Flavia Vanni

Flavia Vanni

Centre for Byzantine, Ottoman and Modern Greek Studies
Doctoral researcher

Contact details

Title of thesis:  Byzantine stucco decoration 850-1453. Cultural and economic implications across the Mediterranean.
Supervisor: Professor Leslie Brubaker, Dr Dan Reynolds
Funding: AHRC - Midlands3Cities

Qualifications

  • MRes in Byzantine Studies (University of Birmingham)
  • MA in Art History (‘La Sapienza’ Università di Roma)
  • BA in Art History (‘La Sapienza’ Università di Roma)

Biography

My interest in Byzantine Art history dates back to my first year of undergraduate in Rome (‘La Sapienza Università di Roma). I was fascinated by the module on Byzantine Art and my interest in Byzantine material culture was cemented by a trip to Istanbul the same year.

My BA and later MA studies, both in Art History, were influenced by the interest in Byzantium. Besides Art History,  I also undertook related modules in  History, Archaeology, Conservation, Museology and Medieval Literature.

During the final year of my MA studies, I had the opportunity to deepen my knowledge of Byzantine inlaid sculpture. It was during this period of research that became aware of the lack of study about the stucco decorations in the Middle-Byzantine period

I addressed this topic in my MA dissertation, but realised that this  research only represented the starting point of a wider field.

The following year I came to Birmingham for an MRes in Byzantine Studies which allowed me to expand my knowledge and my skills in text translations and economy. My thesis was focused on textual evidence about stucco workers and stucco artefacts.

I have augmented these skills with additional training in archival practices during an in internship at the Sovrintendenza per i Beni archeologici del Lazio (Italian Cultural Heritage Trust for archaeological findings)  and at the Centro di documentazione di Storia dell’arte bizantina of the ‘La Sapienza’ Università di Roma (Centre for the documentation of Byzantine art history).

Finally, I collaborated with the Institute for Applied technologies at Cultural Heritage (ITABC) of the CNR of Rome (National Centre for Research) for the documentation of the Byzantine site at Umm al-Rasas (Jordan).

Teaching

  • 2018-2019: ‘Barbarians and the transformation of Roman worlds’ (UG) (PG Teaching Associate). Module convenor Dr. Gareth Sears
  • 2017-2018: ‘Byzantium and the transformation of Roman worlds’ (UG) (PG Teaching Assistant). Module convenor Dr. Daniel Reynolds. 
  •  ‘Barbarians and the transformation of Roman worlds’ (UG) (PG Teaching Assistant) Module convenor Dr. Gareth Sears

Doctoral research

PhD title
Byzantine stucco decoration 850-1453. Cultural and economic implications across the Mediterranean world.
Supervisors
Professor Leslie Brubaker and Dr Daniel Reynolds
Course
Byzantine, Ottoman and Modern Greek Studies PhD/MA by Research (On-Campus or by Distance Learning)

Research

My research explores stucco decoration in Byzantine buildings between 850 and 1453. Stucco decorations are mainly known for the early Byzantine period (for example, Hagia Sophia in Constantinople, the Eufrasian basilica in Poreč, churches in Ravenna, and evidence from Cyprus). Yet, there is enough evidence to establish continuity in the use of this material in the subsequent middle and late Byzantine periods, even though with substantial changes in iconography. My project brings this evidence together and analyzes it in terms of artisans and workshop practices, iconography, patronage, Byzantine perception of stucco, and middle and late Byzantine stucco practices within the Mediterranean context.

Other activities

Conference papers

  • 2020  ‘Workshop(s) at work on middle-Byzantine Mount Athos.’ 12th-Annual Medievalists @ Penn Graduate Conference: Technique and Technology in the Middle Ages. Philadelphia, 17 April 2020. [Postponed to Fall 2020 due to COVID-19 emergency].
  • 2019  ‘The painted door at Sant’Ambrogio in Montecorvino Rovella: materiality and the evocation of space.’ La pittura parietale aniconica e decorativa fra tarda antichità e alto medioevo. Tradizioni, temi e tendenze (7-8 settembre Museo Archeologico nazionale di Napoli). 7-8 September 2019.
  • 2019 ‘Men at work. Stucco workshop(s) on Mount Athos.’ Panel ‘Byzantine Materialities, IV: Workshops, Trade, and Manuscripts.’ International Medieval Congress of Leeds 2019. 1-4 July 2019.
  • 2019  ‘Byzantine attitudes towards the Past. Restorations and plaster reliefs.’ The Oxford University Byzantine Society’s XXI International Graduate Conference - Contested Heritage: Αdaptation, Restoration, and Ιnnovation in the Late Antique and Byzantine World, Faculty of History, Oxford, 22-23 February 2019.
  • 2018  ‘Patrons and the use of stucco in Late Byzantine buildings – preliminary results.’ Panel ‘Fame: Patrons and Memory in Byzantium,’ International Medieval Congress of Leeds, July 2018.
  • 2018  ‘Between painting and sculpture: stucco decorations in Byzantine architecture.’ Research Relay of the Midlands3Cities Research Festival 2018. Maple House, Birmingham, 24 May 2018. 
  • 2018 ‘Guess Who? Problems in the identification of multitasking artisans in the Byzantine empire.’ Postgraduate CAHA Colloquium, University of Birmingham, 2 May 2018.
  • 2017  ‘Does a cheap material make a patron poor? Reconsidering stucco in Byzantine architecture.’ Panel ‘Skint: poverty and peasantry in Byzantium’ at the International Medieval Congress of Leeds 2017.
  • 2017  ‘Transferring skills and techniques across the Mediterranean: some preliminary remarks on stucco in Italy and Byzantium.’ Global Byzantium, The 50th Spring Symposium of Byzantine Studies. Birmingham 25 - 27 March 2017.

