Art History

Back to Blog May 29, 2018

Joseph Kopta (PhD candidate, Art History) chairs panel at ICMS

Author: Jane DeRose Evans
Joe Kopta teaching in Sta Maria Assunta, Torcello, Italy; used by permission

Art History Ph.D. student Joseph Kopta co-chaired, with Dr. Brad Hostetler of Kenyon College, the double session, “Venice, Materiality, and the Byzantine World” at the 53rd International Congress on Medieval Studies, May 12, 2018, at the Medieval Institute of Western Michigan University in Kalamazoo, Michigan. The sessions were sponsored by the Italian Art Society. Kopta’s participation was sponsored, in part, by a Tyler Dean’s Travel Grant for Art History Graduate Students.

The Dumbarton Oaks Byzantine Symposium leading to the 2010 publication of San Marco, Byzantium, and the Myths of Venice introduced new perspectives on Byzantine and Venetian visual and material culture that extended Otto Demus’s survey of Saint Mark’s basilica. The authors’ application of more recent approaches—such as the social function of spolia, the act of display, the construction of identity, and cultural hybridity—brought fresh analyses to a complex and richly decorated monument.

These two panels sought to expand this methodological discourse by taking into account questions related to materials, materiality, and intermediality between Venice and Byzantium. The arrival of material culture from the Byzantine world to Venice as gifts, spoils, or ephemera during the centuries surrounding the Fourth Crusade allowed for both appropriation and conceptual transformation of material culture. In light of the renewal in interest of Venice’s Byzantine heritage, this panel sought to reflect on the interaction of material culture between la Serenissima and the Byzantine world, especially during the eleventh through fifteenth centuries. Topics were wide-ranging, including, but not limited to: issues of reception and cultural translation; changing concepts of preciousness; different valuation of materials between Venice and Byzantium; the fluctuating simulation of material visual effects; the transformation of Byzantine objects incorporated into Venetian frames; intermedial dialogue between Byzantine and Venetian art; and the process and technique of manufacture of works between Byzantium and Venice. Some points of departure included: the building of San Marco itself; Byzantine objects in the Treasury; Byzantine manuscripts included as part of the Cardinal Bessarion gift to the Republic; and issues raised as a result of recent conservation projects.