Fellow of the Volkswagen Stiftung and the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation
January 2020 – December 2020
Medieval Art in Eastern Europe: Art, Architecture, and Visual Culture at the Crossroads of the Latin, Greek, and Slavic Cultural Sphere
Alice Isabella Sullivan’s research engages with issues of cross-cultural translation and visual plurality in the artistic production of East-Central Europe and the Byzantine-Slavic cultural spheres, c.1400 – c.1700. Her monograph investigates a little-known but significant corpus of post-Byzantine churches in modern Romania in terms of the cross-cultural interactions that contributed to their eclectic visual forms. These painted and fortified Orthodox monastic churches were built under the patronage of Stephen III (r. 1457-1504) and his heir, Peter Rareş (r. 1527-1538; 1541-1546), and exhibit an unprecedented mixture of western Gothic, Byzantine, Slavic, and even Islamic architectural and iconographic features integrated alongside local forms. Although these buildings have heretofore been studied largely from archaeological and iconographic standpoints, an important part of this project has been the attempt to develop a new critical framework for the evaluation of these churches. This research, thus, addresses the multifaceted visual character of the edifices, the historical circumstances under which they were built, and the varied dimensions of Orthodox monastic spaces in relation to dynastic, economic, political, and military concerns on the part of the patrons. Although deeply rooted in the material and textual evidence, this project also introduces new lines of inquiry into the complexities of cultural exchange and the processes of visual translation across Europe and the Mediterranean during the late medieval and early modern periods.
Alice Isabella Sullivan holds a PhD in Art History from the University of Michigan and an MA from the Williams College Graduate Program in the History of Art. She has published articles in The Art Bulletin, Speculum, Studies in History and Theory of Architecture, The Metropolitan Museum Journal, Cahiers Balkaniques, Romanian Medievalia, and Rutgers Art Review. Her 2017 Art Bulletin article, which explores the multivalent significance and transtemporality of the “Siege of Constantinople” mural type in the Moldavian cultural context, has won the 2019 Van Courtlandt Elliott Prize from the Medieval Academy of America. Sullivan also serves as the Editor for Eastern Europe for the Encyclopedia of the Global Middle Ages, and is a co-founder of the initiative North of Byzantium (www.northofbyzantium.org). Focused on scholarly and public events, publications, and resources, this project aims to connect researchers and to situate the history, art, and culture of the northern frontiers of the Byzantine Empire in East-Central Europe within the larger and more established narratives of medieval, Byzantine, and early modern art history. Within the context of this project, Sullivan is also working on two co-edited volumes that examine and theorize the eclecticism with respect to sources so evident in the rich artistic production of the Balkan Peninsula and the Carpathian Mountains that emerged in dialogue with artistic developments in western Europe and the Byzantine-Slavic cultural spheres between the fourteenth and sixteenth centuries. The issues addressed in these volumes center on the specificities but also the shared cultural heritage of these eastern European territories that formed a cultural landscape beyond medieval, Byzantine, and modern borders.