Thelma K. Thomas

Associate Professor of Fine Arts

B.A. 1980, Bryn Mawr College; M.A. 1982, New York University; PhD 1990, New York University

I teach and conduct research across the fields of Late Antique, Byzantine, and Eastern Christian art. My current research focusing on textile furnishings, portraits of the Egyptian desert fathers, and monastic dress in Late Antiquity, has led me to investigate social and ritual space, even as it has renewed my interest in developments of ancient traditions during Late Antiquity, and the reception of Late Antique art in modern times. I remain concerned with issues of craft and reuse, especially as they involve perception of the artwork, particular circumstances of commission and production and, more generally, art commerce all along the chronological continuum from Late Antiquity until the present day. My work in Eastern Christian art, especially, addresses the movement of materials, artworks, motifs, concepts, artisans, and consumers of art across diverse cultural territories. Although functionally technilliterate, expert assistance helps me as I continue to explore the growing utility of digital tools and resources for documentation, research, and the presentation of research.

Selected publications
“Late Antique Art,” in Oxford Bibliographies in Classics, Dee Clayman, ed. (Oxford University Press) at, 2014

“Mimetic Devotion and Dress in Some Monastic Portraits from the Monastery of Apa Apollo at Bawit” Coptica 11 (2012) 37-79, 2012

“‘Ornaments of excellence’ from ‘the miserable gains of commerce’: Luxury Art and Byzantine Culture,” in Byzantium and Islam, 7th to 9th Century: Age of Transition, H. C. Evans with B. Ratliff, eds. (Metropolitan Museum of Art/Yale University Press) 124-133 and notes, 284-287, 2012

J. Alchermes, ed., with H. C Evans and T. K. Thomas, Anathemata Eortika: Studies in Honor of Thomas F. Mathews (Reichert), 2010

“Coptic Textiles in the Dikran G. Kelekian Textile Album of c. 1910” in Anathemata Eortika: Studies in Honor of Thomas F. Mathews, J. Alchermes, ed., with H. C. Evans and T. K. Thomas (Reichert Verlag) 300-312, 2010

“Coptic and Byzantine Textiles Found in Egypt: Corpora, Collections and Scholarly Perspectives,” in Egypt in the Byzantine World, 300-700, R. S. Bagnall, ed. (Cambridge University Press), 137-162, 2007

“Arts of Christian Communities in the Medieval Middle East,” in Byzantium: Faith and Power, 1261-1557, H. C. Evans, ed. (Metropolitan Museum of Art and Yale University Press), 415-26, 2004

Reading Medieval Images: The Art Historian and the Object.  Essays in Honor of Ilene H. Forsyth, E. Sears and T. K. Thomas, eds., (University of Michigan Press), 2002

“The Medium Matters: Reading the Remains of a Late Antique Textile,” Reading Medieval Images: The Art Historian and the Object.  Essays in Honor of Ilene H. Forsyth, E. L. Sears and T. K. Thomas, eds. (University of Michigan Press), 38-49, 2002

Late Antique Egyptian Funerary Sculpture: Images for this World and the Next (Princeton University Press), 2000

Selected online projects
Publishing The Art Bulletin: Past, Present, and FutureOpen link in new window,” a project celebrating the Centennial of The Art Bulletin toward discussion of the journal’s digital future, utilizing Scalar, the online publishing platform from The Alliance for Networking Visual Culture, with Alexei Taylor, Designer and Instructor, Hemispheric Institute, NYU, 2012-2013

Online illustrated database of Kelsey Museum collection of textilesOpen link in new window from Karanis, Egypt (3500 items), 2002-2005

The Fabric of Everyday Life: Historic Textiles from Karanis, EgyptOpen link in new window,” 2002

Recent courses
Soft Furnishings in Late Antiquity (Seminar), 2014

Late Antiquity along the Nile (Colloquium), 2014

Byzantine Art, 9th to 15th Centuries (Lecture), 2013

Portraying the Teacher in Late Antiquity (Seminar), 2013

Ornament in Late Antique Dress (Seminar), 2012

Clothing Men in Late Antiquity (Seminar), 2012

Byzantine Silk, 7-9th Centuries (Seminar), 2011

Art Production and Commerce in Byzantium and the Christian East, 6-10th Centuries (Colloquium), 2011

Transforming Heaven and Earth: The Arts of Late Antiquity and New Rome (Lecture), 2010

Art and Sacred Space in Late Antique Egypt (Seminar), 2010

Recent professional activity and awards
Visiting Research Scholar, Institute for the Study of the Ancient World, New York University, 2013 - 2014
Editorial Board, The Art Bulletin, Chair, 2011 - 2013
Editorial Board, The Art Bulletin, member, 2009 - 2013
University of Southern California, The Alliance for Networking Visual Culture, grant for implementation of online publication project for The Art Bulletin, 2012
International Center of Medieval Art, Governing Board, 2008 - 2011