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Institute of Medieval and Early Modern Studies

Event Archive

“Strange Beauty”: Comeliness, Physicality and the Body in Byzantium

6th March 2012, 17:30 to 18:30, Seminar Room 1, Dept of History, Dr Myrto Hatzaki

Both fascinating and elusive, Byzantine bodies appear in recent years to be taking center stage in the study of Byzantium, with notions such as gender, sensuality and desire coming increasingly under the scrutiny of scholarship.This seminar focuses on an aspect of the body in Byzantium that remains 'strange', unfamiliar: the notion of physical beauty. The evidence provided by the renowned Michael Psellos -author, philosopher, courtier and egocentric- in the beautifully penned physical descriptions of his own family is set against the broader context of eleventh and twelfth century Byzantium, and builds a telling image of byzantine beliefs, attitudes, stereotypes and preconceptions surrounding physical beauty. Through the juxtaposition of imagery and writing the 'beautiful body' claims lost ground and invites us to reconsider the balance between physicality and spirituality in Byzantium.  

Myrto Hatzaki was born in Athens in 1977. She studied History of Art at Warwick University and at the Courtauld Institute of Art in London where she obtained her MA and then her PhD in 2004. She is currently working as a curator at the Ilias Lalaounis Jewelry Museum and the A.G. Leventis Foundation. Her fist book, Beauty and the Male Body in Byzantium was published in 2009 by Palgrave Macmillan.