The Asymmetry of Text and Image in Byzantium
Mots clés :art byzantin, chagrin, émotion, enluminure, fresque, icône, lamentation, texte et image, thrène, iconographie
Keywords :Byzantine art, grief, emotion, fresco, icon, iconography, illumination, lament, texte and images, threnos
Parole chiave :affresco, arte bizantino, emozione, icona, iconografia, lamento, miniatura, pena, testo ed immagine, treno
Œuvres, personnages et lieux littéraires :église de la Trinité de Sopoćani, église saint Clément d’Ohrid, église saint Georges de Kurbinovo, ermitage de saint Néophytos de Chypre, monastère saint Catherine du Mont Sinaï
Index des médiévaux et anciens :Andréas Pavias, Bonaventura Berlinghieri, Eugène de Palerme, Gennade Scholarios, Georges de Nicomédie, Grégoire de Nysse, Jacques Kokkinobaphos, Jean Chrysostome, Jean Mavropous, Nicéphore Basilakès, Philagathos, Pseudo-Denys l’Aréopagite, Rupert de Deutz, Syméon Métaphraste, Théodore Balsamon
1The purpose of the following pages is to explore relationships between texts and images in the context of the display of emotions in Byzantine art and literature. The focus here will not be on similarities between text and image, but rather on dissimilarities. The principal question will be: what was allowable for church orators, on the one hand, to say, and for artists, on the other hand, to paint; what was it permitted to hear and what to view? In Byzantium the limits for verbal and for visual discourse were not always the same, for texts and images were subject to different laws. In Byzantium the image often had a force that surpassed that of words. The image could be venerated. It had agency and could act in its own right. If it was of Christ or the saints it could bring a benediction – or, if it was an idol, it could be dangerous. These characteristics of images in Byzantium did not allow for a simple transposition between the rhetoric of texts and the rhetoric of images. Always there were boundaries, which had to be respected. Between Byzantine literature and Byzantine art there was an asymmetry; the visual arts were usually, but not always, more conservative than the written word.
- 1 John 11:35.
2This principle of disjunction between text and image in Byzantium is well illustrated by the depiction of sorrow in Byzantine art. The Byzantines had a schizophrenic attitude to the display of grief. The expression of mourning was allowable in religious literature and art, because the doctrine of the incarnation validated the expression of suffering – the Gospel states that Jesus himself wept before he raised Lazarus.1 On the other hand, too vehement a display of mourning was indecorous and implied a lack of faith in the Resurrection. Church writers were especially critical of the more violent displays of grief. John Chrysostom, for example, declared:
- 2 In Joannem homilia LXII, Jacques-Paul Migne ed., Patrologiae cursus completus, Series graeca 59, Pa (...)
But now, along with the other evils, this female affliction also prevails. For in lamenting and wailing they make a display, baring their arms, tearing their hair, scratching gullies down their cheeks… this under the eyes of men. [Weeping] I do not forbid, but I forbid beating oneself and immoderate weeping… Weep, but gently, but with decorum… If you were to weep thus, you would not weep as one who distrusts the Resurrection, but as one who cannot bear being separated.2
- 3 Henry Maguire, « Women Mourners in Byzantine Art, Literature, and Society », Crying in the Middle A (...)
3Later Byzantine homilists and commentators frequently repeated such injunctions.3 Nevertheless, their repetition is evidence that the practices of extreme mourning continued among the population at large.
4Only a saint, such as Mary the Younger, could be expected to resist. As we learn from the biographer of Mary the Younger, after her firstborn son died at the age of five:
- 4 Acta Sanctorum Novembris IV, Hippolyte Delehaye ed., Brussels, Société des Bollandistes, 1925, 693; (...)
Her mother’s heart was broken and torn asunder as one would expect; but she kept to herself, sighing and openly weeping, without, however, displaying unseemly behavior. She did not tear out her hair, nor did she disfigure her cheeks with her hands, nor did she rend her clothes…. She almost conquered nature … weeping just enough to show she was a mother.”4
- 5 Margaret Alexiou, The Ritual Lament in Greek Tradition, Cambridge, Cambridge University Press, 1974
- 6 In SS. Mariam assistentem cruci, Migne, Patrologiae cursus completus, Series graeca, ed. cit., 100, (...)
- 7 Demetrios I Pallas, Die Passion und Bestattung Christi in Byzanz, der Ritus-das Bild, « Miscellanea (...)
- 8 In SS. Mariam assistentem cruci, ed. cit., col.1488.
