Color and Meaning in Byzantium

James, Liz (2003) Color and Meaning in Byzantium. Journal of Early Christian Studies, 11 (2). pp. 223-233. ISSN 1067-6341

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Abstract

The aesthetics of early Christian and Byzantine art offer an area of insight into attitudes both to religion and to art, and to the place of art in religious devotion in this period. Color and the conceptual nature of color formed a key area in the definition of form in nature and art, and a means of justifying religious images as objects of devotion rather than idolatry. In a recent article, Patricia Cox Miller has shown how the aesthetics of light and brilliance in late antiquity played an intrinsic role in the transformation of human body parts into sacred Christian relics. She asserts that late antique Christians were concerned to create a religioaesthetic environment which allowed body parts to be treated as relics, and thus as spiritual and holy, rather than as idols, that is to say, material and earthly. Her aim is to show how the physical environment of relics, the buildings, and the decoration and furnishing of those buildings, with their stress on light and brilliance, served to create an intense, sensual environment that aimed to overcome the “spectre of idolatry.” Allied to the physical appearance of art, accounts of the experiences of viewing and participating in art, which we might label for convenience ekphraseis, formed a bond between the material and the spiritual, forming a bridge between the earthly and heavenly spheres which was both rhetorical and experiential.

Item Type: Article
Schools and Departments: School of History, Art History and Philosophy > Art History
Depositing User: Liz James
Date Deposited: 06 Feb 2012 19:57
Last Modified: 08 Jun 2012 09:52
URI: http://sro.sussex.ac.uk/id/eprint/23175
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