History of Art and Architecture

Shirin Fozi

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 primary interest is monumental sculpture: its patterns of production, its use to reach broad audiences in medieval Europe, and its reception in the post-medieval world. In recent years these interests have led her to complete a book on Romanesque tomb effigies (Penn State, expected 2021) and co-edit a volume of essays by art historians and conservators on wood sculptures of Christ on the cross (Brepols, 2020). Another ongoing project addresses a series of architectural programs that echo a Mediterranean visual tradition but appear at twelfth-century sites far north of the Alps. Such sculptures reflect not only the migration of artists across vast distances, but also a widespread medieval fascination with ivories, rock crystals, and other luxurious materials that moved across far-flung networks in an era often associated with the travels of pilgrims and crusaders.

These interests are integrated into the courses Fozi teaches at Pitt, which range from introductory surveys to graduate seminars. Fozi’s medieval classes address the period from 300–1500 CE and focus on Europe and the Mediterranean, though she constantly seeks to broaden that geographic range. Modern medievalism in the United States is also an important theme in Fozi’s teaching and research; for example, her medieval architecture survey draws on local Pittsburgh landmarks like Allegheny Courthouse and PPG Place and puts them in dialogue with monuments in Europe. Fozi also teaches several 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 ownership and ethical management of cultural property. In the past four years Fozi has led two Museum Studies exhibition seminars at Pitt, the first culminating in a show on the Nationality Rooms in the Cathedral of Learning (2017) and the most recent resulting in the first ongoing digital exhibition organized by the University Art Gallery, which presents medieval manuscript facsimiles from Pitt’s University Library System (2020).

Before joining the faculty at the University of Pittsburgh, Fozi was a Mellon postdoctoral fellow at Northwestern (2010–13). During her time as a graduate student at Harvard, Fozi also worked as an intern and 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 helped shape her commitment to connecting students with museum collections; in recent years she has organized class excursions to see medieval exhibitions in cities including Chicago, Cleveland, New York, and Toronto. Together with her colleagues, Fozi works hard to secure funding to ensure such opportunities are accessible for as many Pitt students 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, in press.

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.

“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.”