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Kelsey Eldridge

“Porphyry Sarcophagi and the Material Language of Byzantium”

Kelsey Eldridge

Harvard University, Byzantine Studies Tyler Fellow

Eldridge’s dissertation project focuses on the use of porphyry in the medieval Italian peninsula. Porphyry is a rare purple marble first used in architecture and ornament in imperial Rome, but later became closely associated with the emperors of Byzantium. As a result, during the medieval period the material symbolism of porphyry was caught between the realms of new and old Rome. By examining the use of porphyry in various papal, imperial, and funerary contexts this, Eldridge looks at the Christianization of porphyry as a material in an effort to understand what its use in architecture and ornamentation conferred upon its patrons and communicated to their public. Her work is anchored by an examination of porphyry sarcophagi found in Byzantium, Ostrogothic Ravenna, Norman Sicily, and early Medici Florence. As symbolically laden objects with their origins in imperial Rome, these sarcophagi transformed into emblems of Christian dynastic legitimacy.

Kelsey Eldridge is a PhD candidate in the history of art and architecture at Harvard University, and she holds an MA in art history from the University of Washington. Eldridge has interned at both the Harvard Art Museum and Dumbarton Oaks Museum, and was previously a graduate fellow at Villa i Tatti, the Harvard Center for Italian Renaissance Studies.