Communities of StylePortable Luxury Arts, Identity, and Collective Memory in the Iron Age Levant

Communities of StylePortable Luxury Arts, Identity, and Collective Memory in the Iron Age Levant

Marian H. Feldman

Print publication date: 2015

ISBN: 9780226105611

Publisher: University of Chicago Press

Abstract

This book explores how communities formed around artworks in the Iron Age Levant (c. 1200-600 BCE). It argues that portable luxury arts forged collective memories and community identities through the production and consumption of style, understood as stylistic practices, and offers a rethinking of the way art historians approach style as an analytical feature of art. Stylistic analysis of Iron Age Levantine ivories and metalworks reveals a spectrum of heterogeneous styles that point to flexible networked communities of practice, rather than to one-to-one geographical associations between style and city-state, challenging the autochthonous nature of style and strictly culture-history classifications of art. An alternative approach for interpreting stylistic traits, derived from practice theory, proposes that stylistic practices be understood as part of embodied social relations. These are considered from the vantage point first of the Levant and then of its increasingly powerful neighbor Assyria. Contextualizing the stylistic practices of specific Levantine artworks, such as decorated metal (“Phoenician”) bowls, articulates the ways in which collective memories could coalesce around them through social activities such as drinking and libating. The artworks’ efficacy in creating social relations extends to contexts of displacement, recycling, and reuse, and the book concludes by tracing the narratives of several Levantine ivories and metalworks that moved in multiple contexts across cultures and social strata in the Near East and eastern Mediterranean.