Membership of organisations

  • Member of the ‘Society for the Promotion of Byzantine Studies’.
  • Member of the ‘Associazione Italiana di Studi Bizantini (Italian Association for Byzantine Studies).

Events co-organised

  • 2022 ‘Round Table:  Tradition and innovation: the relationship of sculpture in Constantinople and Anatolia (in memory of Claudia Barsanti).’ 24th International Congress of Byzantine Studies (Venice-Padua). Accepted.https://www.byzcongress2021.org/file/Yuvarlak%20Masa%20Oturumlari-%20Round%20Tables-Tables%20rondes.pdf 
  • 2018 ‘Hurt and healing: people, texts and material culture in the Eastern Mediterranean. The 19th Postgraduate Colloquium of the Centre for Byzantine, Ottoman and Modern Greek Studies. 2nd June 2018’. https://cbomgs2018colloquium.wordpress.com/ 
  • 2017 ‘Skint: peasants and Poverty in Byzantium’ at the International Medieval Congress of Leeds, 3-7 July 2017. Full day sessions of four panels (12 speakers). 

Research grants received

  • 2020- Mary Jaharis Dissertation grant. Award granted to conduct non-invasive analysis on Byzantine stuccoes in Greece (10 buildings) and archival research.
  • 2019-2020 Dumbarton Oaks Junior Fellowship – Harvard Trustees. Full stipend for the academic year 2019-20.
  • 2019 International Center of Medieval Art (ICMA), Student Grant. Award granted to attend the summer school ‘Cappadocia in Context’ (9-23 June 2019), Koç University (Turkey).
  • 2016-2019 AHRC Midlands3Cities Doctoral Training partnership. Full stipend and payment of fees for doctoral research (36 months)

Networks and outreach projects

  • 2017-Present ‘At the Crossroads of Empires: the Longobard Church of Sant’Ambrogio at Montecorvino Rovella (Salerno), Italy’, University of Birmingham/ The Ironbridge Institute (Birmingham)/ Università di Salerno. Funded by British Academy -Leverhulme Trust – Gerda Henkel. Researcher. https://www.birmingham.ac.uk/research/crossroads-of-empires/index.aspx
  • 2020 Flow Tales: Remembering Antakya’s River Landscape’, funded by ‘Spaces of Culture’. Researcher and consultant for the Early and Middle Byzantine period, Early Islamic period, Crusaders’ period http://www.flow-tales.com 

Academia.edu URL

Publications

  • F. Vanni. ‘Aspetti meno noti della scultura medio bizantina: la decorazione a stucco.’ In: S. Cosentino, M. E. Pomero, G. Vespignani eds., Dialoghi con Bisanzio. Atti dell’VIII Congresso Nazionale dell’Associazione Italiana di Studi Bizantini, Ravenna 25-27 settembre 2015, Centro italiano di studi sull'alto medioevo, Spoleto 2019, 1119-11140.
  • F. Vanni. ‘Transferring skills and techniques across the Mediterranean: some preliminary remarks on stucco in Italy and Byzantium.’ In: Proceedings of the 50th Spring Symposium of Byzantine Studies. Birmingham 25th - 27th March 2017 (forthcoming)
  • F. Vanni. ‘La ‘finta’ porta in Sant’Ambrogio a Montecorvino Rovella (SA): alcune riflessioni su un unicum altomedievale.’ In F. Marazzi, M. Cuomo, eds., La pittura parietale aniconica e decorativa fra tarda antichità e alto medioevo. Tradizioni, temi e tendenze', 7-8/09/2019, Museo Archeologico Nazionale di Napoli (in-press).

Book Reviews

  • N. Melvani, Late Byzantine Sculpture. (Studies in the Visual Cultures of the Middle Ages, 6). Turnhout: Brepols 2013. Pp. X, 299 + 114 illustrations, 5 drawings, 10 colour plates.DOI: 10.1017/byz.2017.8. Byzantine and Modern Greek Studies, 41.2 (October 2017), p. 314.