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Bissera Pentcheva

Professor of Art and Art History
Professor of Classics by courtesy
Ph.D., Harvard University
B.A., Dartmouth College

Bissera V. Pentcheva's innovative work on acoustics, art, and music has redefined the field of Byzantine architecture and is now expanding into Western medieval art. Her new research explores the visions of Ste. Foy at Conques developed in the interactions across art, music, poetry, and dance. The project is funded by Stanford's Cultivating the Humanities Grant,

Pentcheva has published three books with Pennsylvania State University Press: Icons and Power: The Mother of God in Byzantium, 2006 (received the Nicholas Brown Prize of the Medieval Academy of America, 2010), The Sensual Icon: Space, Ritual, and the Senses in Byzantium, 2010, and Hagia Sophia: Sound, Space and Spirit in Byzantium, 2017 (received the 2018 American Academy of Religion Award in excellence in historical studies). She has edited two volumes: Aural Architecture in Byzantium: Music, Acoustics, and Ritual, Ashgate 2018 and Icons of Sound: Architecture, Music and Imagination in Medieval Art, Routledge, Routledge 2020. Her work is informed by anthropology, music, and phenomenology, placing the attention on the changing appearance of objects and architectural spaces. She relies on film to capture this temporal animation stirred by candlelight. Another important strand of her work engages the sonic envelope of the visual--music and acoustics--and employs auralizations that digitally imprint the performance of chant with the acoustic signature of the specific interior for which it was composed. Her current book project explores the art and music of Ste. Foy at Conques. Pentcheva's research has been supported by a number of prestigious fellowships:  Wissenschaftskolleg zu Berlin (2018-2019), J. S. Guggenheim (2017-2018), American Academy in Rome (2017-2018), Mellon New Directions (2010-2012), Humboldt (2006-2009) and a Dumbarton Oaks Junior Fellowship (2000-2001).


McMurtry 340

Fields of Interest

phenomenology and aesthetics, architectural psychoacoustics, performance and ritual, medieval image theory, Iconoclasm, cult of the Mother of God