The pseudo-kufic ornament and the problem of cross-cultural relationships between Byzantium and Islam

Source document: Opuscula historiae artium. 2014, vol. 62, iss. Supplementum, pp. 120-136
  • ISSN
    1211-7390 (print)
    2336-4467 (online)
Type: Article
License: Not specified license
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The aim of the paper is to analyze pseudo-kufic ornament in Byzantine art and the reception of the topic in Byzantine Studies. The pseudo-kufic ornamental motifs seem to occupy a middle position between the purely formal abstractness and freedom of arabesque and the purely symbolic form of a semantic and referential mean, borrowed from an alien language, moreover. This double nature (that is also a double negation) makes of pseudo-kufic decoration a very interesting liminal object, an object of "transition", as it were, at the crossroad of different domains. Starting from an assessment of the theoretical questions raised by the aesthetic peculiarities of this kind of ornament, we consider, from this specific point of view, the problem of the cross-cultural impact of Islamic and islamicizing formal repertory on Byzantine ornament, focusing in particular on a hitherto unpublished illuminated manuscript dated to the 10th century and held by the Marciana Library in Venice.