History of Art and Architecture

Shirin Fozi

Director of Medieval and Renaissance Studies Program and Associate Professor

Area of Specialization

Medieval European Art and Architecture


Constellation(s): Identity, Mobility/Exchange, Temporalities

Shirin Fozi spends as much time as possible looking at medieval things, with a focus on visual culture in Germany and France during the tenth through twelfth centuries. Her main research focus is monumental sculpture: its patterns of production, its adaptations for different audiences, and its reception in the modern era. She has recently published a book on funerary monuments (Romanesque Tomb Effigies, Penn State, 2021) and co-edited a volume of essays on early wood sculptures of the Crucifixion (Christ on the Cross, Brepols, 2020). Current projects include studies of a series of architectural sculptures that respond to Mediterranean visual traditions but appear at twelfth-century sites far north of the Alps; such monuments reflect not only the travels of artists across vast distances, but also the presence of ivories, rock crystals, and other luxurious objects that moved across far-flung trade routes and were sometimes brought to northern Europe by pilgrims, crusaders, and other medieval migrants.

These interests are integrated into the courses Fozi teaches at Pitt, which range from introductory surveys to graduate seminars. Her medieval classes address art and architecture from 300–1500 CE and focus on Europe and the Mediterranean, though with a constant eye to developments in other areas of the medieval globe. Modern medievalism in the United States is also an important theme in Fozi’s teaching and research; for example, her architecture courses address not only the development of structures in places like Paris and Jerusalem, but also the ways in which major Pittsburgh landmarks from H.H. Richardson’s Allegheny Courthouse to Philip Johnson’s PPG Place respond to distinctively medieval traditions. Fozi also teaches core courses in HAA and Museum Studies, and especially enjoys leading the “History and Ethics of Collecting” seminar because it examines difficult foundational questions about the formation of modern museums, the ethical management of cultural property, and the challenges of restitution and decolonization. In recent years Fozi has led two Museum Studies exhibition seminars at Pitt, the first culminating in a show on art associated with Pitt’s Nationality Rooms (Narratives of the Nationality Rooms, 2017) and the second resulting in the first ongoing digital exhibition organized by the University Art Gallery, which presents medieval manuscript facsimiles from the University Library System (A Nostalgic Filter, 2020).

Before joining the faculty at the University of Pittsburgh, Fozi was a Mellon postdoctoral fellow at Northwestern University (2010–13). While earning a doctorate at Harvard (2003–10) Fozi also took on several projects as a lecturer at the Boston Museum of Fine Arts, a museum teacher at the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum, and a curatorial intern at Dumbarton Oaks. These early experiences shaped her commitment to connecting students with art collections; at Pitt she has organized class excursions to Chicago, Cleveland, Detroit, New York, and Toronto. Together with her colleagues, Fozi works hard to secure funding for field trips, making these opportunities to explore art museums beyond Pittsburgh as accessible and inclusive as possible.

Education Details

Ph.D. Harvard University (2010)
M.A. Harvard University (2005)
B.A. Williams College (2001)

Selected Publications

Romanesque Tomb Effigies: Death and Redemption in Northern Europe, 1000–1200. University Park: Penn State University Press, 2021.

Christ on the Cross: The Boston Crucifix and the Rise of Medieval Wood Sculpture, 970–1200, edited with Gerhard Lutz. Studies in the Visual Cultures of the Middle Ages, vol. 14. Turnhout: Brepols, 2020.

Review of Kathleen Bickford Berzock, ed., Caravans of Gold, Fragments in Time: Art, Culture, and Exchange Across Medieval Saharan Africa (Princeton, 2019). Speculum 95/4 (Oct. 2020): 113638.

“Reinhildis has died: Ascension and Enlivenment on a Twelfth-Century Tomb,” Speculum 90/1 (January 2015), 158–94.

"A Mere Patch of Color: Isabella Stewart Gardner and the Shattered Glass of Reims Cathedral." Memory, Commemoration, and Medieval Europe, edited by Elma Brenner, Meredith Cohen, and Mary Franklin-Brown. Ashgate (2013), pp. 321–44.

Selected Awards

Millard Meiss Publication Fund Grant, College Art Association, Spring 2019, for Romanesque Tomb Effigies.

Jewish Studies Course Development Grant, University of Pittsburgh, 2019.

John G. Bowman Travel Grant for Faculty Research, University of Pittsburgh, 2018.

Article of the Month, Feminae: Medieval Women and Gender Index, February 2015, for “Reinhildis Has Died.”