Calendar

02/11/2017

Ideas, Persons, and Transfers: Russian-Turkish Interaction Between 1917 - 2017

Occasional Lecture @ Cezayir Toplanti Salonu

31/10/2017

Romani Studies at SRII

Seminar @ SRII

24/10/2017

Turkiye´de Kapital Cevirilerinin Macerasi

Occasional Lecture @ Cezayir Toplanti Salonu

18/10/2017

Battleship Potemkin in History and in the Movie

Autumn Lecture @ Cezayir Salonu

20/04/2017

Exile, Political and Economic Migration in the Ottoman Empire

Conference @ CEZAYIR Toplanti Salonu

07/02/2017

Labraunda Day

Conference @ SRII

29/11/2016

Transformations of public space

Seminar @ SRII

23/11/2016

Ethnographic research on historical knowledge in Kyrgyzstan

Jarring Lecture @ Medelhavsmuseet, Stockholm

08/11/2016

A City Altered by the Population Exchange

Conference @ Cezayir Toplanti Salonu

07/11/2016

A Study on Existential Meaning- Making Coping with Cancer

Discussion Seminar @ SRII

03/11/2016

Today Talks: Borders, Nations, Citizens

Seminar @ SRII

01/11/2016

Ottoman Monuments in Kavala

Conference @ Cezayir Toplanti Salonu

25/10/2016

Images of the Past - Kavala & Its Region

Conference @ Cezayir Toplanti Salonu

25/10/2016

An Overview of the History of Kavala (end of the 14th c - 1912)

Conference @ Cezayir Toplanti Salonu

24/10/2016

Old Oaks in Turkey – an unknown treasure

Autumn Lecture @ SRII

13/10/2016

Syrien i Sverige

Conference @ Etnografiska muséet

13/10/2016

Today Talks: Nomads & Wanderers

Autumn Lecture @ SRII

29/09/2016

Today Talks: Crossing Borders

Autumn Lecture @ SRII

20/05/2016

Beyond Rome

Conference @ Stockholm

17/03/2016

Today Talks: Memory of Things

Autumn Lecture @ SRII

15/03/2016

How Can Religion Contribute to Peace in Cyprus?

Spring Lecture @ SRII

11/02/2016

Today Talks: Fact & Fiction

Seminar @ SRII

02/02/2016

Labraunda Day

Conference @ SRII

03/12/2015

SRII Seminar - Internet Suzerainty

Seminar @ SRII

05/11/2015

Symbolic Aspects of Architecture

Conference @ SRII

27/10/2015

Cultural Heritage in Times of Armed Conflicts

Autumn Lecture @ SRII

15/10/2015

Today Talks - Ideas on the Roads

Seminar @ SRII

13/10/2015

Turkey and Azerbaijan: One Religion - Two States?

Autumn Lecture @ SRII

06/10/2015

Backwards into the Future: Erdogan´s New Turkey

Autumn Lecture @ SRII

14/09/2015

Assessing Urban Expansion of Istanbul 2000-2013

Autumn Lecture @ SRII

04/06/2015

SRII Seminar - Den Levande Kakelplattan

Seminar @ SRII

21/05/2015

Today Talks - Personal Space & Invasion of Privacy

Autumn Lecture @ SRII

19/05/2015

The Revival of Pagan Cult Sites in Late Antiquity

Spring Lecture @ SRII

28/04/2015

IDP Business Meeting

Workshop @ SRII

14/04/2015

Istanbul ´s Urban Heritage: Protection and Threats

Spring Lecture @ SRII

03/03/2015

Swedish-Turkish Relations Today

Spring Lecture @ SRII

12/02/2015

Today Talks -Modern Day Traditions

Seminar @ SRII

05/02/2015

Today Talks - Technology and Education

Seminar @ SRII

03/02/2015

Welcome Reception

Seminar @ SRII

29/01/2015

Today Talks - Faith and Tolerance

Seminar @ SRII

12/01/2015

Labraunda Day

Conference @ SRII

08/01/2015

Today Talks - Gendered VS Queered Design

Seminar @ SRII

12/12/2014

Rhetoric and Politics

Occasional Lecture @ SRII

11/12/2014

Today Talks - LGBT; Why? When? Where?

Seminar @ SRII

13/11/2014

Today Talks - Istanbul, city of migrants

Seminar @ SRII

14/10/2014

The 2014 Jarring Lecture

Jarring Lecture @ SRII

11/10/2014

SILK ROAD SYMPOSIUM

Conference @ SRII

23/09/2014

In Science (Alone) We Trust?

