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Mary, a Multivalent Figure and the Mother of All

Dumbarton Oaks Music Room
January 24, 2019
06:00 PM to 07:30 PM
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Juggling the Middle Ages and Byzantine Studies Public Lecture, Ioli Kalavrezou, Harvard University

The Virgin Mary has become the most venerated figure in the Christian world and beyond, and Marian studies have flourished in Western medieval and Byzantine art history. By discussing a selection of individual established compositions that were created over centuries, this talk will present the different dimensions and themes that define Mary and her role as the MΗΤΗΡ ΘΕΟΥ, the Mother of God, in the art and theology of Byzantium. She not only is the powerful mediator but also becomes an active participant in the various aspects of Christian life. The talk will draw attention to the many and diverse qualities of her character and focus on those aspects that gave her the position she held for many centuries in Orthodox Christianity and still holds today. She had become a multivalent and complex figure in the religious and devotional life of her people.

A prominent Byzantine art historian, Ioli Kalavrezou has focused her scholarship on a variety of research topics including the political and ideological history of the Empire, the place and role of women in Byzantine society, and the cult of the Virgin Mary. Professor Kalavrezou holds the positions of Dumbarton Oaks Professor of Byzantine Art History at Harvard University and of Senior Fellow at Dumbarton Oaks since 1989. She has also served as Chair of the History of Art and Architecture Department at Harvard University.

Juggling the Middle Ages

Featuring more than 100 objects, Juggling the Middle Ages explores the influence of the medieval world by focusing on a single story with a long-lasting impact—Le Jongleur de Notre Dame or Our Lady’s Tumbler. The exhibit follows the tale from its rediscovery by scholars in the 1870s to its modern interpretations in children’s books, offering viewers a look at a vast range of objects, including stained glass windows, illuminated manuscripts, household objects, and vintage theater posters.

Virgin Eleousa from the New Church, Tokalı Kilise, 10th century