Lara Frentrop - The Courtauld Institute of Art

Lara Frentrop

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Dr Lara Frentrop

Associate Lecturer; Research Forum Administrative Assistant

Supervised by Antony Eastmond

My thesis investigated a group of decorated Middle Byzantine metal bowls that show scenes of feasting and celebration, dance and hunt, flirtation, leisure, and merrymaking. These scenes are paired with portraits of saints, hybrids, prancing animals, and beasts devouring human figures. The focus of my research is the proposed primary viewing context of these works, the dinner table of wealthy individuals belonging to Byzantium’s social elite. At feasts, the vessels fulfilled both a decorative and utilitarian purpose, serving at once as elaborate ornaments that completed the theatre of the banquet and as serving bowls.

But they also reflect the fears, hopes, and aspirations of their owners, giving us an insight into the concerns and preoccupations of the Middle Byzantine individual. The themes present on many of the precious metal bowls can also be found in ceramics, revealing that they held an interest to people across all social spheres. I want to investigate how the types of imagery found on bowls, cups, and plates were relevant and appealing to a twelfth-century individual, and how dining and tableware could be used as social distinguishers despite their overarching, common themes.

Moreover, my thesis will explore the links between the artworks themselves, the literature and intellectual currents of the time of their making, and their status as potential witnesses to cross-cultural interaction and exchange between Byzantium, Islam, and the West. To do so, it will be looking at topical, visual, and functional overlaps.


  • BA History of Art, University of Cambridge
  • MA History of Art ‘Byzantium and Its Rivals’, Courtauld Institute of Art


  • Visiting Lecturer BA1 ‘The Pursuit of Leisure in the Middle Ages’, Spring Term 2015, Courtauld Institute of Art
  • Teaching Assistant BA2 Lessons in Interpretation, Spring Term 2015, Courtauld Institute of Art
  • Teaching Assistant BA1 Foundations, Autumn Term 2013, Courtauld Institute of Art

Research interests

  • Byzantine art, in particular metalwork
  • material culture of medieval Byzantium
  • secular entertainments in Byzantium
  • the Greek Romance Novel

Conference papers and lectures

  • ’Food and Power: The Art of Dining in Byzantium’, The 2015 Courtauld Postgraduate Syposium: Showcasing New Research, March 2015
  • ‘’Articulation of Difference’ and ‘Expression of Power’: the Role of Alexander the Great in Medieval Byzantium’, XVIIth OUBS International Graduate Conference, February 2015
  • ‘’Thundering From Heaven He Performs Great and Wonderful Deeds’: Images of Triumph on a Middle Byzantine Vessel’, Courtauld Institute Associate Scholars’ Tea, December 2014
  • ‘Friend, Foe, or Food? The Role of Animals on a Middle Byzantine Bowl’, Kalamazoo 49th International Congress on Medieval Studies, May 2014

Recent publications

  • ‘Capturing Courtly Life – The Courtauld Bag’, in: The Courtauld Gallery Teachers’ pack Court and Craft: A Masterpiece from Northern Iraq. April 2014

Other academic activities

  • 19th Medieval Postgraduate Colloquium, Courtauld Institute of Art – Organiser
  • Section Assistant, Courtauld Institute of Art Classical, Byzantine and Medieval Section – 2012-2014

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