Bella Radenovic

PhD student; Associate Lecturer

Thesis: ‘The Making of the Medieval Georgian Icon’

Supervised by Professor Antony Eastmond

Funded by the Stavros Niarchos Foundation and the Courtauld Scholarship

This thesis investigates one of the richest corpora of medieval icons that has come down to us. Comprising over 2,000 examples of repoussé and painted icons, the Georgian corpus is a testament to the ubiquitous presence of icons in medieval Georgia. The thesis will assess references to icons found in historical and hagiographical literature commissioned by the ruling monarchs in a critical manner, questioning the dominant narratives of the texts in which veneration and patronage of icons is intimately tied to Georgia’s Byzantine orientation. The textual evidence will be compared to the surviving visual material in order to discern the role and power of icons in medieval Georgia. Analysis of epigrammatic evidence will reveal that icons invited an exceptionally wide spectrum of patronage, from a ruling monarch to a layperson from the Georgian highlands. Whilst some of the icons are still venerated in their presumed original settings, notably in the churches of Svaneti, most can be found in state museums of Tbilisi, Mestia and Kutaisi, where they had been moved in the 1920s. Focusing on the Treasury rooms of the State Museum of Fine Arts in Tbilisi, the thesis will engage with questions that arise from display of sacred art which is still part of devotional practices of religious communities. A rich corpus of artists’ signatures will also be investigated with the aim of establishing the uniquely special status that makers of icons enjoyed in medieval Georgia.


  • 2013-2014 The Courtauld Institute of Art, MA History of Art, ‘Byzantium and Its Rivals: Art, Display and Cultural Identity in the Christian and Islamic Mediterranean’ (distinction)
  • 2010-2013 University of Cambridge, BA History of Art and Architecture

Research interests

  • Icon veneration and image theory in the South Caucasus
  • Display of devotional art
  • Role of religious images in contemporary discourses
  • Visuality of medieval epigraphy, with an emphasis on craftsmen’s signatures


‘Artist Interview: Bella Radenović and Chelsea Pierce in Conversation with Slavs and Tatars’ in immediations, no. 17 (London: Courtauld Institute of Art, 2020). Available in print and online.

Conference and Workshop Papers

  • ‘Bringing Icons from the Georgians’: Attitudes to Icons in the Twelfth- and Thirteenth-Century Armenia’, Armenia and Byzantium Without Borders III workshop, University of Vienna, 11 September 2021
  • ‘Viewing and Performing Inscriptions of Medieval Georgian Icons: An Anti-Positivist Approach to Epigraphy’, Tao-Klarjeti workshop, Kunsthistorisches Institut in Florenz, 9 October 2020
  • ‘Travelling Icons: From Byzantium to Tao-Klarjeti and Beyond’, International Medieval Congress, University of Leeds,  6 July 2020 (cancelled)
  • ‘Lesson of the Widow’s Mite: Materiality and Spirituality of Medieval Georgian Icons’, Annual Medieval Postgraduate Colloquium, The Courtauld Institute of Art, 22 June 2020

Teaching Experience

  • Autumn 2021, The Courtauld Institute of Art, Associate Lecturer, ‘Late Antique and Byzantine Art Through London Collections’ Topic Course (BA1)
  • Summer 2021, The Courtauld Institute of Art, Teaching Assistant, Summer University public programme
  • Summer 2020, The Courtauld Institute of Art, Teaching Assistant, Summer University public programme
  • Autumn 2019, The Courtauld Institute of Art, Teaching Assistant, Foundations Lecture Series (BA1)

Other Academic and Professional Activity

  • 19th and 20th Century Paintings Specialist in the Russian Department at Sotheby’s, London, September 2014 – August 2018
  • Member of the Advisory Board, Cambridge Courtauld Russian Art Centre (CCRAC)
  • Editor-in-Chief of immediations (2021), an annual peer-reviewed academic journal of art history and conservation