Why the Louvre needs a Byzantine art section

The Louvre in Paris. Photo: Ian Kelsall (Creative Commons) Paris is a city with a lasting connection to the art and culture of the Eastern medieval empire, Byzantium. From the construction in the 13th century of Sainte-Chapelle to hold the relics Louis IX acquired from Constantinople to Chanel’s Pre-Fall 2011 Paris-Byzance collection inspired by the Empress Theodora, Byzantium is interwoven into the historical fabric of the city. The prolific publication of Byzantine texts translated into French, the enormous contribution of modern French scholarship on Byzantium, and the outstanding collections homed in Paris of objects from the empire – these have all long established France and its capital city as centres for the study of Byzantium. In Paris, the presence of Byzantine art is not just an expectation; it is a cultural requirement that demands visibility. In the past few months, the temporary exhibition ‘Chrétiens d’Orient: 2000 ans d’histoire’ (Christians of the East: 2000 years of history; closed 14 January) at the Institute of the Arab World and the inauguration in November of a room in the permanent collection of the Petit Palais to display Roger Cabal’s gift of Orthodox Christian art to the museum have brought much excitement to the city. Why the Louvre needs a Byzantine art section

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