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Rosenbaum, Elisabeth Alföldi

    Full Name: Rosenbaum, Elisabeth Alföldi

    Gender: female

    Date Born: 06 September 1911

    Date Died: 06 October 1992

    Place Born: Koblenz, Saxony, Germany

    Place Died: Princeton, Mercer, NJ, USA

    Home Country/ies: Germany and United States

    Subject Area(s): Classical and Medieval (European)

    Institution(s): University of Toronto


    Historian of classical antiquity and medieval art. She was born in Koblenz but grew up in Cologne, Germany. Between 1939 and 1940 she studied at the Pädagogische Hochschule in Leipzig. From 1941 to 1942 she spent some time in Budapest and then Vienna, studying under art historian Andreas Alföldi (1895-1981) (Cahn). It was at this point in her career that Rosenbaum began to develop an interest in late antiquity and the early Middle Ages (Cahn). In 1942 she was a research assistant at the Institut für Christliche Archäologie in Berlin which continued until 1946. In the same year she received a scholarship from the University of Budapest, during which her interest in Christian archaeology was sparked. Rosenbaum received her doctoral degree at the Freie Universität Berlin, focusing on Early Christian Archaeology. She finished her degree in 1944, spending much of that time in air raid shelters because of World War II (Campbell). Her dissertation focused on the portraits of Pannonian grave stelae. In 1945 she was an assistant at the Universität Mainz, teaching at their ​​Institut für Kunstgeschichte. She left Germany in 1950 to get her second doctoral degree in Medieval Art History at the Warburg Institute at the University of London. From 1950 to 1951 she was assistant to art historian Friedrich Gerke. In 1952 she received a doctorate in art history from the Cour­tauld In­sti­tu­te der Uni­ver­si­ty of Lon­don. She became the archaeological editor of the Türk Tarih Kurumu research society in 1963. The Türk Tarih Kurumu focused on Turkish history and Anatolian archaeology. While in Turkey she met Jale Inan, a Turkish archaeologist. The two collaborated on publications covering Roman and Byzantine portraiture. She began to excavate the site of Anamur in Cilicia and Adrasos in Isauria in 1965. In 1966 her editorial work ended and she began working with the Department of Fine Art at the University of Toronto. In 1967 she married her former instructor Andreas Alföldi. Her excavation work ended in 1970. She was awarded a professorship at the University of Toronto 1973. Her legacy as a professor was notoriously dedicated to her teaching, fueled by a vigor that occasionally surpassed that of her students (Cambell). This vigor appeared in the form of late night study sessions in Rosenbaum’s very own home (Campbell). She retired in 1984 at the age of 63, leaving the University of Toronto with the title of Professor Emerita. She spent her time in retirement finishing the unpublished work of her husband on contorniate medals (Campbell). Rosenbaum continued her own writing on Alexandrian game pieces, objects that had previously been held in obscurity (Campbell). Rosenbaum would never finish this work due to her death at the age of 71 in 1992.

    One of Alföldi-Rosenbaum’s notable hypotheses is in reference to the Portrait Bust of a Woman with a Scroll, held in the Metropolitan Museum of Art. The sculpture shows a woman by herself, however, there were several theories about the reasoning for her damaged shoulder. Alföldi-Rosenbaum was the first to theorize that rather than this damage being the result of repair work, it was initially the location for a male figure meant to be the husband. While this motif had been shown in other forms of media, this would be the first known example of a sculptural example.

    The book Justinianic Mosaic Pavements in Cyrenaican Churches addressed the mosaic work in the Qasr-el-Lebia. These nave mosaics were included in eight different churches. In covering these different churches the book covers large scale details like the overall composition of the structures and more miniscule details like pavement and inscriptions. These different details are then compared to acknowledge the similarities and differences between the churches.

