Medieval Art

Master of James IV of Scotland (Flemish, before 1465 – about 1541) Lazarus’s Soul Carried to Abraham, about 1510–1520
Master of James IV of Scotland (Flemish, before 1465 – about 1541) Lazarus’s Soul Carried to Abraham, about 1510–1520, The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles, Ms. Ludwig IX 18, fol. 22

In Art History, five faculty members are actively expanding conceptualizations of medieval art and architecture while they continue to build upon the Department’s long and distinguished history as a centre for the study of this field. They address the medieval world from a variety of geographical, chronological, and methodological perspectives: Early Islamic art and architecture and environmental history (Heba Mostafa); western European and Jewish art and manuscript studies (Adam S. Cohen); medieval China and Silk Roads (Jennifer Purtle); late Gothic and early modern architecture, sculpture, and painting (E. Matt Kavaler); medieval art and architecture of the Mediterranean and cultural exchange (Jill Caskey).

Although their theoretical and methodological approaches vary, these professors share a commitment to close analysis of individual objects situated firmly in specific historical contexts. This commitment is manifest in their current research topics (see faculty pages for details) and teaching. Some graduate seminars focus on themes, such as patronage or pilgrimage; others focus on media-related issues or locations, such as Multimedia Transmorphism or China and the Global Middle Ages. Dissertations currently being written by Toronto students testify to the diverse interests of the faculty, with topics covering the whole medieval period and a variety of media.

Resources at the University and in Toronto proper are exceptional for the study of medieval art and architecture. Earlier influential scholars as Peter Brieger, Elisabeth Alföldi-Rosenbaum, Luba Eleen, Lisa Golombek, Robert Deshman, and Kay Openshaw helped amass a formidable collection of photographs, exhibition catalogues, and other research tools that continue to benefit students and faculty members. The Pontifical Institute of Mediaeval Studies (PIMS) has a remarkable specialized library that supplements the holdings of the University’s library. Faculty are active members of the University of Toronto’s wider community of medievalists, playing leadership roles in such projects as The Global Past and Islamic Art and Material Culture Collective. Students are encouraged to take courses at and participate in the rich offerings of the Centre for Medieval Studies (CMS), Near and Middle Eastern Civilizations (NMC), and East Asian Studies (EAS). The city itself provides an unusual laboratory for research in this area, given the city’s collections of early Christian, Islamic, Byzantine, Chinese, and late medieval European art in particular. Many graduate seminars provide opportunities for conducting hands-on research with such collections; graduate students are also eligible for internships at the Art Gallery of Ontario, Royal Ontario Museum, and Aga Khan Museum.

In short, with five medievalists on the Art History faculty, a coterie of prominent medievalists in other fields, and an array of exceptional resources, the University of Toronto provides unusual breadth and depth for the study of medieval art and architecture from a global perspective. We invite you to contact and visit us to learn more about our program.

Faculty Areas of Interest
Jill Caskey Medieval art and architecture; southern Italy and Sicily; portable arts; pilgrimage; patronage; cultural exchange; Global Middle Ages
Adam S. Cohen Jewish art; Monastic art; illuminated manuscripts
E. Matt Kavaler Late medieval and early modern art in Northern Europe 
Heba Mostafa Medieval Islam; Cultural and intellectual history of the central Islamic lands during the first century of the Islamic empire; Islam’s interface with late antiquity, Christianity and Judaism
Jenny Purtle Chinese painting history; China and Mongolia in the Global Middle Ages


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