Other peoples' dishes: Islamic Bacini on Eleventh-Century churches in Pisa

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Abstract

Pisan churches of the eleventh century feature the use of bacini, or ceramic bowls, as decoration on an unprecedented scale. The hundreds of bowls that still exist all came from the Islamic world and were imported at a time when Pisa was undertaking military campaigns against and conducting trade with Muslim territories throughout the Mediterranean. Eleventh-century visual and textual sources characterize the Pisans as traders and crusaders simultaneously, and this paper argues that the seemingly contradictory qualities of holy warrior and merchant were not only complementary but essential for the definition of a Pisan civic identity. The bacini served as visual manifestations of this identity, as they were located in highly visible locations on numerous public monuments throughout the city. In the eleventh century, the bacini in Pisa came predominantly from North Africa and referenced the advantageous trade relations the Pisans enjoyed in the western Mediterranean, differentiating them from their rivals in Amalfi and Venice, who had already established control over commerce in the eastern Mediterranean. Par from being symbols of triumph over a Muslim enemy, these basins from the Islamic world displayed the city's success in both crusade and trade and its sense of belonging in a Mediterranean environment.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)5-23
Number of pages19
JournalGESTA-International Center of Medieval Art
Volume53
Issue number1
StatePublished - Mar 1 2014

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Visual Arts and Performing Arts

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