1st Edition

The Art of Dining in Medieval Byzantium

By Lara Frentrop Copyright 2024
    188 Pages 18 B/W Illustrations
    by Routledge

    Thousands of intact ceramic bowls and plates as well as fragments made in the medieval Byzantine empire survive to this day. Decorated with figural and non-figural imagery applied in a variety of techniques and adorned with colourful paints and glazes, the vessels can tell us much about those who owned them and those who looked at them. In addition to innumerable ceramic vessels, a handful of precious metal bowls and plates survive from the period. Together, these objects make up the art of dining in medieval Byzantium. This art of dining was effervescent, at turns irreverent and deadly serious, visually stunning and fun. It is suggestive of ways in which those viewing the objects used a quotidian and biologically necessary (f)act – that of eating – to reflect on their lives and deaths, their aspirations and their realities.

    This book examines the ceramic and metal vessels in terms of the information offered on the foods eaten, the foods desired and their status; the spectacle of the banquet; the relationship between word and image in medieval Byzantium; the dangers of taste; the emergence of new moral and social ideals; and the use of dining as a tool in constructing and enforcing hierarchy.

    This book is of appeal to scholarly and non-scholarly audiences interested in the art and material culture of the medieval period and in the social history of food and eating.

    Introduction 1.A Taste for Novelty 2. The Theatre of Dining: Splendour and Performance 3. Word, Image and Intellect: Rhetoric and Display at Table 4. Bad Taste 5. Manly Men, Heroic Hunters 6. The Display of Triumph, or: How A Plate Can Make You Powerful. Conclusion.


    Lara Frentrop completed her PhD at The Courtauld Institute of Art, London, and has since held lecturing and research roles at The Courtauld Institute and Heidelberg University, Germany. Her research explores how the interactive experience – from physical to rhetorical – of the material culture and architecture of medieval Byzantium created meaning and identity. Her work focuses on themes including communication and relationships, both human and divine; rhetoric; performativity; sin and salvation; and body and space.