The Question of Origin in Late Antique and Early Byzantine Art-Historical Scholarship

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In this paper I will examine the cultural origins of, and influences upon, late antique and early Byzantine and Islamic architecture, in the context of current debates over the alleged orientalist distortion inherent in western scholarship in this area. A longstanding question is the degree of influence stemming from Roman and Hellenistic artistic practices, an influence that has been assumed by many past and recent scholars. But the question of origin is problematic, and some art historians appear to have manipulated the evidence of material culture to support theories of origin. Similar disagreement has in the past centred on the question of whether the palace forms in Constantinople derive their precedents from Rome or from Middle-eastern traditions. Historically implicit in this disagreement is the scholarly projection of racial and ethnic ideologies, as notably evidenced in the 'Rom oder orient' debate of the early twentieth century. However, I will argue that even Said's critique of such projections is itself problematic as a basis for progressing beyond the limits of the east-west divide.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)327-346
JournalJournal of the Australian Early Medieval Association
Publication statusPublished - 2007


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