Russell to Speak on `Animal Style in Art: From Scythia to Aghtamar’

Russell to Speak on `Animal Style in Art: From Scythia to Aghtamar’

May 14, 2013

BELMONT, Mass. – On Thurs., May 30, Dr. James R. Russell, Mashtots
Professor of Armenian Studies at Harvard University, will give an
illustrated lecture entitled, `The Animal Style in Art: From Scythia
to Aghtamar to Modern Russian Literature,’ at the National Association
for Armenian Studies and Research (NAASR) in Belmont. The lecture will
be given in honor of the 90th birthday of Prof. Nina G. Garsoian, the
Avedissian Professor Emerita of Armenian History and Civilization at
Columbia University and the director of the `Revue des Etudes
Armeniennes’ in Paris.

Built in AD 920, the Church of the Holy Cross on Aghtamar island in
Lake Van famously features a spectacular bas-relief sculptural program
on its outer walls, where we find antic animals strikingly reminiscent
of images from Scythian art, wrought in gold, of the ancient world.
The impression one takes away from Scythian art is of the pleasure of
movement, the beauty of the kinetic body. And if one recalls that much
of this art was meant to be portable, often to adorn a rider and his
mount, it is understandable that it celebrated the galloping horse,
the swooping falcon, the hare or stag in full flight.

If the Animal Style, which endured for many centuries past the
Classical age, found its way from gold to stone, with perhaps a quick
stopover in Sasanian Iran, it is surely at home in Armenia. Tracing
the imagery of Scythia and Aghtamar’s Church of the Holy Cross and
following it into Russian art and literature, Russell will pursue the
meanings and repercussions of this pattern of animal imagery, in
visual art and in the written word.

Russell has been the Mashtots Professor of Armenian Studies at Harvard
since 1992. His books include Bosphorus Nights: The Complete Lyric
Poems of Bedros Tourian, Armenian and Iranian Studies, The Book of
Flowers, An Armenian Epic: The Heroes of Kasht, Zoroastrianism in
Armenia, and Hovhannes Tlkurantsi and the Medieval Armenian Lyric

Garsoian received her B.A. from Bryn Mawr College in 1943 and her M.A.
and Ph.D. from Columbia University in 1946 and 1958, respectively, in
Byzantine, Near Eastern, and Armenian history. Garsoian was the first
female dean of the Graduate School at Princeton University and a
two-term trustee of the Ford Foundation.

The talk begins at 7:30 p.m. For more information, call 617-489-1610
or e-mail [email protected]

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