Picturing a Lost Empire: An Italian Lens on Byzantine Art in Anatolia, 1960-2000

Date: 01 Jun 2018 – 31 December 2018 5 April 2020 extended
Place: ANAMED Arched Gallery, Floor -1
Visiting Hours: Tuesday – Saturday 10:00-18:30, Sunday 12:00-18:30

Curators: Livia Bevilacqua, Giovanni Gasbarri
ANAMED Gallery Curator: Şeyda Çetin

‘Picturing a Lost Empire: An Italian Lens on Byzantine Art in Anatolia, 1960–2000’ exhibition focuses on the research on Byzantine art carried out by Italian scholars in the second half of the twentieth century and examines its mutual relationship with the history of Byzantine art historiography in Turkey. Featuring a selection of previously unpublished archival photographs of extraordinary monuments preserved in Anatolia, the exhibition can be visited at ANAMED in Istanbul.

Between 1966 and 2000, Italian art historians traveled across the historical regions of Turkey in order to explore the architecture surviving from the Middle Ages (400–1400 CE). These trips resulted in a substantial number of photographs, later collected in the Center for Documentation of Byzantine Art History of Sapienza (CDSAB). Curated by art historians Livia Bevilacqua and Giovanni Gasbarri, the exhibition offers a look into the holdings of CDSAB for the first time.

“Picturing a Lost Empire: An Italian Lens on Byzantine Art in Anatolia, 1960–2000” draws extensively on the photographs and other archival materials of the CDSAB, focusing specifically on four historical regions: eastern Turkey; Lycia; Mesopotamia and Tur ‘Abdin; Cilicia and Isauria. These outstanding materials, gathered over the course of almost fifty years, attest to the story of monuments and artifacts that, in many cases, have since been radically transformed or have even vanished. The exhibition invites visitors to follow this unique route from Rome to the East, to rediscover the remains of a lost empire, and to step into the scenic landscape that surrounds them.


The Center for Documentation of Byzantine Art History (Centro di Documentazione di Storia dell’Arte Bizantina–CDSAB) at the Department of Art History and Performing Arts of Sapienza University in Rome was established in 1996. It houses the documentation gathered during the study trips carried out by the Sapienza team in the Eastern Mediterranean territories that began in the 1960s. The CDSAB is the repository for over 35,100 images of various media (printed photographs, slides and transparencies, negatives, maps, drawings, etc.). The materials are arranged by geographical area: Istanbul (4600), Armenia (5300), and the Byzantine Near East including Turkey, Syria, Israel, Jordan, and Egypt (22,800), along with photographs of Byzantine manuscript illuminations (2400). Additional textual documents essential to the reconstruction of the methods of this research activity, such as letters, notes, and travel diaries, are also kept at the CDSAB. As a whole, the documents of the CDSAB are an outstanding resource for the study of Byzantine art history and for a better understanding of the development of Byzantine art historiography in Italy in the second half of the twentieth century.