Worth Their Weight In Gold: The Significance of Lead Seals to Byzantine Studies
October 28, 2021 5:00-6:30pm EDT
Virtual Public Lecture with Alicia Walker
Byzantine sigillography is a specialized subdivision of an already esoteric field. Yet this seeming obscurity belies the substantial interdisciplinary value of lead seals. The iconographic, inscriptional, and functional aspects of these objects offer unique perspectives on diverse areas of interest, both within the study of Byzantine society and with respect to medieval intercultural dynamics. In this lecture, Alicia Walker presents Byzantine sigillography as a rich domain for interdisciplinary investigation and collaboration, highlighting lead seals as a nexus for exchange among the various fields of Byzantine studies and a vital conduit for contributions to medieval studies more broadly.
Alicia Walker (PhD, Harvard University) is professor of medieval art and architecture at Bryn Mawr College. Her primary fields of research are cross-cultural artistic interaction in the medieval world from the ninth to the thirteenth century and gender issues in the art and material culture of Byzantium. Her first monograph, The Emperor and the World: Exotic Elements and the Imaging of Middle Byzantine Imperial Power, Ninth to Thirteenth Centuries CE, was published by Cambridge University Press in 2012. She is coeditor of the essay collection Negotiating Secular and Sacred in Medieval Art: Christian, Islamic, and Buddhist (Ashgate, 2009), and the special issue of the journal Medieval Encounters entitled Mechanisms of Exchange: Transmission in Medieval Art and Architecture of the Mediterranean, ca. 1000–1500 (Brill, 2012, vol. 18, no. 4–5). She is an alumna of the Dumbarton Oaks Byzantine coins and seals summer program and her research on exotic motifs in Byzantine lead seals has appeared in The Medieval History Journal.
Image: Joseph imperial spatharios and kommerkiarios, tenth century, 25 mm diam. Dumbarton Oaks, Harvard Art Museums/Arthur M. Sackler Museum, bequest of Thomas Whittemore, 19188.8.131.528