Dr Andrea Mattiello

Dr Andrea Mattiello

Centre for Byzantine, Ottoman and Modern Greek Studies
Doctoral researcher

Contact details

Title of thesis: Syncretic visual culture and dynastic alliances at the late Palaiologan court in Mystras
Supervisor:  Professor Leslie Brubaker
Funding: College of Art and Law Scholarship


  • PhD, History and Theory of Art (School for Advanced Studies in Venice, 2007)
  • MA (with honors), Management and Design of Visual Arts (College of Arts and Design – IUAV, Università degli Studi, Venezia, 2004)                                               
  • MA (with honors), History and Preservation of Architecture (College of History of Architecture - IUAV, Università degli Studi, Venezia, 2001)


My intellectual education has focused on understanding visual attributes of cultural artefacts produced in multidisciplinary environments. After exploring late 19th and 20th century photography’s contribution to the History of Architecture, I focused on 20th century American performance artists operating at the intersection of dramatic and visual arts. Their work helped me investigate how History of Art communicates the results of its research. Through exchanges with Byzantine and Medieval scholars and in reaction to the scholarship on Cleophe Malatesti I then focused on developing a performance piece – a side project that continues to this day – that employs audio-video and dance to explore the visual culture surrounding Cleophe. 

During this process my academic research shifted towards a rigorous investigation of late Palaiologan Art in Mystras. Under the supervision of Professor Brubacker, and influenced by her multidisciplinary approach to the Middle Byzantine period, I focus on the centrality of Mystras’ court in the development of cultural standards that I believe were seminal not only for the late Medieval and early Modern Byzantine world, but also for Western and Eastern polities. I have identified a set of unanswered art historical questions, focused on Mystras’s exchanges with bordering polities, the presence at court of the wives of the Desposts, and the syncretic cultural environment of the Palaiologos and Kantakouzēnos courts.


  • Byzantium and the Transformation of the Roman World, seminar
  • Lecturer/Instructor Assistant, College of Arts and Design – IUAV, Università degli Studi, Venice

Doctoral research

PhD title
Syncretic visual culture and dynastic alliances at the late Palaiologan court in Mystras
Professor Leslie Brubaker
Byzantine, Ottoman and Modern Greek Studies PhD/MA by Research (On-Campus or by Distance Learning)


Late Palaiologan court in Mystras: Syncretic visual culture and dynastic alliances analyses the city’s artistic and cultural production after 1348, when it became the capital of the Despotate of Morea, in light of alliances established through diplomatic, inter-religious marriages between members of the Imperial dynasties and neighbouring ruling polities, such as those between Manuel Kantakouzenos and Isabel de Lusignan, daughter of Guy de Lusignan, King of Armenia and descendant of the King of Cyprus, Theodore I Palaiologos and Bartholomea Acciajuoli, daughter of Neri Acciajuoli Duke of Corinth and Athens, and Theodore II Palaiologos and Cleophe Malatesti, daughter of Malatesta Malatesti Lord of Pesaro and commander of the Venice Republic.

This study shows that, while still essentially Byzantine, the artistic production of Mystras’ workshops is related to the cultural context of the countries of origin of the Despots’ wives. By revealing complex cross-cultural references, it demonstrates that these workshops were able to express features that were not just responses to Constantinopolitan models but autonomous, innovative and syncretic. Thus, through the case study of Mystras, this dissertation enhances our understanding of the sophisticated production of the Empire’s last artistic phase.

Previous art-historical approaches to Mystras have represented its artistic production during the late period as a unique, exceptional case, read within the Byzantine tradition (Millet 1910; Orlandos 1930; Chatzidakis 1980). Mouriki expanded this approach by analysing Mystras’ frescoes and integrating Orthodox Byzantine tradition alongside heterodox elements (Mouriki 1983,1987,1991). Those studies hint at a context of syncretism but never fully expand on it (see however (Kalopissi-Verti 2006) who expands on frescoes of the late period but focuses on a broader context).

My current research suggests a new syncretic analysis of Mystras’ production, considering relations with other geographies, and expands to different disciplines. In this approach – similar to those adopted in studies of different periodization (Brubaker and Haldon, 2011; Gerstel 2013) – the visual confronts the historical, and material culture helps us to understand documentary sources, dealing with a broad range of sources and materials: design and architectural details, frescoed and sculptured decorations, archaeological and literary evidence. It employs a historical syncretic cultural approach, a Kulturgeschichte, which interweaves the cultural values of different objects with the histories of the three Catholic women at the court.

