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The Virgin Mary in the Byzantine World, 400–1200

Leslie Brubaker, University of Birmingham, Fellow 2015–2016, Spring

During my four months at Dumbarton Oaks, I completed two articles, delivered three public lectures (Brown University, Catholic University, and the University of Virginia), revised and expanded two chapters of a book on the cult of the Virgin in Byzantium (coauthored with Mary Cunningham), and completed much of the research for the remaining two chapters. Both Mary and I benefited enormously from the opportunity to work closely together for a sustained period. Among our key findings about the material culture associated with the Virgin Mary: first, there is far more early (pre-600) material on the Virgin Mary than has been recognized, but the recent hypothesis that a painting of a woman at the well in the baptistery from Dura Europos (ca. 250) represents the earliest image of Mary is demonstrably incorrect; second, there is great variety in the form of this material, but specific media (e.g., liturgical silver and textiles) demonstrate discrete approaches to picturing the Virgin; and third, the material produced in the regions around Rome and Constantinople was, from the earliest period, distinctly differentiated.