During the fourteenth and thirteenth centuries BCE, the kings of Egypt, Babylonia, Assyria, and Hatti participated in a complex international community. These two hundred years also witnessed the production of luxurious artworks made of gold, ivory, alabaster, and faience objects that helped to foster good relations among the kingdoms. In fact, as Marian H. Feldman makes clear here, art and international relations during the Late Bronze Age formed an unprecedented symbiosis, in concert with expanded travel and written communications across the Mediterranean. And thus diplomacy was invigorated through the exchange of lavish art objects and luxury goods, which shared a repertoire of imagery that modern scholars have called the first International Style in the history of art.
Previous studies have focused almost exclusively on stylistic attribution of these objects at the expense of social contextualization. Feldman s "Diplomacy by Design" instead examines the profound connection between art produced during this period and its social and political contexts, revealing inanimate objects as catalysts or even participants in human dynamics. Feldman s fascinating study shows the ways in which the diplomatic circulation of these works actively mediated and strengthened political relations, intercultural interactions, and economic negotiations and she does so through diverse disciplinary frameworks including art history, anthropology, and social history. 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" considers anew the symbolic power of material culture and its centrality in the construction of human relations."show more