This book is the by-product of an exhibition of late antique and early Byzantine art from Egypt.* In the course of the preparation of this exhibition and the writing of its catalogue I was confronted more dramatically than ever with the pitfalls of the dating of Egyptian late antique and early Byzantine works of art, with the long shadow cast by the biassed interpretation of Coptic culture in general and Coptic art in particular that was presented by Josef Strzygowski and his followers, and with the high-handed attitude of modern historians of art towards the Egyptian province of late antique-early Byzantine art. If I suceeded in the rectification of some of the old preconceptions and in the delineation of a more realistic picture of Coptic art as an integral part of the late antique-early Byzantine art of the Mediterranean, it is owing first of all to what I have learnt from the work of my friends and colleagues to whom this book is dedicated, and to what I have learnt from the work of historians and art historians who, like Peter Brown, Glen Bowersock, Peter Grossmann, Hans-Georg Severin or Ja´s Elsner, steadily opposed the onerous traditions of Coptic art history.
For facilitating my work in Egypt, I am greatly indebted to the authorities of the Supreme Council of Antiquities, Arab Republic of Egypt, the staffs of the Coptic Museum, Cairo, Graeco-Roman Museum, Alexandria, Alexandria National Museum, Alexandria, and the library of the Deutsches Archäologisches Institut, Abteilung Kairo. I also owe thanks to the Department of Antiquities, Museum of Fine Arts, Budapest, and particularly to Mr. Géza Andó, without whose assistance my field work in Egypt and the preparation of the illustration of this book could not have been completed. I am deeply indebted to the staff at Koninklijke Brill, particularly to Ms. Mattie Kuiper and Ms. Willy de Gijzel, Editors, Unit Religion and Social Sciences.
Budapest in November, 2004.
* See, After the Pharaohs. Treasures of Coptic Art from Egyptian Collections. Museum of Fine Arts, Budapest. 18 March–18 May 2005. Catalogue by L. Török. Budapest 2005.