My research focuses on the intersection between art, text, and architectural space in the Roman period and in late antiquity. My current main project is a book that examines the ways in which Christians, Jews and Muslims engaged with the texts that they inscribed in their sacred buildings as both texts to be read and as images/objects to be viewed. Written in colorful mosaic tesserae, or carved into or painted onto walls and columns, these inscriptions enlivened the interiors of churches, synagogues and mosques, and helped shape viewers’ experience with those spaces. By charting how inscriptions in sacred spaces evolved from the late Roman to the early medieval period, we get a glimpse of changing ideas about the function of words, the aesthetics of religious space, and the relationship between personal and institutional identities.
In 2014-15, at the Getty Research Institute, I began a second major project on the transformation of votive dedications from pagan Rome to Christian Byzantium. Reexamining an overlooked corpus of objects dedicated to the gods/God, including metal plaques, stone reliefs, and mosaics, this project, conceived as a series of journal articles and contributions to edited volumes, places early Byzantine votives back into their classical, Mediterranean context. By considering the changes and continuities of votive practice in pagan, Christian and Jewish communities before and after Christianity became the official religion of the state, the project investigates the true impact of religious change upon the ritual actions and aesthetic tastes of elites as well as non-elites.
Currently, I am a research associate of the project Monumental Art of the Christian and Early Islamic East: Cultural Identities and Classical Heritage. Based at the University of Oxford and run by Judith McKenzie as Principal Investigator, this 5-year project, funded by the European Research Council (ERC), will examine the art of Syro-Palestine in context from the late antique to early Islamic period. In my role as research associate, I will produce a book on the mosaics of Syria, focusing on their iconography, style, production, and relationships to the mosaics of surrounding regions.
I also work or have worked on a number of other personal and institutional projects, including on the relationship between Christian and Jewish art in late antiquity, on the function of inscribed formulae (short phrases) in Byzantine churches, on shared sacred spaces in the Holy Land, on the meanings of materials in antiquity and the Middle Ages, and on the art and architecture of late antique Syria. I have contributed to the recent catalogue of an important collection of late Roman gold glass at the Ashmolean Museum in Oxford, the catalogue of the Roman and late antique mosaics at the Getty Villa in Los Angeles, the Routledge Companion to Early Christian Art, and the Oxford Dictionary of Late Antiquity. I have organized panels and conferences on the visual culture of the border in late antiquity, late antique art and identity (the subject of a book project that I am co-editing), and the materiality of text from pre-modern to early modern Europe.
For more information, please visit my Academia.edu page.
Inscribing Faith in Late Antiquity: Between Reading and Seeing (in progress)
Late Antique Art and Local ‘Micro-identities’: Responding to the Past, ed. Sean V. Leatherbury and Adam Levine (in progress)
‘Coptic’ Artists in the Late Antique Mediterranean: Revisiting the Work of Mab van Lohuizen-Mulder, ed. Sean V. Leatherbury with a preface by Wali van Lohuizen (in progress)
“Writing in Colour in Late Antiquity: Evidence from North African Mosaic Pavements,” Mosaic 41 (2014): 9-16.
Book Chapters and Contributions to Edited Volumes and Catalogues
“Reading, Viewing and Inscribing Faith: Christian Epigraphy in the Early Umayyad Levant,” in Marc Lauxtermann and Ida Toth (eds.), Inscribing Texts in Byzantium. Proceedings of the 49th Spring Symposium of Byzantine Studies (London: Routledge, forthcoming)
“Framing Late Antique Texts as Monuments: The Tabula Ansata between Sculpture and Mosaic,” in Ivana Petrovic, Andrej Petrovic, and Edmund V. Thomas, The Materiality of Text: Placements, Presences, and Perceptions of Inscribed Text in Classical Antiquity (Leiden: Brill, forthcoming)
“Coins as Votive Gifts in the Late Antique East,” in Stefan Krmicek and Jeremie Chameroy (eds.), Fundmünzen – Trouvailles monétaires – Coin finds: Aktuelle Forschungen zu Geld in der antiken Welt (Tübingen: Tübingen University Press, forthcoming 2018)
“Funerary Mosaic from Edessa,” in H. Bloedhorn, R. Hunziker, K. Klein, and H. Winter (eds.), Julius Eutings Nordsyrienreise 1889-90, Bamberger Historische Studien (Bamberg: Bamberg University Press, forthcoming 2018)
Twenty-five entries in the Oxford Dictionary of Late Antiquity (Oxford: Oxford University Press, forthcoming 2018), including “acheiropoietos,” “arch,” “baptistery,” “cosmology in art,” “Deisis,” “earthly paradise,” “foliage in art,” “forum,” “Grado,” “inhabited scroll,” “mosaics,” “Nilotic scenes,” “pastoral scenes,” “patronage, artistic,” “Qasr el Lebia,” “Ravenna, churches of,” “Ravenna, city topography,” “screen,” “sea scenes,” “Seasons,” “solea,” “street,” “towers,” “typology in art,” “villa (houses)”
“Early Christian Wall Mosaics and the Creation of Sacred Space,” in Mark D. Ellison and Robin M. Jensen (eds.), The Routledge Handbook of Early Christian Art (London: Routledge, forthcoming 2018)
“Picturing Prayers: The Iconography of the Wilshere Gold-glass Collection,” introductory essay on the iconography of the collection and thirty-seven co-authored catalogue entries, in Susan Walker, with contributions by Sean V. Leatherbury, David Rini, et al., Saints and Salvation: The Wilshere Collection of Gold-glass, Sarcophagi, and Inscriptions from Rome and Southern Italy (Oxford: Ashmolean Museum, 2017)
“Textiles as ‘Gifts to God’ in Late Antiquity: The Evidence of Christian Altar Cloths,” in Cecilie Brøns and Marie-Louise Nosch (eds.), Textiles and Cult in the Ancient Mediterranean (Oxford: Oxbow Press, 2017)
“Writing, Reading and Seeing Between the Lines: Framing Late Antique Inscriptions as Texts and Images” in Verity Platt and Michael Squire (eds.), The Frame in Classical Art: A Cultural History (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2017)
“Mosaic Panels with Animals,” “Mosaic Panel with Head of a Season,” “Mosaic Panel with Two Male Busts,” in Alexis Belis, Roman Mosaics in the J. Paul Getty Museum (Los Angeles: Getty Publications, 2016).
“Competitive Sacrifice: Christian Visual Engagement with Jewish Sacrificial History and the Temple in Late Antique Arabia,” in Catherine Hezser and Uzi Leibner, (ed.), Jewish Art in its Late Antique Context. Texts and Studies in Ancient Judaism Series (Tübingen: Mohr Siebeck, 2016), 279-302.