This approach introduces new questions and previously overlooked elements in the study of the artistic production of the late period, and, in particular, sheds new light on the role of these three women, as active agents and epitomes of the cultural syncretism of the multi-layered late Palaiologan society.

Other activities

  • 2015:  Conference paper: ‘Aristocratic Costumes in Funerary Portraits in Mystras: Syncretic Cultural Trends in the Late Palaiologan Despotate of Morea’ in the session The Empire of the Palaiologoi: Ruin or Renewal?, I - Cultures in Transition at the 2015 International Medieval Congress – University of Leeds – 9 July 2015
  • 2015: Presented communication at postgraduate workshop A Severed Bond? at The Courtauld Institute of Art - 15 May 2015
  • 2015: Conference communication ‘The elephant on the page: Ciriaco de’Pizzicolli D’Ancona in Mystras’ at the 48th Spring Byzantine Symposium “Whose Mediterranean is it anyway? Cross-cultural interaction between Byzantium and the West 1204-1669 - Open University, Milton Keynes - 27-29 March 2015 
  • 2015: Field trip to Medieval Lakonia – 13/29 April 2015
  • 2014: Conference paper: ‘Antiquarianism in Late Byzantine Mystras’ at 2014 Byzantine Studies Conference of the Byzantine Studies Association of North America - Vancouver - 6-9 November 2014
  • 2014: Attended Dumbarton Oaks Byzantine Studies Symposium, Symposiarchs: Susan Ashbrook Harvey, Brown University and Margaret Mullett, Dumbarton Oaks - 25-27 April 2014
  • 2014: Cappadocia in Context - Byzantine & Post-Byzantine Cappadocia - Intensive Graduate Summer Workshop by Koç University RCAC – Istanbul - 16 June – 4 July 2014
  • 2014: Conference paper: ‘Mystras Centre of Artistic Innovation’ at the International Graduate Conference 2014 - The City & the cities - The Oxford University Byzantine Society’s XVI International Graduate Conference - Oxford University -28 February/ 1 March 2014 
  • 2014: Conference paper: ‘Katechoumena/ginaikites - Upper Galleries in Late Palaiologan Churches in Mystra’ at the 19th Annual Medieval Postgraduate Student Colloquium - Boundaries in Medieval Art and Architecture - The Courtauld Institute of Art, London - 1 February 2014
  • 2013: Research Field Trip to Mystras, Greece - 12-18 May 2013
  • 2013: Conference Paper ‘Letters from Mystras’ at the 14th Annual Postgraduate Colloquium Centre for Byzantine, Ottoman and Modern Greek Studies - 25th May 2013


  • 2014: ‘Cappadocia in Context 2014 – a report’ in Diogenes 2 (2014): 118-121 – see
  • 2013: ‘Ernst Kitzinger and the Making of Byzantine Art History, Convegno The Warburg Institute’, London 11 January 2013, in Arte medievale (s. IV, IV, 2014), 309-312
  • 2011: ‘Giacomo Boni: A photographic memory for the people. Documenting architecture through photographic surveys in post-unification Italy’, in Caraffa, Costanza [edited by], Photographic Archives and the Photographic Memory of Art History, Kunsthistorisches Institute in Florenz, Deutscher Kunstverlag, pp. 217-226
  • 2010: ‘Scolpire il gesto: dallo studio all’azione’, in Quando è scultura, et. al., Milano, pp. 152-165
  • 2007: ‘Joan Jonas: a critical biography’, in Joan Jonas, Edizioni Charta, Milano
  • 2007: ‘Showcasing Art in the East End’, in “Ottagono”, 206, December, pp. 10-17
  • 2006: ‘Read/Bacon/Sylvester: declinare l’immagine dell’artista’, in COSTRUIRE IL DISPOSITIVO STORICO. Tra fonti e strumenti, Bruno Mondadori, Milano
  • 2005: ‘mobile landscape | graz in real time’, in M Stadt Europäische Stadtlandschaften, M City European Cityscape, Kunsthaus Graz