5In literature there was a rich tradition of the threnos of the Virgin,5 which was exemplified by the ninth century sermon of George of Nicomedia on the crucifixion and burial of Christ.6 By the eleventh century this homily was being used as a reading for the eve of Good Friday in holy week7. In the sermon, George of Nicomedia describes how the dead body of Christ was taken down from the cross and laid upon the ground, whereupon the Virgin, in the words of the text, « fell upon it and bathed it with the warmest tears. » She started to lament, according to the homily, « a gentle voice and with the most moving words. » In her lament, she contrasts, with antithesis, the embraces that she gave to her son when he was an infant with her present embrace of his corpse, saying: « I am now holding him without breath whom lately I took in my arms as my own dearest one, whose sweetest words I heard »8.
- 9 Homilia VI, 8 and 10; Giuseppe Rossi Taibbi ed., Filagato da Cerami, Omelie per i vangeli domenical (...)
6In contrast to this lament of the Virgin, with its rhetorical display of interior mental suffering, we can consider another Byzantine homily that describes the lamentations of the Widow of Nain. This sermon was delivered by the mid-twelfth-century south Italian preacher known as Philagathos. In his sermon, Philagathos not only gave the words of the widow’s lament, quoting them more or less verbatim from an earlier sermon by Gregory of Nyssa, but he added a description of her behavior at the death bed. In rhetorical terms, the widow’s lament can be termed an ethopoiia, which expresses the inner feelings of the bereaved woman, while the description of her actions is an ekphrasis, describing the external manifestations of her grief. He tells us that while the Widow’s son was still clinging to life, she gazed at him in distraction, with her hair shorn and uncovered. But when the young man finally died, his mother went into a Bacchic frenzy of grief. She tore at her hair and scraped her cheeks with her nails, so that streams of blood and of tears flowed from her at the same time. She struck her head and chest with stones, and exposed her breasts so that she was half naked.9 In rhetorical terms we could describe this as hyperbole.
7These are only two examples of a long tradition of rhetorical laments, which in Christian writing went back to the fourth century. How then, did Byzantine artists, react to such texts?
- 10 Henry Maguire, « The Depiction of Sorrow in Middle Byzantine Art », Dumbarton Oaks Papers 31, 1977, (...)
- 11 Ibid., 132-166
8In art, grief was expressed both by facial expression and by gestures. By and large, the Byzantines expressed facial emotion, both sorrow and joy, by distorting the line made by the eyebrows into an inverted ‘V’. In the case of depictions of grief, this expression might be accompanied by lines on the forehead that show the furrowing of the brow and by lines descending from the lower eyelids to indicate tears. These features, with the possible exception of the tears, were inherited from the repertoire of classical art.10 As for the gestures that conveyed sorrow in Byzantine art, they can be divided broadly into those that portrayed inner feelings, as expressed in the literary laments, or ethopoiia, and those that made a hyperbolic public display, as described in ekphrasis by writers such as Philagathos. Interior feelings were conveyed by relatively passive and contemplative poses, such as veiling the face or resting the head on the hands, or else by a more active embrace11. As in the literary laments, the use of antithesis and prolepsis to structure the presentation of images also conveyed the idea of interiority, that is, the mourners’ personal contemplation of sorrow. A good example is the late twelfth century fresco of the Lamentation in the Macedonian church of St. George at Kurbinovo, which matches in its intensity the ninth century sermon by George of Nicomedia (figure 1).
Church of St. George, Kurbinovo. Fresco of the Lamentation.
Photo: Josephine Powell, Photograph Courtesy of Special Collections, Fine Arts Library, Harvard University.
- 12 Mother of God: Representations of the Virgin in Byzantine Art, ed. Maria Vassilaki, exhibition cata (...)
9Here the Virgin clasps the lifeless body of Christ as she carries him to the tomb, her face streaked with the tears of her grief. As she bends over the corpse, she kisses her son with her cheek pressed against his, a pose that visually refers back to the embraces she gave her child when he was an infant, as illustrated on contemporary icons such as the example illustrated in figure 2 (at the top left of the image), and now preserved in the monastery at Mount Sinai12.
Monastery of St. Catherine, Mount Sinai, icon, detail. Images of the Virgin.
Photo: reproduced courtesy of the Michigan-Princeton-Alexandria Expeditions to Mount Sinai.
- 13 Henry Maguire, Art and Eloquence in Byzantium, Princeton, Princeton University Press, 1981, 103-104 (...)
