What's in a name? Images of Christ inscribed with epithets in middle and late Byzantine art

Bartlett, George (2020) What's in a name? Images of Christ inscribed with epithets in middle and late Byzantine art. Doctoral thesis (PhD), University of Sussex.

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This thesis discusses images of Christ from the Middle and Late Byzantine periods where he is given epithet inscriptions in addition to IC XC. As a collective, these inscriptions have not yet received sustained academic attention, with scholars often making passing reference to epithets and alluding to a wider body of similar material, without any substantial empirical evidence. This thesis collates, presents and analyses images of Christ that are inscribed with epithets in order to show the merit of studying them together and to ask what difference the inscriptions made to objects on which they were displayed, had only IC XC been included.

To attempt to answer this question, I explore the ways that it is important to consider Christ’s epithets as part of a collective, how the epithets were understood as names, functioned as devotional entities, and affected the meaning of the images they inscribed and vice-versa. I show that Christ’s epithets offer an important insight into how the Byzantines understood and used His image, something that is important for examples of Byzantine art about which little contextual information is known. Further, I explore the ways that epithets were part of wider ideologies concerning identity in Byzantium. I argue that epithets commented on the ways in which names could reveal aspects of divine identity in Byzantine Orthodox belief and were used by certain individuals in order to add to their constructions of selfhood, whilst bolstering their political and social identities. I also examine the ways that certain epithets have been mishandled in Byzantine art scholarship, being incorrectly conflated with iconographic ‘types’. Instead, I argue that the ways in which epithets related to the images they inscribed were quite complex. This provides new insight into how the Byzantines perceived image and text to work together to create meaning.

Item Type: Thesis (Doctoral)
Schools and Departments: School of Media, Arts and Humanities > Art History
Research Centres and Groups: Advanced Communications, Mobile Technology and IoT (ACMI)
Subjects: N Fine Arts > N Visual arts (General) For photography, see TR > N5300 History > N5940 Medieval art > N6250 Byzantine art
Depositing User: Library Cataloguing
Date Deposited: 11 Dec 2020 12:55
Last Modified: 16 Mar 2022 15:48
URI: http://sro.sussex.ac.uk/id/eprint/95664

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