Autumn Lecture @ SRII

19/06/2014

New Religiosities and Science

Workshop @ Workshop @ Orient-Institut Istanbul

14/06/2014

Summer school 2014

Master's Course @ SRII

23/05/2014

Klassisk arabiska: Modersmål eller orakelmål?

Discussion Seminar @ SRII

20/05/2014

Nationhood and Citizenship in Turkish Friday Sermons

Spring Lecture @ SRII

10/05/2014

Edebiyat Atölyesi

Workshop @ SRII

09/05/2014

Polygonal columns in ancient Greek architecture

Discussion Seminar @ SRII

15/04/2014

International Relations in Historical Perspective

Spring Lecture @ SRII

10/04/2014

Today Talks - Türkiye´de Kadin Üzerine:

Autumn Lecture @ SRII

08/04/2014

Literary History

Spring Lecture @ SRII

07/03/2014

Gendered Violence as Legal Constructions:

Seminar @ Swedish Research Institute in Istanbul

06/03/2014

Today Talks - Today´s Public Space

Seminar @ SRII

22/02/2014

Alevi Identity Revisited

Spring Lecture @ Swedish Research Institute in Istanbul

10/02/2014

Research Seminar

Seminar @ Istanbul Institute

16/01/2014

Imperial rulership and universal hierarchies in Early Byzantine art

Occasional Lecture @ British Institute of Archaelogy at Ankara

15/01/2014

The Central Asian Migrant Experience in Turkey and Russia

Workshop @ Department of Sociology, Bogaziçi University

19/12/2013

Türk Edebiyati Üzerine Bir Sohbet

Seminar @ srii

10/12/2013

Mobility,Acculturation and Identity Formation

Autumn Lecture @ SRII

06/12/2013

Critical Area/Regional Studies

Workshop @ Malmö University

04/12/2013

Labraunda Day

Workshop @ Swedish research institite in Istanbul

03/12/2013

Images of Power and Violence

Workshop @ SRII

04/11/2013

Post-Soviet Central Asia in a New Eurasia Discourse

Occasional Lecture @ Gediz University,Izmir

25/10/2013

Litterär Salong - Drabbad av Rumi

Seminar @ SRII

17/10/2013

Vad händer egentligen i Turkiet?

Seminar @ SFII - Stockholm

01/10/2013

The SRII Eastern Turkey Seminar 2013

Seminar @ South-eastern Turkey

14/06/2013

Maktsymboler

Workshop @ SRII

For past events, see Events

Virtue, status, immortality: functions and meanings of architectural motifs in the art of the Late Roman and Early Byzantine era (c. 180-700).

Head of project: Dr Cecilia Olovsdotter
ceciliao@sri.org.tr 

The project, which has been conducted as part of a three-year senior research fellowship at the Swedish Research Institute in Istanbul (SRII), investigates the applications and meanings of a widely diffused but hitherto scarcely studied phenomenon of Late Roman and Early Byzantine art: architectural motifs. The category includes the arch, the portal, the gabled front, the fastigium (palatial or ceremonial front), the aedicule, the baldachin and other domed structures, arcades and niche arcades, and numerous variants and conflations of these, as well as more complex configurations of the city and cityscape type, and its primary function is to lend monumentalising and symbolically charged frames to figures and scenes in images. The majority of architectural motifs can be traced to the beginnings of Roman art, where they chiefly occur in commemorative contexts, and to Middle-Eastern, East-Hellenistic and Etruscan architecture and funerary culture, but it is in the increasingly abstracted and symbolic art of late antiquity that they develop into a rich and diversified motif category with near universal applicability. Architectural motifs now appear in palatial and church interiors, on triumphal and sepulchral monuments, in commemorative and ceremonial works in silver, ivory and wood, in illuminated manuscripts such as calendars and gospels, and in a variety of objects of personal use such as costumes, jewellery caskets and pilgrim souvenirs. At the same time they become more complex and symbolladen, and tend to accumulate other symbolic motifs, offering structures on which to arrange them in meaningful patterns.

