Alexander Ekserdjian to Join History of Art and Classics Departments

Alexander Ekserdjian to Join History of Art and Classics Departments

July 6, 2023

Alexander Ekserdjian, a scholar of ancient Mediterranean art with a specialization in the sculpture of Roman Italy, is joining the Department of the History of Art and the Department of Classics at Yale. From July 1, 2023, he will be a post-doctoral associate, and the following year he will become a tenure-track assistant professor in both departments.

Ekserdjian, who grew up in London, graduated from St. Johns College, University of Oxford in 2015 with a first-class degree in Classical Archaeology and Ancient History. “I was first intrigued by historical texts,” he explains, “and later realized you could also reconstruct the worlds of ancient peoples through objects and images.”

Ekserdjian entered the Ph.D. program at Columbia University in 2015. His dissertation, defended in May, concerns the representation of gods in the freestanding and architectural sculpture of central Italian sanctuaries. His research studies “the role of works of art in engagement with the divine,” focusing on the material culture of sacred spaces and the transmission of artistic ideas to and from Italy.

One of his areas of expertise is sculptural representations of the body and the visual power of these works. He explains that “there is something very direct about a sculptured body and how we respond to three-dimensional objects. In focusing on sacred sculpture, I wanted to engage in research on something of the utmost importance to the people who made it, the people who commissioned it and the people who encountered it in sacred places.”

Another part of Ekserdjian’s work is to compare these physical manifestations of the gods “with the sculptures of mortals in the same period and in the same places, and to see how they relate in terms of size and scale, the materials they were made from, the way these bodies behaved, all of which contributed to how people related to the gods.”

This research has received support from fellowships at Columbia and beyond, including the International Scholarship Program at the Staatliche Museen zu Berlin, where Ekserdjian was affiliated with the Antikensammlung. He has also participated in archaeological excavations in Italy and the UK, most recently as a member of the Advanced Program in Ancient History and Art (APAHA) team at Hadrians Villa, Tivoli.

Ekserdjian collaborated in the preparation of the exhibition Agents of Faith: Votive Objects in Time and Place at Bard Graduate Center Gallery in 2018 and contributed to the show’s catalogue with an essay titled Edible Offerings: Food in Votive Culture” (with Michael H. Dewberry). He described the works as “incredibly powerful as traces of hopes, prayers, and ritual actions.”

“My research is about trying to reconstruct peoples’ experiences of religious art. I seek to understand how the essence of divinity might have been communicated to worshippers in ancient sacred places and how that experience relied on the artistic choices that were made.”