Diplomacy by Design

Luxury Arts and an "International Style" in the Ancient Near East, 1400-1200 BCE

Marian H. Feldman

Diplomacy by Design

Marian H. Feldman

272 pages | 20 color plates, 71 halftones, 2 maps, 1 table | 8 1/2 x 11 | © 2005
Cloth $81.00 ISBN: 9780226240442 Published May 2006
Art and international relations during the Late Bronze Age formed a symbiosis as expanded travel and written communications fostered unprecedented cultural exchange across the Mediterranean. Diplomacy in these new political and imperial relationships was often maintained through the exchange of lavish art objects and luxury goods. The items bestowed during this time shared a repertoire of imagery that modern scholars call the first International Style in the history of art.

Marian Feldman’s Diplomacy by Design examines the profound connection between art produced during this period and its social context, revealing inanimate objects as catalysts—or even participants—in human dynamics. Feldman’s fascinating study shows the ways in which the exchange of these works of art actively mediated and strengthened political relations, intercultural interactions, and economic negotiations. Previous studies of this international style have focused almost exclusively on stylistic attribution at the expense of social contextualization. Written by a specialist in ancient Near Eastern art and archaeology who has excavated and traveled extensively in this area of the world, Diplomacy by Design provides a much broader consideration of the symbolic power of material culture and its centrality in the construction of human relations. 

List of Illustrations
Chronological Chart
1. Redefining the "International Style"
2. The Role of Visual Hybridity
3. Iconography and Meaning
4. Questions of Style and Production
5. Materiality, Luxury Goods, and Diplomatic Gifts
6. Objects and Crafting
7. International Luxury Goods in Space and Time
8. The Materiality of Greeting Letters
9. Contextualizing the International Koiné
1. Representation and Negotiation In Between
Ugarit and the Northern Levant
Review Quotes
Irene Winter, Harvard University

“Feldman’s argument is elegant and persuasive: that luxury goods and ceremonial exchange played a significant role, not only in elite interaction, but also in the very rhetoric of social and political relations. It is an eloquent testimony to the relationship between ‘style’ and ‘meaning.’”--Irene Winter, Harvard University

A. Bernard Knapp, University of Glasgow

“This is a superb piece of scholarship, as well crafted as the objects it describes in fluent and knowledgeable detail. Diplomacy by Design is a strikingly original, lucid volume bound to entice a diverse readership.”

Elizabeth Carter, University of California, Los Angeles

Diplomacy by Design is a fine book that offers readers a useful and sophisticated synthesis of the late second millennium B.C. in the Ancient Near East. Feldman has written an excellent and innovative book, bringing together both anthropology and art history.”—Elizabeth Carter, University of California, Los Angeles 

"This thoughtful scholarship, applied to an explanation of a set of strange luxury goods of the 14th to 12th century BCE in the ancient New East, can broaden one’s view of history and current globalization including art. In intense text with copious footnotes, bibliography, and index, Feldman uses ancient correspondence to clarify a unique style on gold and silver, ivory, alabaster, faience, and linen."
Mehmet-Ali Atac | Bryn Mawr Classical Review
"The book is a dense read, rich in theory and terminology. . . . [Diplomacy by Design] is a wonderful resource not only for scholars specializing in the particular questions the book probes, but also for scholars and teachers of the ancient Near East at large in putting together the many pieces of one of the most complicated eras of ancient Near Eastern history. Feldman brings together within her expertise elements belonging to the study of Egypt, Assyria, the Hittites, the Aegean, each a discipline in its own right, and does not come across as amateur in any of them. The book certainly goes beyond the luxury objects it examines, becoming an authoritative study on the social, cultural, and intellectual history of the period."
David Wengrow | Cambridge Archaeological Journal
"Diplomacy by Design is that rarest of things: a stunningly produced book that also contains a bold argument and makes the reader think. Feldman has worked hard to question conventional boundaries of scholarship. . . . The outcome is likely to generate considerable debate, and should embolden all students of epigraphy, art history and archaeology to look beyond their ordinary specialisms towards a more holistic view of cross-cultural relations in the Bronze Age."
Allison Karmel Thomason | Bulletin of American Schools of Oriental Research
"A fascinating and meticulously researched book that has something for everyone: art historians, historians, archaeologists, anthropologists, and philologists. . . . Feldman’s close descriptions and formal analyses of the ’International Style’ objects is an art historian’s dream. She tackles thorny issues and matters of great debate with aplomb and confidence. . . . She should be especially commended, indeed heartily congratulated, for her careful attention to defining precisely and fully the theoretical, art historical, and other terms that she uses for audiences both familiar and unfamiliar with them."
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