10Thus the image incorporates an antithesis, similar to that made three centuries earlier by George of Nicomedia. Another antithesis was created at Kurbinovo by the arrangement of the scenes in the church, for the Lamentation and the Nativity were painted in the centers of the north and south walls respectively, facing each other13. The scenes are linked by their compositions as well as by their content, for both are presided over by angels at the top, and both have backgrounds composed of hills, in the one case rising above the cave of Christ’s birth, in the other over the cave of his entombment. In the Nativity the landscape is peopled by the Magi and by joyfully hastening shepherds, in the Lamentation by two women seated in poses of mourning, one quietly resting her head on her draped hands, another raising both arms in a more dramatic pose of grief.
- 14 Maguire, « The Depiction of Sorrow in Middle Byzangtine Art », art. cit., 126-132.
- 15 Vatican Library, ms. gr. 747, fol. 71v.; Kurt Weitzmann, Massimo Bernabò, The Byzantine Octateuchs, (...)
- 16 Varican Library, ms. gr. 1754, fol. 6r.; John R. Martin, The Illustration of the Heavenly Ladder of (...)
11In Byzantine painting violent gestures, such as tearing the clothes, scratching the cheeks with the nails, or pulling on unbound hair, appeared subject to relatively strict protocols. Until the late thirteenth century such extreme gestures were only allowable in Old Testament scenes, and also in portrayals of penitents, where lack of faith in the Resurrection of Christ was not an issue14. For example, in an illustration of the entombment of Jacob in an eleventh-century Octateuch in the Vatican, one of the mourners makes the gesture of pulling his hair as the patriarch is lowered into his grave15. A miniature accompanying another Vatican manuscript, a copy of the Penitential Canon dating to the late twelfth or early thirteenth century, shows repentant monks demonstrating their remorse without restraint, by pulling frantically at their hair, beards, and clothes16. But such vehement expressions of grief were excluded from scenes of the mourning of Christ until the late Byzantine period, when they slowly began to creep into the New Testament repertoire. Thus in the fresco of the Lamentation at Kurbinovo intense grief is expressed through the gesture of the mother’s embrace, and through the distorted facial expressions of the Virgin, Saint John, and the two female mourners; but there is no indecorous pulling of hair or garments (figure 1). However, around a hundred years later, in the late thirteenth-century fresco of the Lamentation in St. Clement at Ohrid, we can see on the left side of the scene, immediately behind Christ’s feet, a woman pulling at her unbound hair (figure 3).
Church of St. Clement, Ohrid. Fresco of the Lamentation.
Photo: Josephine Powell, Photograph Courtesy of Special Collections, Fine Arts Library, Harvard University.
12On the right, by the head of Christ, a second woman repeats the same gesture, but here another mourner, standing behind her, attempts to restrain the violence of the action by grasping her distraught companion by the wrists; thus she both curbs the gesture and emphasizes it at the same time. In this painting now even the Virgin has unbound her hair, allowing it to cascade in disheveled strands over her shoulders (figure 4).
Church of St. Clement, Ohrid. Fresco of the Lamentation, detail. The Virgin swooning.
Photo: Josephine Powell, Photograph Courtesy of Special Collections, Fine Arts Library, Harvard University.
- 17 Amy Neff, « The Pain of Compassio: Mary’s Labor at the Foot of the Cross », Art Bulletin 80, no. 2, (...)
- 18 Richard Hamann-MacLean, Horst Hallensleben, Die Monumentalmalerei in Serbien und Makedonien, Giesse (...)
13She has also relapsed into a swoon, and has to be supported by two female companions, a motif that had appeared in Byzantine art as early as the eleventh century and which was subsequently adopted by Western artists17. In the painting of the Dormition of the Virgin in the slightly earlier church at Sopoćani one of the female mourners even draws her fingers across her cheek, as if to scratch them (figure 5)18.
Church of the Trinity, Sopoćani. The Dormition of the Virgin, detail, mourners.
- 19 For example, in a fresco at Gračanica (Gabriel Millet, Recherches sur l’iconographie de l’Évangile (...)
14Such gestures of violent lamentation occur also in paintings of the Threnos in fourteenth-century Byzantine art19.
15From these examples, we can observe that in Byzantium there was often a time lag between the verbal rhetoric and the images. We cannot simply say that both texts and images were expressions of a common contemporaneous discourse, because the related phenomena belonged to different time periods in literature and in art. It was three centuries before the emotionalism of the sermons of George of Nicomedia came to be fully matched in paintings such as the Threnos fresco at Kurbinovo. And while we can find violent gestures of grief such as the tearing of hair, clothes, and cheeks described in New Testament contexts in twelfth-century Byzantine literature, for example in the sermon by Philagathos, it was not until the end of the thirteenth century that such vehement displays of grief appeared in New Testament scenes portrayed in art, as we have seen at Ohrid. Thus the later Byzantine artists were reflecting developments that had taken place in literature long before. Evidently it was more acceptable to describe the extreme gestures verbally than to portray them in painting.
