Bibliographies Quotes

Notes from the Field: Mimesis

The study of mimesis has been an essential tool of art historical research since the founding of the field more than a century ago …. In sociology, the term relates to the deliberate imitation of the behavior of one group of people by another as a factor in social change; it carries the implication that the deliberate imitation is usually by those less advantaged. ….. For Byzantine culture, mimesis has generally been understood as imitation as it was defined in the 1991 OxfordDictionary of Byzantium.^

There Byzantine culture, which understood itself to be a continuum of the Roman Empire and the intellectual life of the classical past, was described as prioritizing mimesis over innovation in its preference for imitating or continuing classical models. Within this construct the Byzantine use of mimesis was identified as including the creative reidentification of classical concepts to mask new ideas and forms. This understanding of the role of mimesis in Byzantine culture encouraged a vision of the state as a static society, an ever weaker echo of the greatness of the classical age in which the concept of mimesis was developed. ….

More recently Byzantine scholars have increasingly concentrated on the mimetic innovations hidden within the Byzantine appearance of mimetic traditionalism. …. The exhibitions at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, The Glory of Byzantium: Art and Culture of the Middle Byzantine Era (843-1261) in 1997 and Byzantium: Eaith and Power (1261-1453) in 2004 presented other examples of Byzantine innovative mimesis in their exploration of the interaction between the empire, the center, and the periphery— border states, the West, and the Islamic world. The cultural strength of the center during eras of prosperity and decline was shown to have been both accepted and reworked or rejected by the periphery seeking its own “visual voices.”

In these instances mimesis functioned as an interactive connection to other peoples throughout the history of the state.

HELEN C. EVANS “Notes from the Field: Mimesis” Art Bulletin 95.2 (Jun 2013): 197-199 (p.

197-8)