Women’s Impact: Byzantium in the Visual Culture of Medieval Eastern Europe

Wednesday March 22 at 5:30pm PT.

Dr. Maria Alessia Rossi and Dr. Alice Isabella Sullivan 

This event will be held in person

Buchanan A Building, 1866 Main Mall, University of British Columbia


Women’s Impact: Byzantium in the Visual Culture of Medieval Eastern Europe


















Byzantium has long shaped the history and visual culture of medieval Eastern Europe, which have transformed in local contexts the rich legacy of the medieval Eastern Roman Empire before and after the fall of Constantinople in 1453. This lecture explores the history and artistic production of medieval Eastern Europe in relation to Byzantium through the lens of two notable women and their impact: Simonis, the daughter of the Byzantine Emperor Andronikos II (r. 1282–1328) and wife of the Serbian King Milutin (r. 1282–1321), and Maria Asanina Palaiologina of Mangup, the second wife of Stephen III of Moldavia (r. 1457–1504). These royal women played critical roles in establishing diplomatic connections and promoting artistic contacts between the Byzantine cultural sphere and the Serbian and Moldavian realms, respectively. The analysis of key objects and monuments – ranging from monumental building projects to mural cycles, textiles, manuscripts, and metalwork – reveals local adaptations of competing traditions and how interconnected the regions of the Balkans and the Carpathians were relative to Byzantium and to each other during and after the empire’s collapse. In addition, the lecture outlines current scholarly approaches to the study of the visual culture of medieval Eastern Europe, and engages with theoretical concerns and issues of terminology around the study of art and architecture in cross-cultural and transcultural contexts.

This lecture and visit is co-sponsored by the Department of Art History, Visual Art and Theory at the University of British Columbia, the Stavros Niarchos Foundation Centre for Hellenic Studies at Simon Fraser University, and the North of Byzantium initiative through the Mary Jaharis Center for Byzantine Art and Culture. Additional support is provided by the Centre for European Studies at the University of British Columbia.



Maria Alessia Rossi (PhD, Courtauld Institute of Art) is an Art History Specialist at the Index of Medieval Art at Princeton University. She has taught medieval and Byzantine art history in diverse settings, such as the Courtauld Institute of Art, adult education institutions in London, and New Jersey prisons. Her main research interests include issues of cultural contact, transmission, and appropriation of Byzantine artistic traditions in the Balkans and in western medieval regions; the role of Christ’s miracles in both text and image in the Mediterranean after 1204; patronage patterns; and the transfer of artistic ideas and the shaping of women’s identities beyond geographical borders. Currently she is working on a book exploring the proliferation of Christ’s miracles in monumental decoration in Byzantium (1261-1330).

Alice Isabella Sullivan (PhD, University of Michigan) is Assistant Professor of Medieval Art and Architecture at Tufts University, specializing in the artistic production of Eastern Europe and the Byzantine-Slavic cultural spheres. She has taught art history courses on medieval, Byzantine, Islamic, and early modern topics, as well as seminars on methodology and critical theory in art history. Sullivan’s current projects focus on the history, art, and culture of the principality of Moldavia and regions of the Carpathian Mountains between the fourteenth and seventeenth centuries. She has published articles in The Art Bulletin, Speculum, Gesta, Studies in History and Theory of Architecture, The Metropolitan Museum Journal, Romanian Medievalia, and Rutgers Art Review, among others.