16There were several possible reasons for this disjunction between the verbal and the visual. One major difference between texts and images was that liturgical texts such as the threnoi of the Virgin were performed infrequently, on the appropriate days of the year. These texts, therefore, had a different status from mosaics or frescoes in churches, which were on permanent display to all comers on every day of the year. The visual artist had to be more circumspect than the church orator, because paintings were viewed more often and by more people than speeches were heard. In the case of images that were hidden, for example in the pages of manuscripts, there could be more freedom, but even here there were constraints.
- 20 Luke 15:10.
17For the most part, then, Byzantine art was more circumspect that Byzantine literature with respect to the depiction of emotion. But there was one curious exception to this rule, in which the artists were bolder than the writers, namely in the frequent portrayals of angels displaying emotion. In Byzantine art, angels displayed both joy and grief. The former had a scriptural basis, for Jesus himself, explaining the parable of the lost sheep, had said that: « there is joy in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner that repents »20. This passage was the subject of considerable commentary by Byzantine writers. Pseudo-Dionysios the Areopagite, for example, commented in his celestial hierarchy, as follows:
- 21 Celestial Hierarchy, 15.9; Migne, Patrologiae cursus completus, Series graeca, ed. cit., 3, col. 34 (...)
I must explain […] what scripture intends in the reference to the joy of the heavenly ranks. Now, these ranks could never experience the pleasures we draw from the passions. The reference, therefore, is to the way they participate in the divine joy caused by the finding of the lost… They are unspeakable happy in the way that, occasionally, sacred men are happy when God arranges for divine enlightenments to visit them.21
- 22 Vatican Library, ms. gr. 1162, fol. 127v.; Irmgard Hutter, Paul Canart, Das Marienhomiliar des Mönc (...)
- 23 Oratio in Annuntionem sanctissimae Deiparae, Migne, Patrologiae cursus completus, Series graeca, ed (...)
18To find a portrayal of unspeakably happy angels, we can open one of the twelfth century copies of the homilies of James of Kokkinobaphos, to the page that depicts the angels rejoicing in heaven after the Virgin had finally given Gabriel her assent to the miraculous conception of Christ.22 At this point in the Gospel story, in the words of the homily: « All the intelligible powers leaped when this response reached their ears; heaven above rejoiced, and the clouds received these words like a joyful dew »23. In the miniature, the angels demonstrate their enthusiasm by pirouetting and waving their arms in the air – and here we may note that the gesture of raising the arms was polyvalent; it could represent extremes of joy as well as of sorrow, as we have already seen in the case of the Lamentation at Kurbinovo (figure 1).
- 24 Lennart Rydén ed., The Life of St. Andrew the Fool, II, « Acta Universitatis Upsaliensis. Studia By (...)
19Although Byzantine literature contains many discussions of angelic joy, to my knowledge there is virtually no commentary on angelic grief. It is true that weeping angels sometimes appear in the saints’ lives, such as the beautiful young man whom Andrew the Fool saw following the funeral procession of a rich man whose soul was being claimed by demons, on account of his entirely wicked life. The angel explained to the saint that he was lamenting and wailing because he had lost the sinner’s soul24. This story is a logical reversal of the parable of the lost sheep; since the sinner had not repented, the angel was not joyful but wept. But, hagiography aside, there are no biblical references to the grief of angels, nor any Byzantine commentaries on such a phenomenon.
20It is only in art that we find the grieving angels depicted in New Testament contexts, and it is only in descriptions of works of art that writers mention weeping angels in connection with the passion. An eleventh-century epigram by John Mauropous describes weeping angels attending the Crucifixion. It reads, in part:
- 25 Iohann Bollig, Paul de Lagarde ed., Ioannis Euchaitorum Metropolitae quae in codice vaticano graeco (...)
Your mother laments and your beloved (disciple),
they alone being present out of the friends you lately had.
Your disciples are fled, and your winged servants
circle you in vain, full of tears,
for they are unable to help you in your passion.25
21In a poem describing an icon of the Crucifixion by the twelfth century Sicilian poet Eugenios of Palermo, we have the following lines:
- 27 For example, in a miniature of the Threnos in Parma, Biblioteca Palatina, ms. palat. 5, fol.90v. wh (...)
- 28 Cyril Mango, Ernest J. W. Hawkins, « The Hermitage of St. Neophytos and its Wall Paintings », Dumba (...)
