Dr Umberto Bongianino, The Mediterranean horizons of Norman Sicilian art: new evidence from Arabic epigraphy


  • 5.15pm

  • Hunter Building, Hunter Lecture Theatre (017)
    74 Lauriston Place
    Edinburgh
    EH3 9DF

Led by Dr Umberto Bongianino, University of Oxford

The establishment of the Norman kingdom of Sicily in 1130 prompted the development of an unparalleled artistic milieu, encompassing elements from the Latin West, the Byzantine Empire and the Islamic world. The new palaces and churches founded on the island became a stage where the Mediterranean ambitions of Roger II and his successors could be boasted through images and texts, some of which in Arabic. This paper will consider the aesthetic impact and stylistic variety of the Arabic epigraphy produced under the Norman kings, focusing in particular on its links with coeval royal inscriptions from Tunis and other Muslim courts in North Africa. The 12th century was a turning point in the history of Arabic calligraphy and epigraphy across the Mediterranean, and the craftsmen working at the Norman court of Palermo were up to date with the latest trends and participated fully in the artistic networks of the time.

About the speaker

Umberto Bongianino is Departmental Lecturer in Islamic Art and Architecture at the Khalili Research Centre, University of Oxford. He is principally interested in the architecture and material culture of the Islamic dynasties that ruled across the medieval Mediterranean between the 9th and the 13th centuries. His studies have focused on a number of topics, including the Islamic components of Norman Sicilian art, ceramic production and trade in Fatimid Egypt and Syria, Fatimid architecture and archaeology in Cairo, Tunisia, and Libya (Ajdabiya), Arabic epigraphy and palaeography in the Medieval Maghrib and al-Andalus.

Part of the 2019/20 History of Art Research Seminar Series