The Byzantines used imagery to communicate a wide range of issues. In the context of Iconoclasm - the debate about the legitimacy of religious art conducted between c. AD 730 and 843 - Byzantine authors themselves claimed that visual images could express certain ideas better than words. Vision and Meaning in Ninth-Century Byzantium deals with how such visual communication worked and examines the types of messages that pictures could convey in the aftermath of Iconoclasm. Its focus is on a deluxe manuscript commissioned around 880, a copy of the fourth-century sermons of the Cappadocian church father Gregory of Nazianzus which presented to the Emperor Basil I, founder of the Macedonian dynasty, by one of the greatest scholars Byzantium ever produced, the patriarch Photios. The manuscript was lavishly decorated with gilded initials, elaborate headpieces and a full-page miniature before each of Gregory's sermons. Forty-six of these, including over 200 distinct scenes, survive. Fewer than half however were directly inspired by the homily that they accompany.
Instead most function as commentaries on the ninth-century court and carefully deconstructed both provide us with information not available from preserved written sources and perhaps more important show us how visual images communicate differently from words.
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(247mm x 174mm x 34mm)
Cambridge University Press
Publisher: Cambridge University Press
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