Two paintings from fourteenth century next to each other for comparison

Exploring Fourteenth-Century Art Across the Eastern and Western Christian World

In collaboration with the University of York, the project aimed to explore any possible links between Catholic and Orthodox art during the fourteenth century. 

Whilst comparisons between thirteenth-century Western and Eastern Christian art are plentiful, the fourteenth century is considered as the culmination of the rupture between the two, a rupture that was at first outlined by the Fourth Crusade and the following sack of Constantinople in 1204. Yet, documentary evidence informs us that these years are characterised by continuous exchanges between the Orthodox and the Catholic Christian worlds, ranging from embassies, to trade and diplomatic gifts.

Exploring Fourteenth-Century Art Across the Eastern and Western Christian World aims to engage with documentary and visual evidence in order to re-examine traditional views on both Eastern and Western Christian art. It proposes a loose understanding of the fourteenth century that includes the end of the thirteenth and the beginning of the fifteenth to offer a more comprehensive contextualisation.

Project leaders: Maria Alessia Rossi (PhD student, The Courtauld) and Livia Lupi (PhD student, University of York).

Read more about the project on the York University website

Past Events

2 November 2016: Lecture by Dr Elena Papastavrou, Ephorate of Antiquities of Pieria, Hellenic Ministry of Culture, The Virgin Singing the Magnificat, the Virgin Carrying the Divine Word: Symbolism and Signs between Byzantine and Western Art, The Courtauld Institute of Art, 5.30pm

27 February 2017: Lecture by Dr Donal Cooper (University of Cambridge), title tbc, University of York, 4pm.

The first event of the project was a postgraduate workshop entitled A Severed Bond?. It took place at The Courtauld Institute of Art on 15 May 2015. The event brought together eight postgraduate students working on medieval art history. The speakers presented on a range of artistic media including fresco, panel painting and metalwork in order to challenge traditional interpretations of fourteenth-century art and also elucidate any possible points of artistic contact between the eastern and western Christian world. A Severed Bond? was funded by the Research Forum of The Courtauld Institute of Art and the Department of History of Art of the University of York.


The second event of the project was a three-session panel at the International Medieval Congress at Leeds, 7 July 2016.

  1. Monastic Thought in Art and Literature
    • This session explored possible points of contact between Orthodox and Catholic monasticism and mysticism. Combining history and art history, the session aimed to illustrate the political as well as spiritual implications of the Hesychast controversy in the Orthodox world, varying stances towards the West in Serbian hagiographical narratives of St Symeon, and the depiction of Eastern Desert Fathers in Italian art.
  2. Abundance and Nearness: Communicating with the Viewer
    • This art-historical session reassessed points of contact between East and West by examining the role of narrative in Serbian and Byzantine depictions of Christ’s Miracle Cycle; by reflecting on the prominence of architectural structures and abundance of architectural ornament in both Eastern and Western painting; and by looking at Byzantine modes of representation in Italian art.
  3. Transmission, Exchange, Manipulation
    • This session examined cultural and artistic exchanges between Italy, England and the Eastern Mediterranean. The first paper focused on miracle-working images in Bologna, reflecting on how a real or fictitious Eastern origin affected the perceived power of miraculous artworks. It also considered the reasons behind a shift in this tendency, which saw images with well-established Western origin ascend to the status of venerated Eastern objects. The second paper examined the iconography of the Coronation of the Virgin, a Western iconography that nonetheless often presents Eastern connotations. It also explored Marian images more broadly, observing how the coming together of Eastern and Western iconographies and stylistic approaches develops into a new type of narrative describing the last days of the Virgin. The last paper of the session explores the transmission of culinary knowledge from the Greco-Arab tradition in fourteenth-century England, highlighting the connection between power, knowledge and cuisine.