22In surviving works of art, lamenting angels appear in scenes of Christ’s passion from the eleventh century onwards,27 at first making the more passive gestures of resting their heads on their hands or of weeping into their garments, as seen, for example, in a late twelfth century fresco of the Crucifixion in the hermitage of St. Neophytos on Cyprus (figure 6).28
Hermitage of St. Neophytos. Fresco of the Crucifixion.
Photo: Dumbarton Oaks Research Library and Collection, Image Collections and Fieldwork Archives, Washington, DC.
- 29 Millet, Recherches sur l’iconographie de l’Évangile, op. cit., 508, fig. 551.
- 30 Anastasia Drandaki, Demetra Papanikola-Bakirtzi, Anastasia Tourta, ed., Heaven and Earth: Art of By (...)
23Later, in the Palaeologan period, we find angels in more emphatic poses, such as clasping their hands over their faces, as in the fresco of the lamentation in St. Clement at Ohrid (figure 3), or throwing both arms up in the air, as can be seen, for example, in a fresco of the early fourteenth century at Gračanica.29 Finally, at the very end of the Byzantine period, we come across angels participating in unbridled riots of grief. In an icon of the second half of the fifteenth century painted by Andreas Pavias on Crete and now in the National Gallery of Athens we not only find angels making the familiar passive gestures of resting their cheeks on their hands, or covering their eyes, but they also throw their arms up in the air, pirouette, tear their garments to expose their chests, and pull their hair.30 Even if this icon owes something to Italian art, it comes at the end of a development that attributed more and more extreme expressions of grief to the angels who attended scenes of the passion in Byzantine art.
- 31 Commentary on Canon 79 of the Council in Trullo; Migne, Patrologiae cursus completus, Series graeca (...)
- 32 In Matthaeum homilia LV, 16.24; Migne, Patrologiae cursus completus, Series graeca, ed. cit, 58, co (...)
- 33 Epitome, 7.113
24On seeing this icon, one is reminded of the remark made in the twelfth century by the canonist Theodore Balsamon: « One should not equate things that are above nature with those that are according to nature, and, as it were, profane them and visualize them according to our own earthly [existence] ».31 Why, then, do weeping angels play such an important role in Byzantine art, when they have no scriptural or patristic basis, and when they even contravene the church’s prohibition of extreme practices of mourning? One answer to this question is that the emotions of angels always were seen as wholly spiritual, and thus their depiction in art was purely symbolic and not related to earthly mourning rituals. The church father John Chrysostom said that the joy of angels has nothing to do with our present life,32 while at the very end of the Byzantine period Gennadios Scholarios wrote: « Both the joy and the grief of angels is spoken of metaphorically, inasmuch as the angels have a complete desire for the salvation of mortals »33.
- 34 Miklós Boskovits, The Origins of Florentine Painting 1110-1270, A Critical and Historical Corpus of (...)
25The relative independence of Byzantine painting from texts becomes especially apparent when we consider the fate of Byzantine images and imaging techniques in the Latin West, where they were divorced completely from their counterparts in Byzantine literature and associated with entirely different texts of purely Western origin. Western artists adopted many of the gestures and facial expressions that had been used by Byzantine painters to express emotion and also the techniques such as antithesis and prolepsis that structured their presentation. The use of antithesis and prolepsis to enhance the emotional content of religious art was a Byzantine innovation, and its eventual exploitation by western artists was an important contribution of Byzantium to the history of art. Already in Tuscan painting of the thirteenth century we find the antithetical pairing of scenes showing the birth and death of Christ. A good example is a diptych attributed to the Tuscan artist Bonaventura Berlinghieri around the year 1255.34 The left hand panel shows the Virgin holding her child in the pose of the eleousa, with her cheek pressed against his (figure 7).
Florence, Uffizi. Diptych attributed to Bonaventura Berlinghieri, detail of left panel, Virgin and Child.
Photo: Heny Maguire.
26In the right hand panel we find the Crucifixion, together with the Carrying of the Cross and the Deposition below (figure 8).
Florence, Uffizi. Diptych attributed to Bonaventura Berlinghieri, detail of right panel, passion scenes.
Photo: Henry Maguire.
27To the left of the Crucifixion the Virgin is seen swooning; as in St. Clement at Ohrid she has to be supported in her grief by a women on each side of her. On the right St. John and another woman stand in mourning, the woman resting her cheek on her left hand.
- 35 Anne Derbes, Picturing the Passion in Late Merdieval Italy: Narrative Painting, Franciscan Ideologi (...)