    In her book, The Necropolis of Adrassus (Balabolu) in Rough Cilicia (Isauria), written in collaboration with Joyce Reynolds, Alföldi-Rosenbaum covers her discoveries on the excavation done in Anemurium. The book also covers the mountain site Palaeopolis and the excavations done from 1962 to 1966. A notable detail shared in this book is the description of the tombs onsite and their included sarcophagi. In addition to this is a description of a church held in the necropolis. The book also provides a count for each of the various artifacts found onsite.

    Selected Bibliography

    • [Dissertation] Porträts Auf Pannonischen Grabsteinen. Freie Universität Berlin. 1944
    • “The Vine Columns of Old St. Peter’s in Carolingian Canon Tables.” Journal of the Warburg and Courtauld Institutes 18, no. 1/2 (1955): 1–15.
    • A Catalogue of Cyrenaican Portrait Sculpture. London: Published for the British Academy by Oxford University Press. 1960
    • “Richard Brilliant, Gesture and Rank in Roman Art. the use of Gestures to Denote Status in Roman Sculpture and Coinage. (Memoirs of the Connecticut Academy of Arts and Sciences, Vol. XIV.) New Haven: Connecticut Academy, 1963. Pp. 238, 479 Ills. $20.00.” The Journal of Roman Studies 54 (1-2): 223-224.
    • and İnan, Jale. Roman and early Byzantine portrait sculpture in Asia Minor. London: Published for the British Academy by Oxford University Press. 1966
    • and Gerhard Huber, and Somay Onurkan. A survey of coastal cities in western Cilicia: preliminary report. Ankara: Türk Tarih Kurumu Basimevi. 1967
    • “Portrait Bust of a Young Lady of the Time of Justinian.” Metropolitan Museum Journal 1 (1968): 19–40.
    • “External Mosaic Decoration on Late Antique Buildings.” Frühmittelalterliche Studien 4 (1970): 1-7.
    • “The Finger Calculus in Antiquity and in the Middle Ages Studies on Roman Game Counters I” Frühmittelalterliche Studien, vol. 5, no. 1, 1971, pp. 1-9.
    • “Matronianus, Comes Isauriae: An Inscription from the Sea Wall of Anemurium.” Phoenix 26, no. 2 (1972): 183–86.
    • and İnan, Jale. Römische und frühbyzantinische Porträtplastik aus der Türkei: neue Funde. Mainz am Rhein: Von Zabern. 1979
    • and Ward-Perkins, J. B. 1980. Justinianic Mosaic Pavements in Cyrenaican Churches. Roma: “L’Erma” di Bretschneider. 1980
    • and Alföldi, Andreas. 1984. Caesariana: gesammelte Aufsätze zur Geschichte Caesars und seiner Zeit. Bonn: R. Habelt.
    • 1989. “Anemurium : A Bath Building of the Early Christian – Early Byzantine Period.” Publications De l’École Française De Rome 123 (1): 1647-1659.


    • Campbell, Sheila D., and James Russell. “Elisabeth Alföldi-Rosenbaum, 1921-1992.” American Journal of Archaeology 97, no. 3 (1993): 565–66.
    • Campbell, Sheila. Reviewed Work: Justinianic Mosaic Pavements in Cyrenaican Churches by Elisabeth Alföldi-Rosenbaum, John Ward-Perkins Phoenix 39, no. 1 (1985): 96–98.
    • “Elisabeth Alföldi-Rosenbaum.” Portal Reinische Geschichte Accessed December 8, 2022.
    • Williams, Hector. Reviewed Work: The Necropolis of Adrassus (Balabolu) in Rough Cilicia (Isauria) by Elisabeth Alföldi-Rosenbaum, Joyce Reynolds, Karl-Dietrich Schmidt Phoenix 45, no. 2 (1991): 180–82.
    • Cahn, Herbert A. “Elisabeth Alföldi-Rosenbaum.” Gnomon 65, no. 8 (1993): 762–63.
    • Metropolitan Museum of Art, 2006.

    Contributors: Caitlin Childers


    Caitlin Childers. "Rosenbaum, Elisabeth Alföldi." Dictionary of Art Historians (website).

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