“Don’t praise artists, praise administrators!” Byzantine bureaucracy as cultural creativity

Speaker: Professor Antony Eastmond - The Courtauld Institute of Art

In this first instalment, Prof. Antony Eastmond (Dean and Deputy Director; A. G. Leventis Professor in the History of Byzantine Art) will present a manifesto for the creative power of administration. Byzantium is synonymous with labyrinthine bureaucracy, underpinning a convoluted and devious political machine; its artistic culture is too often characterised as one in which innovation and change were stifled by faceless officeholders. I will argue that bureaucracy was a force for inventiveness in the medieval Mediterranean, shaping ideas about how art is created and interpreted, and playing a major role in establishing the visual world of Byzantium.

Prof. Antony Eastmond read history at Oxford and whilst there he became increasingly intrigued by the possibilities of using art and material culture to write history. This was confirmed when he came to The Courtauld to take an MA in Byzantine art, and then a PhD in the art of medieval Georgia in the Caucasus.

Key themes in Antony’s work centre on the use of art to manufacture, display and manipulate identities on a public stage, especially on the frontera between religions and cultures.

Antony has taught at The Courtauld since 1995, after nine years in the art history department at the University of Warwick where he was Head of Department in his last two years.

His research is divided between topics in Late Antique and Byzantine art and topics relating to the Caucasus (Georgia and Armenia), and relations between the Christian and Islamic cultures there.

He has recently published a study of women and identity in eastern Anatolia and the Caucasus on the eve of the Mongol invasions in the thirteenth century – a region known as the land where three worlds meet.

Organised by Dr Alixe Bovey (The Courtauld). 

6:30pm, 15 Jan 2019

Tuesday 15th January 2019, 6.30pm - 7.30pm

The Courtauld Institute of Art, Vernon Square, Penton Rise, Kings Cross, London