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‘Sidamara’ sarcophagus from Seleucia/Silifke (Mersin), Turkey (detail); Istanbul Arkeoloji Müzesi. Photo: C. Olovsdotter

Architectural motifs constitute a prominent and systematically applied component of late antique art, yet no comprehensive or structural analysis has been undertaken until now. The theoretical foundation of the present study is the a priori assumption that every type of figurative motif is a carrier of meaning and thus relevant, sometimes vital, for a full understanding of the image of which it is part, and that its presence and form (type, conformation) are the results of conscious, qualified and purposeful choices on the part of the commissioners and/or artists of the artwork within its context. Whether representational, symbolic or a combination of the two, an architectural motif and the manner in which it has been rendered – type, form, placement, etc. – are in various ways and degrees intended to reflect, modify, specify and enforce the content of the image’s main motif/s, and thus to offer suggestions as to how that image should be understood in its context, what values, ideas and beliefs are being conveyed through it. Using the iconological (contextual) method of analysis, the application patterns (thematic correlations, intercontextual migrations, Christian adaptations, etc.) of architectural motifs in late antique visual culture are explored with the aim of revealing the mechanisms and motives – historical, religious, social – behind their intensified use, and behind the symbolisation of art in general, in the deeply transformative last phase of the Roman Empire. More particularly, the project study seeks to elucidate, from a new and somewhat unusual angle, the perhaps single most important function or objective of visual expression within Roman and Early Byzantine culture: to formulate, (re-)confirm and perpetuate ideas about public worth, success and status, with the associated notions of victory, power, immortality and cyclic (cosmic) regeneration.

The main publication resulting from the project is the monograph Virtue, status, immortality: functions and meanings of architectural motifs in the art of the Late Roman and Early Byzantine era (c. 180-700) (forthcoming). After an introductory section where the occurrence and evolution of architectural motifs within ancient (Near-Eastern, Greek, Etruscan, Roman) art tradition are outlined, the repertory and distribution patterns – typological, material, contextual, geographical – of architectural motifs in late-antique visual culture are examined. The subsequent iconographical analyses deal with the relationship between physical (built, ’real’) and pictorial architecture, the tectonic functions of architecture in late-antique image composition, context- and value-related application of architectural mouldings, the repertory of symbolic motifs with which the architectural motifs are regularly combined, and colour. In the interpretive section of the study, the results of the foregoing analyses are synthesised under thematic headings that describe a successive progression from concrete, worldly and temporal to abstract, cosmic and transcendental in the applications and meanings of architectural motifs in late antique art, whereas the concluding discussion is concerned with the universal themes and underlying concepts, the ’world-views’, that inspired the development and proliferation of architectural imagery in late antiquity.

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 Lead sarcophagus from Baabda, Lebanon (detail); Istanbul Arkeoloji Müzesi. Photo: C. Olovsdotter 

Apart from the monograph, the project has, in various ways and under various thematic headings, generated a number of articles, lectures and conference and workshop papers, and the international conference Symbolism and abstraction in Late Antique and Early Byzantine art (c. 300-700) held at the SRII in May 2013 as well as the workshop To represent and to narrate in Byzantine art co-organised with Dr. Ivana Jevtic (Koç Üniversitesi) at the SRII in March 2014 were directly related to the research on architectural imagery and symbolism in Late Roman and Early Byzantine visual culture undertaken within the project.  

Publications related to the project:

Olovsdotter, C., ‘Representing consulship: on the conception and meanings of the consular diptychs’, Opuscula 4, 2011, 99-124.

Olovsdotter, C., ‘Anastasius’ I consuls: ordinary consulship and imperial power in the consular diptychs from Constantinople’, Valör. Konstvetenskapliga studier 1-2, 2012, 33-47.

Olovsdotter, C., Virtue, status, immortality: on the functions and meanings of architectural motifs in Late Roman and Early Byzantine imagery (c. 180-600) (forthcoming).

Olovsdotter, C. ed., Symbolism and abstraction in late antique and Byzantine art (c. 300-700): proceedings of the international conference held at the Swedish Research Institute in Istanbul, 9-10 May 2013 (forthcoming).

Olovsdotter, C. ’Architecture and the spheres of the universe’, in C. Olovsdotter, ed., Symbolism and abstraction in late antique and Byzantine art (c. 300-700): proceedings of the international conference held at the Swedish Research Institute in Istanbul, 9-10 May 2013 (forthcoming).

Olovsdotter, C., ‘Kejsarmakt och stat i tidigbysantinsk tid: konsulardiptykerna från Konstantinopel’, Dragomanen. Årsskrift för Svenska Forskningsinstitutet i Istanbul 13, 2011, 46-53.

Olovsdotter, C., ‘Arkitektursymbolik i senromersk och tidigbysantinsk bildkonst’, Dragomanen. Årsskrift för Svenska Forskningsinstitutet i Istanbul 14, 2012, 157-166. 

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