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Dana Katz
BGC Visiting Fellow

Islamic Palaces in a Christian Land? The Royal Park Residences and Pavilions in the Twelfth-Century Norman Kingdom of Sicily

From their capital Palermo, the Norman rulers controlled a vast kingdom in the mid-twelfth century that stretched across southern Italy, the island of Sicily, and coastal Tunisia, with a diverse population of Muslims, Christians, and Jews. In the scholarly literature, they are renowned for their ecclesiastical building and programmatic mosaic cycles based on Byzantine models. The talk will consider another corpus of buildings, the palaces and pavilions located in the royal parklands just outside Palermo. These monuments are rarely discussed in most overviews of the artistic and architectural production of the medieval kingdom of Sicily. Katz will explore the reasons for their exclusion, among which is that they do not seem to fit into existing disciplinary paradigms of Western medieval art history for monuments commissioned by Christian kings. This is because they were built entirely in what could be termed an Islamic mode, and thus they cannot be considered “hybrid” monuments. The latter interpretation has been made by some scholars in reference to key works in the royal Norman sphere, denoting the supposed syncretism of their rule and even tolerance toward the multi-faith population. The talk will include recent findings in Palermo and on the island that illuminate the preceding period of Islamic rule, while also considering comparative monuments to the Sicilian parkland palaces elsewhere in the twelfth-century Mediterranean. The ultimate aim is to demonstrate that these secular buildings in the human-modified landscapes on the periphery of medieval Palermo were central to the formulation of Norman kingship and are rich in cultural significance and meaning.

Tuesday, October 12, 12:15–1:15 pm

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Dana Katz received her BA from the University of Pennsylvania and her PhD from the Department of Art History at the University of Toronto. She was a postdoctoral fellow at the Haifa Center for Mediterranean History and held a Lady Davis Postdoctoral Fellowship at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. Her research has been supported by the Fulbright Foundation, the Samuel H. Kress Foundation, Medieval Academy of America (Olivia Remie Constable Award), and Garden and Landscape Studies at the Dumbarton Oaks Research Library and Collection. She has participated in international seminars organized by the School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS) at the University of London and funded by the Getty Foundation, as well as the Bibliotheca Hertziana–Max Planck Institute for Art History. She is currently working on a monograph on a historical landscape in the medieval Mediterranean, the royal parklands of the twelfth-century Norman kings of Sicily, which she will be completing this year at BGC. Her work has been published in the Mitteilungen des Kunsthistorischen Institutes in FlorenzConvivium: Exchanges and Interactions in the Arts of Medieval Europe, Byzantium, and the Mediterranean, and most recently in the International Journal of Islamic Architecture. In addition to specializing in medieval Sicily, her research interests include Islamic art and architecture, Crusader art, museology, and the formation of modern collections of Islamic and medieval art.

This event will be held via Zoom. A link will be circulated to registrants by 10 am on the day of the event. This event will be live with automatic captions.