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Grant number like: FT-55956-08

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Cecily Hilsdale
Northwestern University (Evanston, IL 60208-0001)

Summer Stipends
Research Programs

$6,000 (approved)
$6,000 (awarded)

Grant period:
7/1/2008 – 9/30/2008

Greeks Bearing Gifts: Byzantine Art and Diplomacy in an Age of Decline

This project explores the construction of cultural value across the Mediterranean and beyond from the thirteenth to the fifteenth century with particular focus on late Byzantine art and diplomacy. Although Byzantium at this time is most often characterized in terms of economic and political decline, this was also a period of great cultural strength. My project attends to this seeming paradox through analysis of custom-made diplomatic gifts sent from Constantinople to such distant medieval courts as Paris and Moscow. These custom-made art objects, because they were deployed for specific diplomatic purposes, are uniquely positioned to capture the tensions between artistic vibrancy and diminishing political and economic leverage. My project thus critically expands our understanding of cultural exchange by questioning how the concept of political decline re-figures categories of wealth and value, categories that lie at the core of cultural and diplomatic exchange.