January 23, 2019

Ivan Drpić Receives the 2019 Karen Gould Prize in Art History

Ivan Drpić’s Epigram, Art, and Devotion in Later Byzantium (Cambridge University Press, 2016) offers a compelling study of the poetic texts that mediated and enhanced art in the last centuries of the Byzantine empire. The author addresses the intersection of these ubiquitous texts with personal piety by focusing on inscriptions in a range of devotional images, from personal icons to architectural decoration. Moving beyond the epigrams as text, Drpić reveals how their material and visual dimensions play an important role in the agency of their patrons. The author shows that adornment as a concept, action, and thing—kosmos in Byzantine Greek —plays a central role in the patrons’ engagement with art. The addition of mounts or appliqués of metals, jewels, or precious fabrics incorporating the patron’s name and, perhaps, his or her own poetic effort enhanced the object and amplified the relationships between the individual donor and the depicted figure. This beautifully-written book establishes not only the critical role epigrams played in their own time, but brings them into art-historical discourse as important sources of information about art and its social agency in later Byzantine culture. Given the circulation of Byzantine devotional objects in western Europe, this multidisciplinary study makes an important contribution to the wider scope of medieval art history. It also provides an exemplary method for the reading and investigation of such texts that should be widely emulated.

The Karen Gould Prize, established by an endowed gift from Lewis Gould in 2016, is awarded annually for a book or monograph (conference proceedings and collected essays are not eligible) in medieval art history judged by the selection committee to be of outstanding quality. To be eligible, the author must be resident in North America and be a member in good standing of the Medieval Academy of America.

Karen Gould (1946 – 2012) was an art historian specializing in manuscript illumination and was the author of The Psalter and Hours of Yolande of Soissons (Speculum Anniversary Monographs) (Medieval Academy of America, 1978). The prize established in her name consists of a certificate and a monetary award of $1,000. It is announced at the annual meeting of the academy each spring. The first Prize will be given in 2018.

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