About: Sharon E. Gerstel

I teach Byzantine art history and archaeology at UCLA. My research focuses on medieval Greece—its rich culture of monasteries and villages, its landscape, its urban dwellers, and its more humble residents. I've written numerous books and articles and received a Guggenheim Fellowship in 2010.

Posts by Sharon

Posted in Art, Exhibitions and Installations, Getty Villa

Uncovering the History of a Long-Buried Byzantine Treasure

Hagia Sophia mosaic of the Virgin Mary
The Virgin Mary wears ornamented cuffs to secure her sleeves in this mosaic in Hagia Sophia. Photo from Mosaics of Thessaloniki: 4th to 14th century, ed. Charalambos Bakirtzis (Athens: 2012)

A woman’s gold cuff provides a window into the rich history of Thessaloniki. More»

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      #ThyCaptionBe: You Look Like Hell

      You captioned this detail. And we’re revealing the full story now.

      Escaping the in-laws or medieval Sea World? It’s actually an extreme punishment for a dress code violation. 

      Here’s the full story:

      The Christian tale of Saint Josaphat is roughly based on the life of the Buddha in a kind of medieval game of telephone, in which the sources for the text passed through Christian circles in the Middle East in the 8th century before appearing in European versions in the 11th century. 

      Here an unsuitably dressed guest—we can see that his tattered clothing and scruffy facial hair have no place at the well-dressed gathering—is cast into the dark, open mouth of a terrifying animal. 

      To make matters worse, the story is a parable in which Barlaam, Josaphat’s Christian teacher, describes the sinful who do not make the cut at the Last Judgment.

      Holiday Lesson: Always check the dress code.

      #ThyCaptionBe is a celebration of modern interpretations of medieval aesthetics. You guess what the heck is going on, then we myth-bust.


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