Magdalene Breidenthal

Mary Seeger O’Boyle Postdoctoral Research Fellow, 2021-2022

  • Degree
    Ph.D., Art History, Yale University, 2019
    Leaving “Heaven on Earth”: The Visual Codes of Middle Byzantine Church Exits
    Research Project
    The Exit Image in Byzantium: Exodos, Eschatology, and Environment
Contact Info

Magdalene Breidenthal specializes in the history of Byzantine art. Her research focuses on monumental painting and viewer response, the relationship between art and liturgy, and questions pertaining to thresholds and mobility in sacred spaces and landscapes. Breidenthal received degrees in art history from Fordham University (B.A,. 2008), the Courtauld Institute of Art (M.A., 2009), and Yale University (Ph.D., 2019). From 2015-2018 her dissertation research was supported by a Paul Mellon Pre-doctoral Fellowship at the Center for Advanced Study in the Visual Arts (CASVA). Prior to beginning her postdoctoral fellowship at Princeton, Breidenthal taught art history courses at Fordham University and Queens College, CUNY.

About the Research Project

The Exit Image in Byzantium: Exodos, Eschatology, and Environment

I am revising my dissertation into a book that foregrounds the “exit image” as an art historical category and argues for its particular significance in the study of Middle Byzantine church decoration. When viewers entered a church adorned with paintings and/or mosaics, they were afforded changing views of holy scenes and figures as they moved throughout the interior—even as they left the building. Visual and textual sources show that eschatological, theophanic, and hagiographical imagery was often prominently displayed around exit doorways; I consider how the subject matter, composition, and placement of such images at the threshold would have engaged the sensory and metaphorical aspects of exodos (“going out”). Ultimately, I hope to demonstrate that exit images framed departure not as a rupture but rather contributed to multivalent connections between the ritualized church interior and its surroundings, understood in terms of death, community, and the environment.

Current Roles

  • Postdoctoral Research Fellow