Portraits and Icons: Between Reality and Spirituality in Byzantine Art

Portraits and Icons: Between Reality and Spirituality in Byzantine Art

by Katherine Marsengill


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Portraits and Icons: Between Reality and Spirituality in Byzantine Art by Katherine Marsengill

This book examines the phenomena of portraits and icons, and spans from late antiquity through the end of the Byzantine period. Engaging a wide range of material, it addresses persistent themes in the creation of a distinctly Christianized portraiture while analyzing the cultural and theological perceptions that guided its reception. Christian Rome inherited from antiquity its traditions and beliefs regarding portraits. Though altered for its new Christian context, these perceptions did not disappear. This study proves that within Christian portraiture, the icon is not reserved for saints alone. Instead, one must imagine the Byzantine world as one where sacred and secular art intermingled, and portraits of Christ and the saints, emperors, bishops, and holy men existed side by side in visual messages of hierarchal authority. Indeed, in the portrayal of power and holiness, there existed a range of images that can be classified as icons. Certain individuals of high-ranking status, though not saints, were portrayed in ways that recall images of saints because their spiritual or divine authority ranked them closer to God.Their positions further up the hierarchy enabled them to help others in their spiritual ascent and daily needs. Viewers in turn understood these elevated members of their community to be efficacious intercessors and their portraits to be worthy of veneration.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9782503544045
Publisher: Brepols Publishers
Publication date: 11/05/2013
Series: Studies in Byzantine History and Civilization Series , #5
Pages: 474
Product dimensions: 6.30(w) x 9.20(h) x 1.10(d)

About the Author

Katherine Marsengill received her PhD in Byzantine Art from Princeton University in 2010.Since completion of her degree, she has taught at Princeton and been a research and educational advisor for the exhibition Transitions to Christianity: Art of Late Antiquity, 3rd - 7th Century AD at the Onassis Cultural Center in New York (December 2011 - May 2012).Her main fields of interest are the processes of artistic change during Late Antiquity, especially concerning portraiture, the rise of icons in Eastern Christianity, issues related to the representation of holy persons as well as the perception of sacred spaces in Byzantium.

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