Lisa Reilly, "The Invention of Norman Visual Culture: Art, Politics, and Dynastic Ambition" (Cambridge UP, 2020)


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In The Invention of Norman Visual Culture: Art, Politics, and Dynastic Ambition (Cambridge UP, 2020), Lisa Reilly establishes a new interpretive paradigm for the eleventh and twelfth-century art and architecture of the Norman world in France, England, and Sicily. Traditionally, scholars have considered iconic works like the Cappella Palatina and the Bayeux Embroidery in a geographically piecemeal fashion that prevents us from seeing their full significance. Here, Reilly examines these works individually and within the larger context of a connected Norman world. Just as Rollo founded the Normandy "of different nationalities", the Normans created a visual culture that relied on an assemblage of forms. To the modern eye, these works are perceived as culturally diverse. As Reilly demonstrates, the multiple sources for Norman visual culture served to expand their meaning. Norman artworks represented the cultural mix of each locale, and the triumph of Norman rule, not just as a military victory but as a legitimate succession, and often as the return of true Christian rule.

Tanja Tolar is a Senior Teaching Fellow at the School of Oriental and African Studies in London.

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