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Art and Epigram in Byzantium, 1100–1450

Ivan Drpić, University of Washington, Fellow 2013–2014

During my fellowship, I worked on revising and expanding my doctoral dissertation into a book manuscript. The book explores the relationship between art and epigrammatic poetry in the last centuries of Byzantium, with a focus on the realm of personal piety and its artistic and literary manifestations. I examine the corpus of epigrams, or verse inscriptions, on art objects produced ca. 1100–1450. Proceeding from a close reading of these complex, yet often neglected and misunderstood texts, and from a detailed analysis of a range of objects with verse inscriptions (including icons and icon veils, reliquaries, and ecclesiastical textiles), my book seeks to offer a fresh perspective on the nexus of art-making, piety, and self-representation in Byzantium.

By the end of the fellowship, I was able to revise or newly draft all of the projected seven chapters of the book. Two chapters in particular developed from new research conducted at Dumbarton Oaks: one examined how devotional objects inscribed with dedicatory verses served as a vehicle of elite self-fashioning; and the other considered the visual, material, and spatial dimensions of the inscribed verse. The superb library resources of Dumbarton Oaks and the expertise, intellectual generosity, and friendship of an outstanding group of fellows greatly facilitated and enriched my research and writing. I was truly blessed to have Foteini Spingou at my side, as her project on the epigrams preserved in the Anthologia marciana in many respects intersected with and complemented my work.