28Even though Italian paintings such as the panels attributed to Berlinghieri owed much to Byzantine art, they were obviously not in dialogue with Byzantine church literature, but rather with Latin texts. As Anne Derbes and other scholars have pointed out, even while western artists appropriated many techniques of portraying emotion from the Byzantines, they did not respond to the same texts nor did they necessarily have the same motives.35 By way of example, we can return to the swooning Virgin, whom we saw on the panel assigned to Berlinghieri. In Byzantine art and literature, this motif of the swoon was related to the Annunciation, as can be seen in the frescoes of St. Clement in Ohrid. Here the Lamentation was juxtaposed with the Annunciation by the Well; the two scenes were depicted one above the other on the north wall. In the Threnos, Mary falls to the left and has to be held up, as we have seen, by a woman on each side of her (figure 4). In the fresco of the Annunciation, immediately below, Mary is once again shown in a faint, needing to be supported up by a female companion on either side (figure 9).
Church of St. Clement, Ohrid. Fresco of the Annunciation by the Well.
29The source of this antithesis can be found in Byzantine literary laments, in which the Virgin contrasted her receiving the fire of the incarnate God in her womb with the pangs of her grief at the passion. In a lament attributed either to the tenth-century author Symeon Metaphrastes or to the twelfth-century writer Nikephoros Basilakes, she exclaims:
- 36 Migne, Patrologiae cursus completus, Series graeca, ed. cit, 114, col. 212.
Once things that cannot be mingled were mingled without harm, and an immaterial fire of divinity did not burn my womb, but now another fire feeds on all my insides, and injures me to the center of my heart. I received through the angel pledges of joy, and I took away all tears from the face of the earth; but [now] these tears are increased by my own tears.36
- 37 Neff, « The Pain of Compassio » art.cit., 256.
30In the Byzantine text, then, the contrast ultimately is of past joy and present sorrow, following the traditional structure of laments in Greek literature. Western authors, on the other hand, presented Mary’s grief at the Passion in entirely different ways. For example, as Amy Neff has shown, the twelfth-century abbot Rupert of Deutz, in an influential commentary, related the Virgin’s travail at the base of the cross in a much more physical manner to the pains of childbirth.37 He wrote:
- 38 Commentaria in Evangelium Sancti Iohannis, ed. Rhabanus Haacke, Corpus Christianorum: continuatio m (...)
[At the foot of the cross, Mary] is truly a woman and truly a mother and at this hour she truly suffers the pains of childbirth. When [Jesus] was born, she did not suffer like other mothers: now, however, she suffers, she is tormented and full of sorrow, because her hour has come… In the Passion of her only son, the Blessed Virgin gave birth to the salvation of all mankind: in effect, she is the mother of all mankind.38
- 39 Derbes, Picturing the Passion in Late Merdieval Italy, op. cit., 27-34.
31I do not know of any Byzantine writer who in this way connects the Virgin’s suffering at the Passion with the pain endured by mothers in childbirth. Thus, even while Tuscan artists shared their language of emotion with Byzantine art, the texts that they were responding to were those of Latin writers, who followed different literary styles, different patterns of interpretation, and, in the case of the Franciscans, new political agendas.39
- 40 As in ibid., 21.
- 41 Ibid., 16-24; see also Hans Belting, The Image and its Public in the Middle Ages: Form and Function (...)
32In these pages on the portrayal of grief in Byzantine art it has not been my intention to deny any connection between images and texts in Byzantium, but only to draw attention to the complex nature of the relationship, which was characterized by a high degree of artistic independence. In Byzantium there was often a time lag between verbal and visual expression. We cannot simply say that both texts and images were simultaneous expressions of a common culture,40 or of a common societal structure, because the related phenomena belonged to different time periods in literature and in art. It is true that the relaxation of the rules that permitted more vehement displays of grief in Byzantine church art of the late thirteenth and the fourteenth centuries coincided with a more intense devotional engagement with the passion promoted in both the western and the eastern Mediterranean by the Franciscans.41 But both phenomena had been preceded centuries earlier by the emotionalism of the sermons of George of Nicomedia and Philagathos, which had anticipated the later developments in art. Art was not tied in lock step to literature, but had its own imperatives. The image might either show its conservatism by lagging behind the texts; or, as in the case of the grieving angels, it might proceed without them; or, in a final display of independence, it might disengage itself from one set of texts entirely and seek out alternatives in a different cultural milieu.
1 John 11:35.
2 In Joannem homilia LXII, Jacques-Paul Migne ed., Patrologiae cursus completus, Series graeca 59, Paris, Migne, 1857-1866, cols. 347-8.
