Byzantine Women and Their World


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Ioli Kalavrezou; With contributions by Angeliki E. Laiou, Alicia Walker, Elizabeth A. Gittings, Molly Fulghum Heintz, and Bissera V. Pentcheva


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This beautiful book explores the representation of women in the Byzantine Empire. Featuring nearly two hundred works of art, the volume illustrates how women in Byzantium were represented in both material and literary culture and explores the continuities and changes in their lives throughout the era.

The featured artworks—gathered from premier collections in North America—date from the fourth through the fifteenth century and represent a full range of media and subject matter. They include luxury objects such as ivories, silver vessels, and precious jewelry; utilitarian objects such as toiletries and weaving tools; official objects such as coins and seals; and ritual objects such as icons and amulets. Organized in two broad categories—women in the public sphere and women in the private sphere—these works of art and objects of everyday life illustrate the diverse roles of women in Byzantine society and offer a view of their personal and public lives. Introductory essays by leading Byzantinists Ioli Kalavrezou and Angeliki Laiou offer further insights into these themes.

Distributed for the Harvard Art Museum

Ioli Kalavrezou is Dumbarton Oaks Professor of Byzantine Art History at Harvard University.

“It is a very well-produced and turned-out volume. . . . The catalogue images are clear and well defined. The catalogue entries are lucid and offer useful information. . . . The essays, by a variety of authors, are informative. This is a book that will interest anyone with an interest in Byzantine women or in the material culture of Byzantium.”—Liz James, Anglo-Hellenic Review

"[Byzantine Women] is written in an accessible style that will appeal to general readers and beginning art history students."—Library Journal

“This compelling volume enriches our understanding of the varied role of women in the Byzantine world. . . . The volume expertly weaves together a view of women in both the public and domestic spheres, including chapters on civic life, as well as investigations of home and marriage. . . . The thorough bibliography that accompanies each entry will benefit scholars, while the content provides excellent assignments for undergraduates, especially in Women’s Studies. This book, which helps to fill an unfortunate lacuna in scholarship on women in Byzantium, is also accessible to the layperson seeking a deeper understanding of the role of women in Byzantine society.”—Religious Studies Review

"An exceptionally well documented exhibition catalogue. . . . A treasure trove for scholars interested in medieval women. Through small objects used in sewing and amulets worn to prevent ill-health, the authors have extended our knowledge about ordinary women of the Middle Ages. It is a most valuable collection of material beautifully presented."—Judith Herrin, Speculum

ISBN: 9780300096989
Publication Date: March 11, 2003
Publishing Partner: Distributed for the Harvard Art Museum
336 pages, 8 1/2 x 11
154 b/w + 124 color illus.