Fashion on the Edge: Portraits and Community in the Eastern Mediterranean, 14th-16th Century
Cristina Stancioiu, PhD, Visiting Assistant Professor, Oklahoma State University
This paper addresses issues of cultural identity and cohabitation in areas at the fringes of the Byzantine and Western worlds, particularly on the formerly Byzantine islands of Cyprus, Rhodes, and Crete. I focus on dress as it was depicted in numerous commemorative portraits of Latin urban settlers and local Orthodox villagers that were painted in churches, carved on effigy tombstones, or incised on ceramic marriage vessels, to answer questions regarding portraiture, artistic production, and trade, as well as local and foreign aesthetics. Portraits were critical to the construction of community, as these memorial representations stood testimony—for generations—to the values and beliefs of people who lived in religiously and ethnically mixed environments. They are the ultimate expression of cultural identity, and reveal the endurance of Byzantine traditions and aesthetics in colonized areas.