The Innsbruck Plate

This paper presents a novel methodological framework through which to examine medieval artifacts such as the Innsbruck Plate. Namely, I argue that its origin may be more accurately ascertained by considering its political implications in the context of contemporary geopolitics.

Here is a link to a polished research paper on the Innsbruck/Artuqid Plate that was originally written for a Freshman seminar on medieval art. This paper presents a novel methodological framework through which to examine medieval artifacts such as the Innsbruck Plate.

Abstract:

The Innsbruck Plate has remained an exceptional example of iconographic diversity in medieval Middle Eastern art; however, the relatively dense scholarship on the Plate’s nature has failed to reach a decisive conclusion on the most basic facts of its origin. The two prevailing theories suggest either the Byzantine Empire or Georgia. These theories have been constructed primarily around artistic analyses with no intensive exploration of the Plate’s political implications within the context of contemporary diplomatic trends. Lacking a more holistic exploration of the Plate’s origins, it has been impossible to reach a definitive conclusion on the nature of its production. Reconstructing the Plate’s political implications may restrict the scope of its potential origins and recipients considerably. Analysis of two political trends of the twelfth-century Middle East may achieve this function: contraction of the diplomatic spheres occupied by the Artuqid dynasty and macroscopic shifts in the patterns of contemporary diplomacy. Combining an understanding of the Plate’s political implications with the existing historiography on the Plate’s iconography will enable a far more decisive conclusion on the origins, recipient, and period of the Plate, namely that it was most likely sent around the 1120s by the Georgians. Perhaps more critically, this conclusion will also evidence a fundamental issue with this field of art history and challenge certain assumptions about the nature of art-historical study: analysis of iconography alone does not always yield the requisite information necessary to determine the origins of artifacts such as the Innsbruck Plate. While this paper has avoided the deep iconographic analyses that define many art history papers on the period, its conclusions have, nevertheless, evidenced a new framework through which such methodological processes may be approached and accessed.