3 Henry Maguire, « Women Mourners in Byzantine Art, Literature, and Society », Crying in the Middle Ages: Tears of History, ed. Elina Gertsman, New York/London, Routledge, 2012, 3-15, at 6-7.
4 Acta Sanctorum Novembris IV, Hippolyte Delehaye ed., Brussels, Société des Bollandistes, 1925, 693; translation in Alice-Mary Talbot ed., Holy Women of Byzantium: Ten Saints’ Lives in English Translation, « Byzantine Saints’ Lives in Translation » no. 1, Washington, D.C., Dumbarton Oaks, 1996, 258-259.
5 Margaret Alexiou, The Ritual Lament in Greek Tradition, Cambridge, Cambridge University Press, 1974.
6 In SS. Mariam assistentem cruci, Migne, Patrologiae cursus completus, Series graeca, ed. cit., 100, cols. 1457-1489. On the literary sources of the sermon, see Stephen J. Shoemaker, « A Mother’s Passion: Mary at the Crucifixion and Resurrection in the Earliest Life of the Virgin and its Influence on George of Nikomedeia’s Passion Homilies », The Cult of the Mother of God in Byzantium, ed. Leslie Brubaker, Mary Cunningham, Farnham, Ashgate, 2011, 53-67, with earlier references.
7 Demetrios I Pallas, Die Passion und Bestattung Christi in Byzanz, der Ritus-das Bild, « Miscellanea Byzantina Monacensia » no. 2, Munich, Institut für Byzantinistik und neugriechische Philologie der Universität, 1965, 30, 56, 106.
8 In SS. Mariam assistentem cruci, ed. cit., col.1488.
9 Homilia VI, 8 and 10; Giuseppe Rossi Taibbi ed., Filagato da Cerami, Omelie per i vangeli domenicali e le feste di tutto l’anno I, Palermo, Istituto siciliano di studi bizantini e neoellenici, 1969; Migne, Patrologiae cursus completus, Series graeca, ed. cit. 132, cols. 224-228.
10 Henry Maguire, « The Depiction of Sorrow in Middle Byzantine Art », Dumbarton Oaks Papers 31, 1977, 123-174, at 166-170
11 Ibid., 132-166
12 Mother of God: Representations of the Virgin in Byzantine Art, ed. Maria Vassilaki, exhibition catalogue, Benaki Museum, Athens, 2000, 144-145, plates 82, 87, 88.
13 Henry Maguire, Art and Eloquence in Byzantium, Princeton, Princeton University Press, 1981, 103-104, figs. 99-105
14 Maguire, « The Depiction of Sorrow in Middle Byzangtine Art », art. cit., 126-132.
15 Vatican Library, ms. gr. 747, fol. 71v.; Kurt Weitzmann, Massimo Bernabò, The Byzantine Octateuchs, Princeton, Princeton University Press, 1999, fig. 586.
16 Varican Library, ms. gr. 1754, fol. 6r.; John R. Martin, The Illustration of the Heavenly Ladder of John Climacus, Princeton, Princeton University Press, 1954, 133, fig. 253.
17 Amy Neff, « The Pain of Compassio: Mary’s Labor at the Foot of the Cross », Art Bulletin 80, no. 2, 1998, 254-273, at 254, and 271, note 7. The motif is first found in the Theodore Psalter, London, British Library, add. ms. 19352, fol. 45v. (ibid., fig. 1). The Byzantine literary sources of the motif have been discussed by Bertrand Bouvier, Le mirologue de la Vierge, chansons et poèmes grecs sur la Passion du Christ I, La chanson populaire du vendredi saint, « Bibliotheca Helvetica Romana » no. 16, Geneva/Rome, Insitut Suisse de Rome, 1976, 160; on its appearance in Byzantine crucifixion scenes, see Anastasios K. Orlandos, He architektonike kai hai Vyzantinai toichographiai tes Mones tou Theologou Patmou, Athens, Grapheion Demosieumaton tes Akadamias Athenon, 1970, 219.
18 Richard Hamann-MacLean, Horst Hallensleben, Die Monumentalmalerei in Serbien und Makedonien, Giessen, W. Schmitz, 1963, 25-26, gigs. 127-128.
19 For example, in a fresco at Gračanica (Gabriel Millet, Recherches sur l’iconographie de l’Évangile aux xive, xve, et xvie siècles d’après les monuments de Mistra, de la Macédoine et du Mont Athos, 2nd ed., Paris, Editions E. de Boccard, 1960, 508, fig. 551); in a fresco at at Staro Naroričino (Branislav Todić, Staro Nagoričino, Belgrade, 1993); and in a Gospel book in the Vatopedi Monastery on Mount Athos, ms. 937, fol. 17v. (Stylianos M. Pelekanides, Hoi Thesauroi tou Hagiou orous IV, Athens, Ekdotike Athenon, 1973, fig. 254).
