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Middle Byzantine Aesthetics Of Power And The Incomparability Of Islamic Art: The Architectural Ekphraseis Of Nikolaos Mesarites

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Chapter Summary

The Palace Revolt of John Komnenos by Nikolaos Mesarites, an author of the middle Byzantine period , contains a passage that briefly describes an Islamic-style building, the Mouchroutas, which was part of the imperial palace complex in Constantinoples. Scholars typically treat the passage as a descriptive document upon which to base hypothetical reconstructions of the Mouchroutas. While the archaeological potentials of the ekphrasis are unusually rich, a focus on these aspects of the text has obscured other possible interpretations, in particular its significance as a record of the Byzantine reception of Islamic art. The building marks an intriguing instance of artistic emulation in the midst of a predominantly adversarial political relationship. The kiosk tiles are executed in mināʾī, a highly refined overglaze technique of polychrome painting more commonly found in ceramic vessels.

Keywords: Byzantine aesthetics; ekphrasis; Islamic art; John Komnenos; Mouchroutas; Nikolaos Mesarites



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