The reception of art and architecture in the Middle Ages is typically studied through the verbal accounts of medieval viewers. This paper explores possibilities for interpreting artistic reception in the absence of texts, through the material record of works of art themselves, specifically, a Byzantine ivory casket altered through the addition of Islamic gilded bronze fixtures. I propose that the transformation of the box expresses a viewer’s cognitive appropriation of the original program, which reconfigured the iconography of the ivory container to accommodate a secular Islamic system of meaning. Rather than representing the changes as misreading or disfigurement of the Byzantine casket, the alterations embody a legitimate interpretation that articulates the viewer’s receptivity to the original object and simultaneous appropriation of its visual framework to support an Islamic princely and astral program.
© 2008 International Center for Medieval Art
Walker, Alicia. "Cross-cultural Reception in the Absence of Texts: The Islamic Appropriation of a Middle Byzantine Rosette Casket." Gesta 47, no. 2 (2008): 99-122.