The ICMA is pleased to announce the recipients of the 2018 ICMA Annual Book Prize. This annual prize is awarded to the best single- or dual-authored book on any topic in medieval art. Click here for more information and information on submitting for the 2019 Prize.
Arabic Script on Christian Kings. Textile Inscriptions on Royal
Garments from Norman Sicily
De Gruyter, 2017.
In her book Arabic Script on Christian Kings. Textile Inscriptions on Royal Garments from Norman Sicily, Isabelle Dolezalek successfully achieves two aims that, at first glance, might appear contradictory: she offers a focused and profound study of Arabic inscriptions in Norman Sicily, while at the same time raising questions on a grand scale for the field of medieval art history. Throughout, the author goes beyond the state of the art, employing innovative approaches and asking new questions that spur readers to think in fresh ways about their own research. Her superb study demonstrates the ideal combination of original thinking with careful, detail-oriented research. Although the focus is on Palermo in the first half of the twelfth century, Dolezalek provides comparisons with both analogous and differing practices in the larger Islamic world. Her research sheds light on the ways in which precious textiles embellished with Arabic inscriptions contributed to the mise-en-scène of the political body. Inscriptions in three languages are interrogated for issues of readability and sound, addressing the performative aspects of legal actions for potential audiences. Along with the well known mantle of Roger II, for which the author identifies continuity as a political choice, she examines other inscribed works, reading the successive texts embroidered on an alb, for example, as a textile archive that documents political authority. Dolezalek deserves high praise for her innovative book that, pushing beyond traditional categories, is an excellent example of investigation into cross-cultural interactions in the Middle Ages. This is a book that encourages multiple rereadings, each time rewarding the reader with a plethora of new interpretations, stimulating suggestions, and original observations. There is no doubt that Arabic Script on Christian Kings will have a significant impact on the discipline of art history as a whole.
De Gruyter site: click here
Theophilus and the Theory and Practice of Medieval Art
Penn State University Press, 2017.
Beautifully written (and entirely jargon-free), exquisitely edited, lavishly illustrated: Theophilus and the Theory and Practice of Medieval Art by Heidi Gearhart is a model art historical publication. The author offers admirable in-depth analysis of On Diverse Arts, a text that belongs to the canon of medieval primary sources yet has often been misunderstood. In doing so, Gearhart makes a major contribution to our understanding of the medieval viewpoint concerning the meanings of craftsmanship within its religious dimensions. Employing an approach associated with the new medieval philology, the author interrogates the contents of manuscripts in which this text is found to show how readers, writers, and librarians understood its genre and therefore much of its meaning. Gearhart departs from the extant Theophilus manuscripts and their compositions to highlight the important evidence that stems from codicological analysis, paying careful attention to the significance of adjectives and described actions. By demonstrating what can be deduced from the way Theophilus’ text was categorized in the Middle Ages, as for example the importance of it having been bound together with Vitruvius, Gearhart makes clear that identifying the genre of Theophilus's writing is essential to its interpretation. Further, she successfully connects areas of our subfield that tend to be separated: studies on making medieval art, on seeing medieval art, and on medieval aesthetic discourse. The crucial insights in this study show that there is still much to be learned about Theophilus, even for scholars well familiar with his texts. Finally, Penn
State Press is to be commended for its impeccable production of Gearhart’s gorgeous book.
Penn State University Press site: click here
Therese Martin, Chair, ICMA Annual Book Prize Jury