Connected Central European Worlds, 1500-1700

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Lecture by Nazar Kozak

"The Sovereign's Image and its Site-Specificity in Kyivan Rus'"

13 OCTOBER 2022

12:00 ET | 17:00 LONDON | 18:00 PARIS | 19:00 KYIV

Register for Zoom link here.


Although the ruling clan of Kyivan Rus’ was rather numerous, only few historic portraits of its members have been preserved until now. These include family portraits in the wall paintings of St. Sophia and St. Cyril churches in Kyiv, the miniatures in the Izobornik of the year 1073 and the Pselterium Egberti, and rare examples of individual portrayals in an early coinage. Their scarcity of these images makes them an invaluable tool for envisioning the historic past and providing a visual dimension to the testimonies of the written sources. That is how most scholars have approached them: merely as illustrations for historic figures and events. In this lecture, I will discuss the role these images played in the political processes on their own and how their relations to their discursive site—that is the power struggle for the Kyivan throne—defined the need for their production and the way of their reception. The Kyivan sovereign’s portraits, I argue, concealed the questionable mechanisms of raising into power and legitimized the alleged usurpers in the eyes of the society, the Church, and Christ.


Nazar Kozak is Senior Researcher at the Department of Art Studies at the Ethnology Institute of the National Academy of Sciences, Ukraine and Associate Professor of Art History at Ivan Franko University of Lviv. Kozak received a PhD from Lviv Academy of Arts in 2000. His research was supported by scholarships and grants from the Fulbright Scholar Program, Getty Scholar Program, the American Council of Learned Societies, and other organizations. Kozak is working in two subfields of art history simultaneously: medieval and contemporary. His research on the medieval period concerns political iconography and art exchanges in Byzantine and post-Byzantine cultural spheres. In contemporary art studies, Kozak is exploring art’s agency in crisis situations.


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Part of a lecture and discussion series ‘From Kyivan Rus’ to Modern Ukraine: Virtual Conversations on History, Art, and Cultural Heritage’ co-organized in collaboration with Dumbarton Oaks and North of Byzantium.


Return to the lecture series here.