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The Gold of Banjska

March 24, 2022
04:00 PM to 05:30 PM
Ivan Drpić examines the use of gilding in medieval Serbian wall painting.


Midway through the quick succession of brief biographical notes about Serbian monarchs and potentates that comprise the so-called Genealogy of Karlovci, a fifteenth-century text, the reader comes across a passage of considerable art historical import. Writing about the great works of royal and clerical patronage, the anonymous author declares that “the pavement of the church at Prizren, the church of Dečani, the narthex of Peć, the gold of Banjska, and the paintings of Resava are to be found nowhere else.” This lecture takes the peculiar reference to “the gold of Banjska” as the point of entry into an exploration of a little-studied phenomenon—the extensive use of gilding in medieval Serbian wall painting. Drpić uses the results of recently conducted technical analyses to illuminate this phenomenon and clarify its significance for finding Serbia’s place on the artistic map of the later Middle Ages. 

Ivan Drpić is associate professor of history of art at the University of Pennsylvania. He specializes in the art, architecture, and material culture of Byzantium and its Slavic neighbors in Southeastern Europe. Drpić’s first book, Epigram, Art, and Devotion in Later Byzantium (Cambridge University Press, 2016)—the winner of the 2017 Runciman Prize and the 2019 Karen Gould Prize—explores the nexus of art, personal piety, and self-representation in the last centuries of Byzantium, focusing on the evidence of verse inscriptions. Drpić is working on a second book, The Enkolpion: Object and Self in Medieval Byzantium, which investigates the dynamics of subject formation through the lens of material culture. 

This event is organized by Dumbarton Oaks in collaboration with North of Byzantium and the American Institute for Southeast European Studies.

Unidentified holy bishop, painted between 1317 and 1321. Church of St. Stephen, Monastery of Banjska, Kosovo. Photo by Djordje Djoković.