to which the chief witnesses are the crusader-chroniclers Geoffrey Villehardouin
and Robert de Clari. Our unspoken protest is only reinforced when an artifact is in the
state that we tacitly prefer for plunder: extant not merely in an alien context' but forced
into an "unnatural" relation-like the Byzantine ivory triptychs dismembered to make
Latin book covers2-with one or more objects to which it does not belong. The combina-
tion lends a further air of mystery to something which is, from the start, enigmatic to us.
Such is the melange known today as the "Grotto of the Virgin," consisting of what is said
to be a votive crown of Leo VI, now joined to a classical (?) rock crystal and a Western,
silver-gilt statuette (Fig. 1).3 Final proof, if proof is needed, of the mayhem done to this
imperial object is the fact that while six of the crown's enameled medallions are missing,
that depicting the emperor now adjoins one of St. Mark, a juxtaposition which, in a
Venetian context, can hardly be accidental. We have learned well the lesson concerning
the political use in the West of hallowed objects from the East.4

'The matter of medieval artifacts removed from their original setting, and the problems for our responses
caused by such arrachage, have recently been astutely analyzed by W. Tronzo, "The Medieval Object Enigma
and the Problem of the Cappella Palatina in Palermo," Word and Image 9 (1993), 197-228, esp. 197-200.

2A. Cutler, The Hand of the Master: Craftsmanship, Ivory, and Society in Byzantium (9th-11th Centuries)
(Princeton, 1994), 21, 145, 169, 215-16.

3D. Alcouffe and M. E. Frazer, in The Treasury of San Marco, Venice, ed. D. Buckton (Milan-London, 1984),
no. 8; A. Grabar in H. R. Hahnloser, ed., II Tesoro di San Marco, II: I Tesoro elilmuseo (Florence, 1971), no. 92.

4D. Pincus, "Christian Relics and the Body Politic: A Thirteenth-Century Relief Plaque in the Church of
San Marco," in Interpretazioni veneziane: Studi di storia dell'arte in onore di Michelangelo Muraro, ed. D. Rosand
(Venice, 1984), 39-57; M. Jacoff, The Horses of San Marco and the Quadriga of the Lord (Princeton, N.J., 1993).

Page 21

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Page 22

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Page 42

266 THE ITALIAN RESPONSE TO BYZANTINE ARTIFACTS

activity for collectors. Istanbul, for example, would remain a prime market for antiquities
into the eighteenth century,190 yet how Italians chose to respond to this opportunity is

epitomized in the observations of Sansovino on the museo of one Venetian procurator:

[S]e all'hora il Patriarca era il primo nella cittha, hora il Procurator Contarini non e se-
condo, havendo con infinita sua spesa fatto portar (come tuttavia ancor procura) da
Athene, da Costantinopoli, dalla Morea, e da tutte quasi le Isole dell'Archipelago diverse
figure, et intiere, et spezzate antichissime di gran pregio; con le quali ha adornato il suo
studio fin'hora maravigliosamente.'9'

He goes on to list the "figure ... grandi al naturale": Augustus, Claudius, Trajan and so
on. The collections of highly placed churchmen likewise showed no preference for Chris-
tian objects from the East. It is remarkable that the great connoisseur Angelo Maria

Querini-who, after 1730, acquired the "Loving Couples" diptych that had belonged to
Pietro Barbo,192 enframed it with his own blazon,193 and added it to a collection that
included the diptychs of Boethius and the Lampadiil94-is not recorded as the owner of

any Byzantine piece. Even the taste for the "rosette caskets," decorated with what are

always taken to be mythological scenes, and which begin to be noticed in eighteenth-
century correspondence,'95 is perhaps best explained as a parallel, if not a sequel, to the

predilection for classical ivories depicting putti, Bacchic figures, Hercules, and scenes of
sacrifice described in inventories of the same period.'96

The fact that Byzantine secular art ranked scarcely higher than religious expressions
in the inclinations of collectors, and that objects in both areas yielded to the vestiges of
Greco-Roman civilization, suggests that the underlying explanation is to be found not in

Enlightenment prejudice against the notion of the sacred but in a preference for what
was older. In the axiology of collecting, the age of a thing reinforces its interest, aesthetic
and economic, no matter what value had originally been attributed to it.197 There is no
doubt that eighteenth-century scholarship made known a number of recently acquired
and/or previously unsignaled Byzantine objects. Against the opinio communis that the ma-

jority of pieces now in the West had lain undiscovered in the West since the late Middle

Ages, at which time they are supposed to have had profound impact on Latin produc-
tion, these disclosures constitute important corrections. Yet the emphasis in these re-

ports, insofar as they were at all concerned with the objects that have preoccupied us, is

190T.
F. Madden, "The Serpent Column of Delphi in Constantinople: Placement, Purposes, and Mutila-

tions," BMGS 16 (1992), 142.

191•
F. Sansovino and G. Stringa, Venezia citta nobilissima (Venice, 1604), cols. 258r-259v, cited in Collezioni di

antichita a Venezia (note 112 above), 56.
'192See p. 254 above.
'193G. Panazza, "I'incorniciatura del dittico queriniano" in Miscellanea Queriniana in ricordo dell 110I centenario

della morte del Cardinale Angelo Maria Querini (Brescia, 1961), 249-53.

194Volbach, Elfenbeinarbeiten (note 111 above), nos. 6, 54.

'195The earliest, to my knowledge, is the box in Cividale (Goldschmidt and Weitzmann, Elfenbeinskulpturen
[note 30 above], I, no. 27).

1'96See, for example, the inventory of the Museo Carpegna (1741) in Documenti inedite (note 125 above)
II, 183-95.

197 On this question, see B. Herrnstein Smith, Contingencies of Value: Alternative Perspectives for Critical Theory

(Cambridge, Mass., 1988), 10-11.

Page 43

ANTHONY CUTLER 267

on artifacts of the late Roman'98 rather than the medieval Greek world. The discovery-
one might almost say the invention-of Byzantine art had to wait upon impulses born
of Romantic philhellenism and the state of the antiquities market of a later era.

Pennsylvania State University

198The pace and scale of 18th-century erudition in this area can be inferred from the tables in R. Del-
brueck, Die Consulardiptychen und verwandte Denkmidler (Berlin-Leipzig, 1929), xxvi-xxxiii. Of the 68 ivories,
silver plates, and cameos discussed in this catalogue, only 8 were known to scholars before 1700; another 15
appeared in the period 1701-50; in the next half-century 12 more were added. The remaining 23 objects
were all first reported in the 19th century.

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