20 Luke 15:10.
21 Celestial Hierarchy, 15.9; Migne, Patrologiae cursus completus, Series graeca, ed. cit., 3, col. 340; Colum Luibheid trans, Pseudo-Dionysius, the Complete Works, New York, Paulist Press, 1987, 190.
22 Vatican Library, ms. gr. 1162, fol. 127v.; Irmgard Hutter, Paul Canart, Das Marienhomiliar des Mönchs Jakobos von Kokkinobaphos, Codex Vaticanus Graecus 1162, « Codices e Vaticanis selecti » no. 79, Zurich, Belser Verlag, 1991.
23 Oratio in Annuntionem sanctissimae Deiparae, Migne, Patrologiae cursus completus, Series graeca, ed. cit., 127, cols. 652-653.
24 Lennart Rydén ed., The Life of St. Andrew the Fool, II, « Acta Universitatis Upsaliensis. Studia Byzantina Upsaliensia », Uppsala, Uppsala Universtiy, 1995, 115.
25 Iohann Bollig, Paul de Lagarde ed., Ioannis Euchaitorum Metropolitae quae in codice vaticano graeco 676 supersunt, Gottingen, Aedibus Dieterichianis,1882, 6, no. 7.
26 Marcello Gigante ed., Eugenii Panormitani versus iambici, « Testi e monumenti. Testi » no 10, Palermo, 1964, no. 13.
27 For example, in a miniature of the Threnos in Parma, Biblioteca Palatina, ms. palat. 5, fol.90v. where one of the angels holds up his garment to his face; Millet, Recherches sur l’iconographie de l’Évangile, op. cit., 493, fig. 531,.
28 Cyril Mango, Ernest J. W. Hawkins, « The Hermitage of St. Neophytos and its Wall Paintings », Dumbarton Oaks Papers 20, 1966, 136-206, at 149-51, figs. 32-33. For other eleventh and twelfth century examples, see Maguire, « The Depiction of Sorrow in Middle Byzantine Art », art. cit., 145, nt. 115.
29 Millet, Recherches sur l’iconographie de l’Évangile, op. cit., 508, fig. 551.
30 Anastasia Drandaki, Demetra Papanikola-Bakirtzi, Anastasia Tourta, ed., Heaven and Earth: Art of Byzantium from Greek collections, exhbition catalogue, Athens, Hellenic Ministry of Culture and Sports and the Benaki Museum, 2013, 324-5, no. 172.
31 Commentary on Canon 79 of the Council in Trullo; Migne, Patrologiae cursus completus, Series graeca, ed. cit., 137, col. 781.
32 In Matthaeum homilia LV, 16.24; Migne, Patrologiae cursus completus, Series graeca, ed. cit, 58, col.547. I am indebted to Father Maximos Constas for this and the following reference.
33 Epitome, 7.113
34 Miklós Boskovits, The Origins of Florentine Painting 1110-1270, A Critical and Historical Corpus of Florentine Painting, section 1, vol.1, Florence, Giunti, 1993, 73-4.
35 Anne Derbes, Picturing the Passion in Late Merdieval Italy: Narrative Painting, Franciscan Ideologies, and the Levant, Cambridge, Cambridge University Press, 1996.
36 Migne, Patrologiae cursus completus, Series graeca, ed. cit, 114, col. 212.
37 Neff, « The Pain of Compassio » art.cit., 256.
38 Commentaria in Evangelium Sancti Iohannis, ed. Rhabanus Haacke, Corpus Christianorum: continuatio medievalis 9, Turnhout, Brepols, 1969, 743-4. Translation by Neff, « The Pain of Compassio », art. cit., 256.
39 Derbes, Picturing the Passion in Late Merdieval Italy, op. cit., 27-34.
40 As in ibid., 21.
41 Ibid., 16-24; see also Hans Belting, The Image and its Public in the Middle Ages: Form and Function of Early Paintings of the Passion, New Rochelle, Caratzas, 1990.Haut de page
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Henry Maguire, « The Asymmetry of Text and Image in Byzantium », Perspectives médiévales [En ligne], 38 | 2017, mis en ligne le 01 janvier 2017, consulté le 21 février 2017. URL : http://peme.revues.org/12218 ; DOI : 10.4000/peme.12218Haut de page
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