title. Latin Basilissai in Palaiologan Mystras: Art and Agency [advisor prof Leslie Brubaker], PhD thesis, Centre for Byzantine, Ottoman and Modern Greek Studies, University of Birmingham

role . author

date. 2018

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Abstract

 

This dissertation demonstrates that the presence of Latin basilissai, Catholic wives of the Byzantine despots of Morea, in Mystras between 1349, when the city became the seat of the Despotate, and 1460, when it was surrendered to the Turks, had an impact on the artistic and cultural production at court. These foreign women were agents of the ruling political and economic elites of Italian and Frankish courts, and expressed their agency by mediating their specific cultural and artistic traditions into the production of their adopted city. Art and cultural historical approaches, in which attention is focused on painted and sculpted details, inscriptions, archaeological remains, architectural design, and urban planning, are used to show that the Latin women were historical agents, whose presence can be detected in Mystras. A multidisciplinary analysis of case studies reveals cross-cultural motifs in the artistic production, demonstrating the relationship between pieces of evidence. The production of the workshops of Mystras expressed features that were, in some cases, responses to Constantinopolitan and Byzantine models, while, in others, autonomous and innovative, revealing complex cross-cultural references. Ultimately, this study shows that the particular cultural and artistic landscape of Mystras is indebted to exogenous cultures linked to these women.

The resurrection of Lazarus (detail), katholikon of the Pantanassa monastery, upper gallery, Mystras, fresco, middle of the 15th century, (photo Andrea Mattiello)